blank [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]

The Governor of St Helena

The one at the top

blank [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]

Rule a kingdom as though you were cooking a small fish - don’t overdo it.
Lao Tzu

The Governor of St Helena is the representative of the British monarch.

This page is in indexes: Island History, Island People, Island Detail

Flag of the Governor of St Helena [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]
Flag of the Governor of St Helena
Current Governor, Lisa Phillips [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]
Current Governor, Lisa Phillips

Go to: Role of The GovernorHistory of Governors of St HelenaPhotos of Governors of St HelenaGovernors: AudioGovernor Janisch MemorialRead More

Role of The Governor

The Governor of St Helena is the British monarch’s official representative, both here and for Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha. The governor is appointed by the monarch on the advice of the British government. S/he{1} is officially titled ‘His/Her Excellency’.

The role of the governor is to act as the de facto head of state as well as the de jure head of government and commander-in-chief of the territory. The responsibilities of the role include internal security, external affairs, the administration of justice, finance, shipping, employment and disciplinary action in respect of any public officer. The Governor also appoints St Helena’s ExCo{18} and, with some exceptions, is bound to seek and act in accordance with its advice{3}.

The Governor therefore has four functions:

  1. The Governor as The Queen’s representative, which involves largely ceremonial functions;

  2. The Governor as the representative of the United Kingdom Government, which means s/he is the channel of communications between the UK Government (FCO and DfID) and SHG;

  3. The Governor as head of the St Helena administration, which includes the executive powers of the governor; and

  4. The Governor as facilitator and advocate. This task includes ‘being a voice for the island’ in London, bringing forward the points of view of SHG.

The governor has an official flag in St Helena, the Union Flag defaced with the territory’s coat of arms. The official residence, Plantation House, is located near the capital Jamestown, and the governor’s office is located within The Castle.

The Governor

26. (1) There shall be a Governor of St Helena.

(2) Appointments to the office of Governor shall be made by Her Majesty by Commission under Her Sign Manual and Signet and a person appointed to the office shall hold office during Her Majesty’s pleasure.

(3) A person appointed to the office of Governor shall, before entering upon the functions of that office, make before the Sheriff of St Helena oaths or affirmations of allegiance and for the due execution of that office in the forms set out in the Schedule.

(4) The Governor shall have such functions as are conferred or imposed on him or her by this Constitution or any other law and such other functions as Her Majesty may from time to time be pleased to assign to him or her through a Secretary of State, and, subject to the provisions of this Constitution and of any other law by which any such functions are conferred or imposed, shall do and execute all things that belong to his or her office according to such instructions, if any, as Her Majesty may from time to time see fit to give him or her through a Secretary of State; but no court shall enquire whether or not he or she has complied with any such instructions.{a}

You can read a more detailed description (63.9Kb).

St Helena Ordinances [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]

The Governor gives the final seal of approval for all St Helena laws (‘Ordinances’), using the following words:

Assented to in Her Majesty’s name and on Her Majesty’s behalf this day of «date».
«Governor’s Name» Governor

Governor Hoole, 1991 [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]

In St Helena on ceremonial occasions the Governor by tradition wore the full dress Colonial Officers’ tropical ceremonial uniform, complete with dress sword and Marlborough helmet with Generals’ swan’s feather plumes. However this practice ended in 2004; since then Governors have just worn smart business attire.

The Governor’s Office in The Castle [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]
The Governor’s Office in The Castle{4}

Simon Winchester’s book ‘Outposts’ (1985) provides a somewhat cynical view of how a governor is selected:

A fellow works in some minor capacity in our embassy, in some remote country, pushing paper in disconsolate fashion, upsetting no one, inspiring even fewer. His fifty-fifth birthday comes up, and the Personnel Department in London decides he must be given his head-of-mission job before he leaves the Service. He can’t go to Khartoum - too tricky, too potentially important; he can’t go to Lima, or Ulan Bator, or even to Fernando Po. But how about, let’s see - St Helena? No trouble there - parish pump stuff, really, a few cocktail parties in the evening sun. Very pleasant. Fellow ought to be very glad.

Two fishing trophies are named after Governors and awarded at the annual fishing competion: the Governor Baker’s Cup, for the best catch by a full-time boat; and the Governor Hoole’s Cup for the largest conger caught in the competition.

According to the St Helena News Review of February 1997, the newly-elected Labour Government in London was considering that the post of Governor might be abolished, and replaced with an Administrator for St Helena. This was intended as a cost-cutting measure. The Administrator would be a simple Government official with no special status. Plantation House would have been re-deployed (as a hotel, perhaps?) and there would have been no more official receptions and dinners, and no need for a Governor’s car (or driver). Clearly this plan never went forward!

History of Governors of St Helena

Here is a complete list of Governors of St Helena, and a few words on some of their more notable activities:

It will be noted that there are gaps between substantive governors. This is because it is Crown policy that there cannot be two Governors in the St Helena area at the same time. An individual would have been appointed as Acting Governor during these periods, and also at other times when the substantive Governor was outside the area (e.g. visiting London).

