The British Empire Library

No Weariness: The Memoir of a Generalist in Public Service in Four Continents 1919-2000

by Sam Scruton Richardson

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by Anthony Kirk-Greene (N Nigeria 1950-65)
Doubtless there is some Hausa or Swahili proverbial wisdom warning against discussing a book written by a friend, above all where the reviewer has worked with the author in some hierarchical relationship. Yet in this case I did not duck but warmly welcomed the invitation; and now feel I would have been intellectually the poorer had I not had the opportunity closely to peruse, learn from and inwardly digest such a remarkably rich and rewarding record as No Weariness.

In this densely detailed memoir of fifty years of public service in Africa, Mauritius and Australia, Sam Richardson emphasizes his belief that in those days public administration (?art) by the generalist was more effective - and far stronger in its critical dimension of personal relations - than the style of modern management (?science) premised on internet technology and an overabundance of communications. Richardson, in the view of J H Smith in his neat Foreword, "pursued a career unique to his century". In many ways, and among many events, what emerges from this memoir is the clear and self-sufficient satisfaction which we in HMOCS, both at the time and maybe even more so in retrospect, derived from what nearly all of us felt to be one of the best jobs going and one which, other things being equal, we would have been happy to go on doing throughout our working lifetime.

And what a career Richardson's turned out to be! The thirty chapters start with his family and war service with the Royal Marines in India after Oxford, where he read that fine 'generalist' degree of PPE. He joined the Sudan Political Service in 1946, apparently being turned down by the Home Civil and the Colonial Services. With the approach of Sudan's independence, in 1954 their Resettlement Office pointed Richardson in the direction of N Nigeria, though warning him that there too selfgovernment was not all that far off. Shortly before his translation from El Geneina across to Maiduguri, Richardson learned that he had passed Part I of the Bar exam, "a fine feather in the cap and which had a far-reaching and highly advantageous influence upon my subsequent career". Prom being a DO in Bornu, his success in the Bar Finals in 1958 led him into special duty in the Attorney-General's Chambers in Kaduna, where he played a major role in establishing the Region's law reforms and new penal code and became Commissioner for Native Courts. In 1961 he moved from law to public administration, as Principal of the well-known Institute of Administration at Zaria. After six highly successful (though, in the wake of the military coup of 1966, personally painful and on occasion life-threatening) years in Ahmadu Bello University, where he also acted as Vice-Chancellor, Richardson moved to the evolving University of Mauritius as Professor of Government.

His last decade of public service was spent in Australia, as the founding Principal of the Canberra College of Advanced Education, now the University of Canberra. Just for good measure, back in Wiltshire Richardson had in the 1960s engaged in a highly profitable enterprise in dogmeat, promoted as "Dog's Delight" and delivered in a Rolls-Royce! 51

All this and more is described in considerable depth, enlivened by many a no-nonsense pen-portrait of the dramatis personae (some of whom may intriguedly rush to the index!). If one's experience of N Nigeria (a third of the whole text) or Mauritius happened to coincide with the Richardson years, No Weariness at once becomes a revelatory insider history as well as an intimate career narrative. One small regret; from such a huge range of experience, this reviewer would have welcomed some reflections on the work of the generic District Officer in the Sudan compared with the Colonial Service in style, ethos and effectiveness. But that's just a hobby-horse!

At only 14.95 for 500 very well printed pages and over forty illustrations, this is surely one of the most detailed autobiographies and worthwhile OSPA buys in 2002. For any reader who happened to share in Sam Richardson's experiences in Africa, Mauritius or Australia, there will certainly be 'no weariness' in reading this full and revealing chronicle of 50 years of public service across the Commonwealth.

British Empire Book
Sam Scruton Richardson
Malt House Publishing
0 9541145 1 5


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