The British Empire Library

Old Sinister: A Memoir of Sir Arthur Richards

by Richard Peel

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by Anthony Kirk-Greene (N Nigeria 1950-66)
This is a rewardingly researched and trimly told personal memoir of Sir Arthur Richards - better known as Lord Milverton and affectionately known in the Colonial Service as ‘Old Sinister‘ - by Dick Peel, who was his Private Secretary in Nigeria from 1945 to 1947. The personal connection happily runs deeper yet, for Peel’s father. Sir William, had been Chief Secretary to the Government of the Federated Malay States and a close MCS colleague of the younger Richards in Kuala Lumpur in the 1920’s: both attained their first governorship in the same year. Peel to Hong Kong and Richards to North Borneo.

But to say Richards was appointed to a colonial governorship in 1930 is to tell less than half his success story. After twenty-two years in the MCS, he went on to hold no less than five governorships in seventeen years, the Gambia, Fiji, Jamaica and, as the climax to his colonial career, the prime proconsular post of Nigeria from 1943 to 1947 (he might well have preferred Malaya, but it was not to be). Not content with such a record, Richards was also the first Colonial Service governor to be elevated to the House of Lords while still in office - a feat not equalled by Lugard, who had to wait nine years after his retirement for his peerage, and rivalled only, I suspect, by Twining ten years later.

Peel has made detailed use of Milverton’s private papers, including an unusually rich collection of personal correspondence with friends in the Colonial Ofiice: particularly important are the Creasy d/o letters. The Nigerian years understandably occupy more of the 200 pages than any of Milverton’s earlier postings. Besides Peel’s concluding chapters on the ambivalent period in the House of Lords and one entitled “In Lighter Vein”, he has helpfully added brief biographical notes on who was who among Milverton’s colleagues in the Service and a workmanlike index to people and places mentioned in the text. The book is published in hard covers and is attractively printed on excellent paper.

Written with clarity, authority and a commendable blend of purpose and propriety, here is a memoir which numerous members of this Association will delight in reading and which every serious student of the Colonial Service will be glad and grateful to have in his Ubrary.

British Empire Book
Richard Peel
Privately Published


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