East India Company Governors

5th May 1659 - 1661

John Dutton

Built the original fort, part of the current Castle in Jamestown • Dutton House, at Prince Andrew’s School, is named after him.

1661 - 1670

Robert Stringer

Divided the land into 150 parts, giving each planter one part in return for them agreeing to defend the colony if it were attacked.

March 1671 - 21st August 1672

Richard Coney

Complained the inhabitants were “drunks and ne’er-do-wells”. Seized on 21st August by rebellious members of the island’s council and shipped back to England.

Late 1672 - 1st January 1673

Anthony Beale

Fled the island after the Dutch invasion.

Dutch occupation governors

1st January 1673 - January 1673

Jacob de Geus (Dutch commander)


January 1673 - 15th May 1673

John Coon (Dutch commander)


East India Company Governors

15th May 1673 - May 1673

Richard Munden

Distinguished himself in the battle to re-take St Helena from the Dutch. • Munden’s House, at Prince Andrew’s School, is named after him, as is Munden’s Battery.

May 1673 - 1674

Richard Keigwin

Seized in 1674 by discontented settlers and troops; only the lucky arrival of an East India Company fleet freed him.

1674 - 19th June 1678

Richard Field

Appointed a Council, some of whom could not read. • A letter to the island council from the East India Company directors, dated 3rd August 1687, says: “Captain Gregory Field is a most useless burden to us and therefore we do hereby dismiss him from our service. Give him leave to come home at his own charge and we shall admit him into our almshouse, which he had petitioned for.

19th June 1678 - 2nd December 1690

John Blackmore

Established a Court of Justice. • An uprising by soldiers and planters in 1684 led to the death of three mutineers in an attack on Fort James and the later execution of four others. • When returning from a journey to the country, lost his footing near Putty Hill and fell to his death.

2nd December 1690 - 21st April 1693

Joshua Johnson

Prevented soldiers smuggling themselves aboard ships by ordering all outgoing ships to leave only during daylight hours. This led to a mutiny. The mutineers intended to imprison the governor and council and then escape from the island in a ship anchored in James Bay, but Johnson was shot and killed by the mutineers when their plan went wrong.

21st April 1693 - 30th November 1697

Richard Kelinge

Died in office; when his widow left the Governor’s residence she took with her most of the plate and pewter.

30th November 1697 - 8th September 1707

Stephen Poirier

In 1698 imprisoned one John Hemon for claiming that Poirier was a false Governor; made a similar complaint against a Captain Bright in 1701 and a Dr Kerr in 1703 • Threatened a Mr Bowes that he would “kick him like a dogg” for uncivil bahaviour. • Imposed a 10 pm curfew in 1701 to try to limit the great increase in drunkenness • Built the original moat for Jamestown. • Died in office of a dropsical distemper.

24th August 1708 - 7th August 1711

John Roberts

Built Munden’s Battery. • Proposed the building of The Castle and a number of irrigation schemes to improve agriculture. One of these schemes, involving flooding Prosperous Bay Plain and planting it, would have destroyed many more endemic species.

7th August 1711 - 28th June 1714

Benjamin Boucher

Rode asses for his amusement. Had a shed built 120m long in which he might exercise himself in wet weather and turned the Plantation House gardens into pasture. • Built the first Lime Kiln in Sandy Bay. • Left, officially due to ill health (first reported in September 1712) but an East India Company memo of March 1714 says “we can’t find that our Gov. Boucher and Council gave any tolerable heed to our instructions or so much as read them with attention”. • On his departure, stripped the Governor’s residence of “all that was portable which might have been of service to him including the locks and keys”. • After his departure was discovered to have been involved in some illegal financial schemes.

8th July 1714 - 13th June 1719

Isaac Pyke (1st time)

Dissatisfied with the attendance at church on Sundays, so ordered that all people in the company’s service who were in Jamestown on Sundays were to attend church. • Commented that the moral tone of the island would be improved if certain women left the island (he named them). • Had Ladder Hill Road and Sidepath built. • In 1715 made the (serious) suggestion that appreciable savings could be made by moving the entire population to Mauritius.

13th June 1719 - 16th February 1723

Edward Johnson

Was the subject of a “scandalous libel fixt up in the valley reflecting on the Gov.” - blamed on Parson Jones, a known dissident priest. • Died on 16th February 1723 of the “bloody flux”.

28th May 1723 - 26th February 1727

John Smith

Described as “a man capable of seeing others’ faults more than his own”. • Became critically ill and recovered only because a passing ship happened to have the right medicine for his illness. Local doctor Dr Wignall accused of giving the Governor unsuitable medicines - claims he had nothing else to give.

26th February 1727 - 24th March 1731

Edward Byfield

Petitioned by tenant planters to reduce the population of goats, which were causing damage to crops. • Requested the supply of coffee plants (which eventually arrived in 1733).

24th March 1731 - 28th July 1738

Isaac Pyke (2nd time)

Reported on the destruction of the Great Wood. • Died on 28th July of violent convulsions, possibly occasioned by Gout.

