Ernest Bickham Sweet-Escott, the first governor of Seychelles

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Ernest Bickham Sweet-Escott, the first governor of Seychelles

Post  Sirop14 on Sun Mar 22, 2015 8:38 pm

Ernest Bickham Sweet-Escott, the first governor of Seychelles

Sir Ernest Bickham Sweet-Escott is enshrined in the history of Seychelles as a figure of sublime dignityOver a century ago, Seychelles was a British colonial outpost. TONY MATHIOT remembers the man who played a fundamental role in its watershed moment,
On Monday May 8, 1904, Governor Ernest Bickham Sweet-Escott (1857-1941) stood on the deck of the Messageries steamer oxus and waved at the large mingled group of inhabitants that had gathered at the long pier to wish him farewell.

During the four years and 6 months that he had spent in the fledgling colony, they had grown fond of him. Among the group were religious dignitaries, medical officers and members of the executive and legislative councils, and of course, ordinary citizens who had met him on his peripatetic visits across Mahe. Certainly there was a tone of sadness to the occasion. A sentiment felt also by the 46 year old Governor as he waved goodbye.

He saw the clock tower that he had unveiled the year before, the splendid new building that he had built to serve as the Government Secretariat. Further back, he could see the old Government House which had been his residence, and the avenue of Sandragon trees that led to it. He gazed at the forested mountains that loomed above, and despite the sense of regret that he felt at having to leave, in the candid sanctuary of this mind he knew that he was leaving the archipelago of Seychelles in a prosperous state in comparison with how it was when he arrived. The young Governor felt the delightful satisfaction of fulfilment. Indeed, such were his accomplishments that one is entitled to hyperbolize by stating that Ernest Bickham Sweet-Escott’s steadfastness of purpose and ardent determination to create prosperity in all sectors of the colony’s development surpassed the initiatives of most of his predecessors. He was the leading protagonist in its great moment of transition.

Ernest Bickham Sweet-Escott was appointed Administrator of Seychelles on August 19, 1899 to succeed Henry Cockburn Stewart (1844-1899) who passed away on June 5 that same year, while away on leave. Sweet-Escott arrived on board SS Nuddea on November 8, 1899 and spent some time at the quarantine station on Long island. He assumed the administration on Wednesday November 20, 1899 when he took his oaths on the second floor of the old courthouse building (the present National History Museum). His salary was R12,500 annually.

He was used to the sweltering climate of the tropics, having spent almost a dozen years in Mauritius where, from 1881 to 1886, he was Professor of classics at the Royal College of Mauritius before taking up the post of assistant colonial secretary which led to his promotion as acting colonial secretary.


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