29th July 1738 - August 1740

John Goodwin

Borrowed extensively from East India Company funds, then died suddenly, leaving his widow with a “large debt”. • Promoted one Duke Crisp to the Council, who promptly swindled £6,284 from the Government.

9th May 1741 - 22nd March 1742

Robert Jenkins

Jenkins House, at Prince Andrew’s School, is named after him. • More famous for the War of Jenkins’ Ear (1739 to 1748) after his ear was severed by Spanish coast guards in 1731. • Uncovered the massive fraud of Duke Crisp - £6,284 was unaccounted for.

22nd March 1742 - 9th July 1742

Thomas Lambert

Created the island’s first hospital in 1742, on its present site. • Died in post on 20th July 1742 after a long illness.

11th March 1744 - 14th March 1747

David Dunbar

Planted the Peepul trees in Jamestown. • Locked up a Mr. Dixon to resolve an argument between the two of them. • Also got into a dispute with his Lt. Gov., Charles Hutchinson. On hearing of this the East India Company’s Directors ordered Dunbar to resign…to be replaced by Hutchinson!

14th March 1747 - 10th March 1764

Charles Hutchinson

Asked by the Directors of the East India Company to “accommodate in a suitable manner with diet and apartments at the Company’s expenseNevil Maskelyne and his party in 1761 to observe the transit of venus. • Acknowledged for “good and long service”.

13th May 1764 - 25th July 1782

John Skottowe[PIC]

His wife “displayed her talents at pleasant raillery” in teasing Captain Cook about the unwise description of the island attributed to him{5}. • His attempt to control drunkenness amongst the garrison soldiers led to hostility and desertions and some troops stole boats and fled the island. Most were lost at sea but at least one group of seven soldiers and a slave succeeded in escaping to Brazil.

25th July 1782 - 28th May 1787

Daniel Corneille

Changed the licensing laws meaning soldiers could not obtain arrack from the Punch Houses, only allowing them to drink at army canteens. A mutinous protest resulted in 200 soldiers, with bayonets fixed, marching on the Governor. After meeting the soldiers he withdrew the new regulations.

28th May 1787 - 13th July 1801

Robert Brooke[PIC]

Instigated several important irrigation projects. • Sent 11 officers and 400 men together with ordnance and money to assist Admiral Elphinstone in South Africa, and was later congratulated for the part he and his men played in securing victory for British forces at Cape Colony. • Built Plantation House. • Received Captain Bligh on his visit in December 1792.

11th March 1802 - 13th July 1807

Robert Patton

Recommended the Company import Chinese labour to grow the rural workforce. • His daughters’ fondness for walking led to the naming of “Sisters Walk”. • Built Patton’s Battery, above West Rocks.

4th July 1808 - 22nd June 1813

Alexander Beatson[PIC]

Forced the closure of the St Helena Register because its owner, Saul Solomon, had printed ‘objectionable remarks’. It reopened seven months later under the supervision of Rev. Boys who was obliged to let the governor inspect any editorial copy which might be considered a ‘doubtful communication’. • Also tried to control drunkenness, with similar results to his predecessors: a mutiny by about 250 troops in December 1811. • An early environmentalist. Rid the island of most of the wild goats. • Valued his beer - when a soldier stole six bottles from one of the Plantation House cellars, he sentenced him to be hanged (the criminal was later pardoned by the Council). • His sword was presented to our Museum in 2006.

22nd June 1813 - 15th April 1815

Mark Wilks[PIC]

Established the St Helena Library and the Post Office. • Napoleon arrived during his term.

15th April 1815 - 25th July 1821

Hudson Lowe[PIC]

Appointed specifically to handle the exile of Napoleon Bonaparte. • A reformer of the island’s slave laws, moving towards emancipation.

11th March 1823 - 5th December 1827

Alexander Walker

Proposed that Longwood House be appropriated for use as a farm. • Rejected the proposal for a tax on “free Blacks” because “the law cannot recognise distinctions of colour”. • Instituted agricultural fairs and ploughing matches to encourage the inhabitants to rely more upon the produce of the soil.

5th December 1827 - 24th February 1836

Charles Dallas

Proposed the building of Jacob’s Ladder, which was completed in January 1830 • Tidied up Main Street, Macadamised it and had a channel made underneath it to carry waste and water away • Moved the entrance gate of the town to the present position • Moved out of Plantation House because the poor drains gave his family a type of typhoid. • Continued as Governor after the takeover by the Crown on 22nd April 1834, pending the arrival of the first Crown Governor.

British Crown governors

24th February 1836 - 6th January 1842

George Middlemore

Levelled and macadamised what is now known as Napoleon Street{6}{7}. • Paid £2,200 per annum, only around a quarter of what his East India Company predecessors had received.

6th January 1842 - 3rd May 1846

Hamelin Trelawney

Established The Market, on the Bridge in Jamestown. • Died in office on 3rd May 1846.

23rd November 1846 - 28th August 1850

Patrick Ross

Built Barnes Road, from upper Jamestown round Peak Hill to Francis Plan (remnants still remain but it is no longer useable as a road). • In 1847 built the original civilian hospital (replaced in 1955 by the current one).

18th July 1851 - 15th December 1854

Thomas Gore Browne[PIC]

Established the first village at Rupert’s Bay (later completed by Edward Hay Drummond Hay)

10th October 1856 - 3rdJuly 1863

Edward Hay Drummond Hay

Gave his name to “Hay Town”, an area of Rupert’s first built up in his time. • Built dwellings for the poor in Jamestown, which still retain the name of Drummond Hay Square. • Welcomed the island’s first royal visitor, H.R.H. Prince Albert.

3rd July 1863 - 29th January 1870

Charles Elliot[PIC]

Issued an Ordinance setting up the St Helena Savings Bank (now Bank of St Helena). • Introduced Cinchona plants in 1868 with a view to exporting quinine. • Declared ‘war’ on the ‘White Ants’(Termites), reconstucting public buildings in iron and teak.

4th February 1870 - 1873

Charles George Edward Patey

Abandoned the quinine project set up by Charles Elliot. • Set up a Commission to report on the “state of the island” (no definite results are recorded).

1873 - 10th March 1884

Hudson Ralph Janisch

The only St Helenian to have held the post of Governor since the Colony came under the Crown in 1834. • To cut expenditure, received a salary of only £900 a year and lived in his own house: Palm Villa, in Jamestown, not Plantation House. • During his time Jonathan the Tortoise arrived on St Helena. • Died, just after leaving office but while still on the island, on 19th March 1884. • Became a Baptist some time after the first Baptist Missionary, Reverend Bertram, came to the island in 1854, so his impressive memorial was erected by the inhabitants of the island in the Baptist Cemetery at Knollcombes.

18th July1890 - 7th June 1897

William Grey-Wilson[PIC]

Dramatically improved St Helena’s finances, from defecit into (small) surplus. • ‘Opened’ the fountain in Main Street built to commemorate those who died in the 1890 rockfall (it was removed in 1945).

7th June 1897 - 25th July 1902

Robert Armitage Sterndale[PIC]

Installed the fountain in Castle Gardens • Celebrated Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee • Built “The Run” in Jamestown • Oversaw the arrival of the Boer prisoners.

2nd February 1903 - 1912

Henry Lionel Gallwey[PIC]

Agreed to accept the Zulu Poll Tax Prisoners.

21st February 1912 - 1920

Harry Edward Spiller Cordeaux[PIC]

Established Martial Law throughout the island as a result of the outbreak of war with Germany. It lasted until 1918.

1920 - 10th August 1924

Robert Francis Peel[PIC]

Died in office on 10th August 1924.

2nd February 1925 - 8th August 1932

Charles Henry Harper[PIC]

Repealed an Ordinance (passed in 1919) prohibiting motor transport{8}.

13th October 1932 - 25th October 1937

Stewart Spencer Davis[PIC]

Credited with naming Jonathan the Tortoise. • Instrumental in the setting up of the St Helena Cricket Club in 1934.

16th March 1938 - 17th July 1941

Henry Guy Pilling

Pilling School in Jamestown is named after him. • Re-formed the St Helena Rifles as a result of the outbreak of World War 2. • Introduced an “Advisory Council”, an initial step towards democracy on St Helena.

November 1941 - 14th August 1946

William Bain Gray[PIC]

Oversaw the winding down of the island’s WWII defences.

31st May 1947 - 22 September 1953

George Andrew Joy[PIC]

Increased wages for all Government workers by One Shilling{19}. • Reportedly used to have a glass of Champagne and a slice of Plum Cake every day at 11am.

11th January 1954 - 1st January 1958

James Dundas Harford[PIC]

Harford School in Longwood is named after him. He also opened it. • He also opened most of the island’s Community Centres • Opened the new General Hospital (the hospital we have today). • Entertained the Duke of Edinburgh in 1957. • Described by a Saint on his departure as “a werry nice gentleman; a werry nice gentleman indeed”. • Accepted the Bahraini Prisoners.

26th February 1958 - 2nd March 1962

Robert Edmund Alford[PIC]

Challenged by all of the Bahraini Prisoners to show that their imprisonment was lawful. This time the prisoners’ challenge succeeded.

13th May 1962 - 25th May 1968

John Osbaldiston Field[PIC]

Presided over the opening of Radio St Helena on Christmas Day, 25th December 1967.

27th May 1968 - 26th June 1971

Dermont Art Pelly Murphy

Commemorated the 150th Anniversary of the death of Napoleon Bonaparte.

1st October 1971 - 5th November 1976

Thomas Oates[PIC]

Positioned the two cannons in front of the Courthouse. • Oversaw the taking of Solomon’s into Government ownership{10}. • Issued an Exclusion Order against George Anthony Dylan Thornton (former owner of Solomon’s).

5th December 1976 - 5th January 1981

Geoffrey Colin Guy[PIC]

Set up the St Helena Shipping Company in August 1977 to own and operate the (first) RMS St Helena. • Promoted various projects to improve island agriculture, including a windmill at French’s Gut. • In April 1979 met with the St Helena Preservation Action Committee to discuss ways of establishing a heritage trust. The Broadway House museum opened the following year. • Retired on the island, at Farm Lodge.

10th March 1982 - 26th April 1984

John Dudley Massingham[PIC]

Instigated an experiment with Daylight Saving Time, starting 18th October 1981. It was deemed a failure and abandoned. • Escorted Prince Andrew during the latter’s visit to the island in April 1984. • Improved island education, including announcing the plan to build Prince Andrew School. • Released much Government land for housing plots including in the Sapper Way, Kunjie Field and Sea View areas.

3rd August 1984 - 6th April 1988

Francis Eustace Baker

Implemented the ‘3 day working scheme’ to deal with unemployment. • Introduced the roundabout at the top of Main Street, outside The Canister. It was the island’s first roundabout. Today there are two{11}.

20th April 1988 - 16th April 1991

Robert Frederick Stimson

Lowered the voting age from 21 to 18. • Contracted the island’s telephone system to Cable & Wireless{12}.

17th May 1991 - 17th April 1995

Alan Norman Hoole[PIC]

Former Attorney General of St Helena from 1978 • An early promoter of “openness” and “transparency”{13} • Issued an Exclusion Order against Mr. & Mrs. Horst Timmreck{14}.

8th September 1995 - 1999

David Leslie Smallman[PIC]

Obtained from London a promise to restore British Citizenship and the Right of Abode to Saint Helenians (which happened in 2002). • Introduced the Governor’s Cup yacht race, the first race taking place in December 1996. • Negotiated the first three-year aid agreement with London, giving the St Helena Government greater strategic freedom. • In 1996 was cornered in his Office for several hours by a crowd of some sixty Islanders protesting about unemployment and low incomes - an incident reported by The Daily Telegraph in London as a “riot”. • The first Governor to actually land on Gough Island; a sister island in the Tristan da Cunha group and consequently part of the Governor’s jurisdiction.

24th June 1999 - 29th September 2004

David J. Hollamby[PIC]

Oversaw the return of British Citizenship, and the resulting loss of half the island’s working-age population • Responsible (with the FCO/DfID) for rejecting SHELCO’s airport proposals • Fell out with LegCo{2} - most of them boycotted his departure ceremony • Last Governor to wear the Governor’s Hat.

15th October 2004 - 28th October 2007

Michael Clancy[PIC]

Announced the first plan to build an airport on St Helena (the plan that was ‘paused’ in 2008). • Presided over the opening of Saint FM in January 2005.

11th November 2007 - 23rd September 2011

Andrew Murray Gurr[PIC]

Introduced reporting of a summary of ExCo{18} meetings. • Had to handle the ‘Pause’ in the Airport project in 2008. • Introduced a new Constitution for St Helena in 2009. • Faced a massed protest in April 2011 over tax reforms and increases in charges for services, including electricity and water. • Regularly used Jacob’s Ladder and was often seen jogging home through Half Tree Hollow.

29th October 2011 - 24th March 2016

Mark Andrew Capes[PIC]

Announced the second plan to build an airport on St Helena • Heavily criticised by the Wass Inquiry into child sexual abuse in St Helena for being “not a hands-on manager”. • Planned term cut short in January 2016.

25th April 2016 -

Lisa Kathleen Phillips[PIC]

The island’s first female Governor • Quickly established herself as “approachable and down to earth” - the opposite of her predecessor. • Re-opened Plantation House for island events.

Photos of Governors of St Helena

This is by no means a comprehensive gallery, but here are a few faces:

John Skottowe, 1764-1782 [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]
John Skottowe, 1764-1782

Robert Brooke, 1787-1801 [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]
Robert Brooke, 1787-1801

Alexander Beatson, 1808-1813 [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]
Alexander Beatson, 1808-1813

Mark Wilks, 1813-1815 [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]
Mark Wilks, 1813-1815

Hudson Lowe, 1815-1821 [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]
Hudson Lowe, 1815-1821

Thomas Gore Browne, 1851-1854 [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]
Thomas Gore Browne, 1851-1854

Charles Elliot, 1863-1870 [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]
Charles Elliot, 1863-1870

William Grey-Wilson, 1890-1897 [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]
William Grey-Wilson, 1890-1897

Robert Armitage Sterndale, 1897-1902 [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]
Robert Armitage Sterndale, 1897-1902

Henry Lionel Gallwey, 1903-1912 [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]
Henry Lionel Gallwey, 1903-1912

Harry Edward Spiller Cordeaux, 1912-1920 [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]
Harry Edward Spiller Cordeaux, 1912-1920

Robert Francis Peel, 1920-1924 [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]
Robert Francis Peel, 1920-1924

Charles Henry Harper, 1925-1932 [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]
Charles Henry Harper, 1925-1932

Stewart Spencer Davis, 1932-1937 [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]
Stewart Spencer Davis, 1932-1937

William Bain Gray, 1941-1946 [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]
William Bain Gray, 1941-1946

George Andrew Joy, 1947-1953 [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]
George Andrew Joy, 1947-1953

James Dundas Harford, 1954-1958 [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]
James Dundas Harford, 1954-1958

Robert Edmund Alford, 1958-1962 [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]
Robert Edmund Alford, 1958-1962

John Osbaldiston Field, 1962-1968 [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]
John Osbaldiston Field, 1962-1968

Thomas Oates, 1971-1976 [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]
Thomas Oates, 1971-1976

Geoffrey Colin Guy, 1976-1981 [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]
Geoffrey Colin Guy, 1976-1981

John Dudley Massingham, 1982-1984 [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]
John Dudley Massingham, 1982-1984

Alan Norman Hoole, 1991-1995 [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]
Alan Norman Hoole, 1991-1995{b}

David Leslie Smallman, 1995-1999 [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]
David Leslie Smallman, 1995-1999

David J. Hollamby, 1999-2004 [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]
David J. Hollamby, 1999-2004

Michael Clancy, 2004-2007 [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]
Michael Clancy, 2004-2007

Andrew Murray Gurr, 2007-2011 [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]
Andrew Murray Gurr, 2007-2011

Mark Andrew Capes, 2011-2016 [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]
Mark Andrew Capes, 2011-2016

Lisa Kathleen Phillips, 2016- [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]
Lisa Kathleen Phillips, 2016-

Governors: Audio

1962: Governor Sir Robert Alford, speaking to a visiting film crew {c}

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1984: Governor John Dudley Massingham, interviewed about St Helena by the UK’s Anglia Television

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1990: Governor Robert Stimson, about the new RMS St Helena, on the occasion of her first arrival on 30th November (Radio St Helena)

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1991: Governor Alan Norman Hoole, swearing in {b}

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2002: Governor Hollamby welcoming Princess Anne in 2002

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2002: Governor Hollamby starting the Quincentenary celebrations on 21st May 2002

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2006: Governor Clancy’s Christmas Message (Saint FM)

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2007: Governor Andrew Gurr swearing the two oaths upon becoming Governor

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2010: Governor Gurr talking about the RMS St Helena (Saint FM)

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If you have an audio clip of one of our Governors you can contribute to this collection, please contact us

Governor Janisch Memorial

Hudson Janisch Memorial [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]{d}

Hudson Ralph Janisch was Colonial Secretary at the time Governor Vice Admiral Patey was sent here in 1870 to make drastic cuts in the expenditure of the island. These Patey did without tact, care or judgement. On his departure in 1873 it was decided to try having an island-born person for Governor, Hudson Janisch.

To keep expenditure low he received a salary of only £900 a year and lived in his own house: Palm Villa, in Jamestown, not Plantation House. During his time Jonathan the Tortoise arrived on St Helena.

Hudson Janisch died, just after leaving office but while still on the island, on 19th March 1884.

He had become a Baptist some time after the first Baptist Missionary, Reverend Bertram, came to the island in 1854, so his impressive memorial was erected by the inhabitants of the island in the Baptist Cemetery at Knollcombes. It is seen in the 1980s in the photo (right). The inscription reads:

This memorial is erected by the inhabitants to commemorate the high respect and esteem in which the late Governor was universally held
Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord

Sadly in more recent years his monument has deteriorated and is currently in need of some maintenance.

Read More

Go to: Article: “The forgotten Governors of the British Empire”Article: “Governor Underpaid”Be careful where you stand…

Article: “The forgotten Governors of the British Empire

Published in the St Helena Independent 26th August 2011.

Governors of the British Empire received a handsome salary, but overseas postings could also bring loneliness and danger.

Consider the assignment: a generous salary, abundant overseas travel, opportunities for exploration, great power and huge responsibilities. £750,000 a year the going rate for a top post in say, Australia, or even £350,000 for the Falklands Islands. The rewards: a knighthood, and position at the top of society, heartbreaking loneliness, and a lifetime of ill health. When you’re next considering the terms of your expat contract, spare a thought for those who governed a British colony at the height of Empire.

By the time Queen Victoria came to the throne Britain had over 50 colonies - not including India - around the world. Apart from Canada, Australia and South Africa, lands of opportunity to be settled by white men, most places were beyond the pale of civilisation - if anyone had heard of them at all.

Where, for example, was Heligoland? A tiny island off the north coast of Germany. Or Labuan? Today, a popular diving destination in northern Borneo. There were governors in the Ionian Islands, and in the Gold Coast (today’s Ghana), Sierra Leone, the Gambia, and Lagos on the west coast of Africa; Singapore, Hong Kong, the Falkland Islands and strange-sounding provinces in Malaysia.

Victorian Governors [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]

Everywhere the peoples and the climates were different. An assignment to the tropics, dangerous, ‘uncivilised’, disease-ridden and full of malaria, could mean a death sentence.

Governors were given no training. Only the most basic information was given about where they were going. For example, Uganda, at the turn of the 20th century, was described ‘as about the size of France’, while nowhere in Nigeria had been explored further than 50 miles from trading posts along the river banks. Yet, here a governor would be expected to maintain law and order, control revenues and expenditure, and lead a civil society.

Vast preparations were made for leaving England. Appointed to govern Tasmania in 1846, William Denison prepared to spend five years in a colony where virtually nothing could be purchased. He took his entire library of over 2,000 books, and every article of furniture, plate, crockery and glass, saddlery and harness the family possessed - and all their servants.

Partings from England were anguished. Accounts of sea voyages were often terrible. Sailing for the Gold Coast in 1892, Henry Hesketh Bell was shipwrecked. He landed on shore in his dressing gown, pyjamas and one shoe. The Gold Coast was so infested with fevers, dystentery and malaria that “the expression, ‘How do you do?’ is not a mere formality,” he quipped. But it wasn’t funny. He lost 12 colleagues from fever in less than four years.

And spare a thought for their wives. Rachael Gordon went with two children to join her husband, Arthur, the first governor of Fiji in 1875. Government House was built of reeds and thatch. While her husband cut off his trousers and went around barefoot with a towel flung round his shoulders in case he fancied a dip in the sea, Rachael was bound in tight stays, hooped crinolines and heavy black gabardine. She possessed only two light cotton sprigged dresses. How she longed, she wrote her sister, for everything “clean and white, to be changed two times a day.

Meanwhile, Ellen Douglas was serving with her husband, the founding administrator of Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territories. Surrounded by Larrakia, the local aborigines, she and her seven children - five under 10 - lived in a thin walled timber hut with windows made of calico, with no nearby water, a camping stove to cook on, no fresh fruit, vegetables or meat, on the edge of a beach infested with crocodiles. For half the year the heat was terrible, and for the rest it rained torrentially. For 11 months no ship called with either letters or supplies.

The career of Thomas Callaghan was typical. Like many Victorian governors he grew up in modest circumstances, the son of an Irish woollen draper from County Cork. After training as a lawyer Callaghan was dispatched to Hong Kong in 1860. The place was so riddled with corruption it nearly broke him. He was moved to govern Labuan and on to the Gambia where fever almost killed him. Like so many of his colleagues, Callaghan had no time to find a wife until he was well over 40.

Loneliness, recurring illnesses and fear of disease is a constant theme in memoirs and letters of the period. No one knew what caused malaria or other tropical fevers. A large dose of quinine, the remedy of the time, induced terrible ringing in the ears and sickness that was almost as painful as the fever it attacked. After the Gambia, Callaghan was assigned to the favourite post for diseased governors: the bitter cold and isolation of the Falkland Islands. Less than six months after he was at last transferred to the gentle climes of the Bahamas, Callaghan was dead, aged 54.

As communications with London took weeks, a governor’s power to put his own stamp on a country was enormous. Many left legacies that endure to this day. Frank Swettenham began his working life as a translator of Malay languages. By the age of 24 he was the only white man in a remote Malay state, living alongside the sultan as an assistant resident. Wearing sarongs and living in a Malay house, he wove himself into village life, talking cock-fighting with the men and seduced by their women. Within 30 years he had overseen changes that transformed impenetrable jungle and simple villages into a British-run country on the brink of modernity with railways, roads, hospitals and grandiose public buildings.

But the work carried a cost - to both the countries, and to those who tried to govern them. It broke Arthur Gordon’s heart to leave his beloved Fiji. Frank Swettenham’s friend and colleague, Hugh Clifford, who also began his career as a governor in a lonely post in the Malay States, was haunted throughout his life by the destruction Britain had waged on the traditional Malay way of life.

Many other governors had doubts about their missions, wondering whether they were not doing more harm than good. And when at last they came home to retire, in the green and pleasant land they had so often dreamed of, governors found the nation had changed. From high command and travel around the Empire, their worlds had shrunk. Few in England cared who they had been or what they had done. Most died forgotten.

From ‘Running the Show, Governors of the British Empire’, by Stephanie Williams, published by Viking/Penguin.

Article: “Governor Underpaid

Published in the St Helena Independent 19th November 2010.

Saint FM held a phone-in on Tuesday morning about what people wanted to see from a new Governor of St Helena. Governor Andrew Gurr will be leaving the island on completion of contract in the middle of next year. There was a huge response from the public with dozens of suggestions and comments. After the phone-in, we invited Governor Andrew Gurr to tell us about what it was like to be Governor of St Helena:

I did hear some of the programme this morning and I think people are free to say what they think and I welcome that, but there’s clearly a lot of misunderstanding out there in the population as to what a Governor actually does and that’s not surprising. Until I was sent to an overseas territory I don’t think I understood it at all and just to read through the Constitution is a very dull thing to do. Most of the comments, I think, were very familiar to me, I’ve heard most of them before and, indeed, responded to them, but I was concerned over the criticism of our Councillors because I do regard this Council as being very professional, they work hard. If I thought for one moment they were in my pocket, I think I would be surprised and rather shocked. They’re certainly not in my pocket and they do their job very well and they do it in the best way they know how, but I think what was missing this morning was the fact that a Governor, above all, needs a very tough hide, you have to be able to take the understandable criticism and you have to step back from it. If you, as a Governor, indeed, as any senior person involved in politics, start answering every criticism I think you’d end up doing nothing else and I’ve seen that happen, it certainly happened to politicians when I was there in the Falklands, so you have to be able to take criticism and not respond and another thing a Governor needs that nobody actually said this morning, I think, is a good wife, or if the Governor is a woman, a good husband, because I think there are real difficulties by a person being here, if they’re all by themselves and they go into that big house at night and dwell on their thoughts, they’ve nobody to unload the baggage of the day on, and I think that’s important. I think the Governor here needs to respect democracy because it would be easy under the Constitution for a Governor to get carried away and start trying to rule by dictate and I don’t think that would be advisable. But what a Governor does, just to, sort of, say in a very few words, he represents Her Majesty’s Government to the island and he also represents the island to Her Majesty’s Government and in a sense he’s standing half way between both and if I’m in London I’m arguing the St Helena case and if I’m here I’m often arguing the London case, in fact, probably London would say not enough, but that’s the role and that’s what one has to do and, of course, it’s remarkably complicated as you rightly say. And as well as doing that here, the Governor does have a constitutional role and it’s almost a management role, a leadership role, in trying to take the island and the civil service in the right direction. Now, somebody said this morning that I’m always looking for change and I think if you’re going to improve then you do need to look for change, otherwise you’re just going to stay the same. A lot of people also said, you know, nothing’s happening and we’re in a mess, I think was said several times. I don’t think that’s true, I think over the last few months in particular we’ve moved forward quite a long way. But a Governor does need to be a good communicator, needs to be honest, needs to have manners, which was said this morning, and needs to have integrity. And one of the things that is important, particularly here, because of the nature of our isolation, is that we are cut off, probably more than any society of this size and therefore if there is a crisis the buck stops with the Governor. It doesn’t often happen, in fact, one hopes it never happens, but occasionally there’s something where a Governor does have to make some pretty rapid decisions and so there’s a real heavy responsibility, I think, on a Governor’s shoulders under those circumstances. So it is a complicated job, it’s a wonderful job, a big job and an underpaid job{17}.

Be careful where you stand…

When you’re having your photo taken, it’s a good idea to check what’s behind you…

Governor Mark Capes [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]
Governor Mark Capes, announcing the Air Service Provider on 27th March 2015{e}

It’s also a good idea to be careful how you get onto shore from a boat, as Governor Massingham found when he escorted Prince Andrew ashore in 1984:

Governor Massingham falls, 1984 [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]

Fortunately he was not hurt, and showing the fortitude expected in the role, bravely carried on as if nothing had happened, though he later admitted that his trousers shrank as they dried, giving him quite an uncomfortable day showing the Prince around.

closinghumourimage [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]

Laugh at funny governor humour - LOL [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]

One word sums up probably the responsibility of any Governor, and that one word is ‘to be prepared’
George W. Bush


{a} Our Constitution, 1st September 2009{16}

{b} Copyright © 1991 Film Unit, used with permission{16}. The 1991 Film Unit consisted of Charles & Julia Frater who came to the island and made a half hour film called “Saint Helena, South Atlantic Ocean”. The full film is available on YouTube™

{c} Copyright © 1962 Film Unit, used with permission{16}. The 1962 Film Unit consisted of Charles Frater, Bob Johnston and Esdon Frost who came to the island and made a half hour film called “Island of Saint Helena”, many sound recordings and photographic stills. The full film is available on YouTube™


{e} St Helena Independent


{1} Until 2016 they had all been male.

{2} ‘Legislative Council’, effectively the island’s parliament

{3} More about the politics of St Helena on the Wikipedia

{4} Governor Hollamby, 24th June 1999-29th September 2004, on the telephone

{5} See the Famous Visitors page for a detailed explanation

{6} We understand that prior to Napoleon’s exile Napoleon Street was known as Cock Street. We do not know exactly when it was renamed.

{7} In which the • Moonbeams Shop • opens in a new window or tab [Saint Helena Island Info:The Governor of St Helena]Moonbeams Shop is situated

{8} The first motor car was imported in 1929

{9} Source:

{10} The Government had 62% of the shares; the remainder remained in private hands, as it still does

{11} The second is in Scotland, outside the A&NRD buildings; it came into use in July 1990

{12} Now SURE South Atlantic Limited

{13} Still largely lacking from Government of St Helena.

{14} Their (alledged) crime was importing goods on their own vessel - legally the RMS St Helena had a monopoly over goods transport to and from the island (and as at 2017, still does)

{15} The St Helena Records is a collection of documents dating back to the earliest days of St Helena, held in the Government of St Helena Archives. The Archives can be accessed in person or via email - see our Family And Friends page for more. You can search our events database, extracted from the Records, on our Chronology page.

{16} Reproduced for educational non-commercial use only; all copyrights are acknowledged

{17} We don’t know what current governors are paid, but the Records{15} show that when the Crown took over the island in 1834 the salary of the Governor was reduced to a quarter of the East India Company levels.

{18} ‘Executive Council’, effectively the island’s cabinet (all members are also members of LegCo{2})

{19} 5 pence in modern Sterling; about £5 at today’s prices{9}.


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