Hugh Clifford

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Hugh Clifford
Hugh Charles Clifford (The Straits Times, 15 October 1929).jpg
19th Governor of the Straits Settlements
In office
3 June 1927 21 October 1929
ChildrenHugh Gilbert Francis Clifford (son)
Mary Agnes Philippa Clifford (daughter)
Monica Elizabeth Mary Clifford (daughter)
ProfessionColonial administrator

Sir Hugh Charles Clifford, GCMG , GBE (5 March 1866 – 18 December 1941) was a British colonial administrator.


Early life

Clifford was born in Roehampton, London, the sixth of the eight children of Major-General Sir Henry Hugh Clifford and his wife Josephine Elizabeth, née Anstice; his grandfather was Hugh Clifford, 7th Baron Clifford of Chudleigh.


Clifford married Minna à Beckett, daughter of Gilbert Arthur à Beckett, on 15 April 1896, and they had one son and two daughters: Hugh Gilbert Francis Clifford, Mary Agnes Philippa and Monica Elizabeth Mary. Minna Clifford died on 14 January 1907.

On 24 September 1910 Hugh Clifford remarried, to Elizabeth Lydia Rosabelle Bonham, [1] CBE, [2] daughter of Edward Bonham of Bramling, Kent, a British consul. A Catholic, she was the widow of Henry Philip Ducarel de la Pasture of Llandogo Priory, Monmouthshire. Clifford thus became stepfather to E. M. Delafield, author of the Provincial Lady series.


Hugh Clifford intended to follow his father, Sir Henry Hugh Clifford, a distinguished British Army general, into the military, but later decided to join the civil service in the Straits Settlements, with the assistance of his relative Sir Frederick Weld, the then Governor of the Straits Settlements and also the British High Commissioner in Malaya. He was later transferred to the British Protectorate of the Federated Malay States. Clifford arrived in Malaya in 1883, aged 17. [3]

He first became a cadet in the State of Perak. During his twenty years there and on the east coast of the Malay Peninsula in Pahang, Clifford socialised with the local Malays and studied their language and culture deeply. He came to sympathise strongly with and admire certain aspects of the traditional indigenous cultures, while recognising that their transformation as a consequence of the colonial project which he served was inevitable. He was a Government agent of Pahang (1887-1888), Superintendent of Ulu Pahang (1889), served as British Resident at Pahang, 1896–1900 and 1901–1903, and Governor of North Borneo, 1900–1901. [3]

In 1903, he left Malaya to take the post of Colonial Secretary of Trinidad and Tobago. Later he was appointed Governor of British Ceylon (1907-1912), Governor of the Gold Coast, 1912–1919, Nigeria, 1919–1925, and Ceylon, 1925–1927. [3] During his service in Malaya and afterwards he wrote numerous stories, reflections and novels primarily about Malayan life, many of them imbued with an ambivalent nostalgia. His last posting was, for him, a welcome return to the Malaya he loved, as Governor of the Straits Settlements and British High Commissioner in Malaya, where he served from 1927 until 1929, after which Lady Clifford's ill-health forced his retirement. [3] Alongside his other books he wrote Farther India , which chronicles European explorations and discoveries in Southeast Asia.


Several schools in Malaysia are named Clifford School in his honour, such as;

Clifford is briefly referred to in V. S. Naipaul's The Mimic Men. [4] Though he was Colonial Secretary of Trinidad and Tobago (second in command to the Governor), in the book he is named as a former Governor of Isabella, a fictitious Caribbean island based on Trinidad.

Clifford Pier in Singapore was built between 1927 and 1933, and was named after Sir Hugh Clifford when he was the former Governor of the Straits Settlements between 1927 and 1930. It was opened on 3 June 1933. [5]


Clifford was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) in 1909, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG) in the 1921 Birthday Honours, [6] and Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) in 1925.


Clifford died peacefully on 18 December 1941 in his native Roehampton. His widow, Elizabeth, died on 30 October 1945.


First published as: East coast etchings. Singapore : Straits Times Press, 1896.
First published as: Stories by Sir Hugh Clifford. Kuala Lumpur : Oxford University Press, 1966.
"First published in the Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, v. 34 pt. 1 in 1961" --T.p. verso.
"An expedition to Kelantan and Trengganu : 1895"--cover title.
Originally published: A prince of Malaya. New York : Harper & Brothers, 1926.

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  1. The Catholic Who's Who & Yearbook, 1930
  2. Everyman's Dictionary of Literary Biography, 3rd ed. (1962)
  3. 1 2 3 4 "H. E. to leave Singapore on Friday". The Straits Times. 15 October 1929. p. 11.
  4. Naipaul, V. S. (2011). The Mimic Men. London: Picador. pp. 148–149. ISBN   9780330522922.
  5. Savage, Victor R; Yeoh, Brenda S. A (2013). Toponymics: a study of Singapore street names. pp. 56–57. ISBN   978-981-4408-35-6. OCLC   842138452.
  6. "No. 32346". The London Gazette (Supplement). 4 June 1921. p. 4533.
  7. Ernest A. Baker, A Guide to Historical Fiction. London : G. Routledge and Sons, 1914.(p. 402)
Government offices
Preceded by British Resident of Pahang
Succeeded by
Arthur Butler
Preceded by
D.H. Wise
British Resident of Pahang
Succeeded by
Cecil Wray
Preceded by Governor of North Borneo
Succeeded by
Preceded by Acting Governor of Ceylon
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Herbert Bryan (acting)
Governor of Gold Coast
Succeeded by
Sir Alexander Ransford Slater (acting)
Preceded byas Governor-General of Nigeria Governor of Nigeria
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Edward Bruce Alexander
acting governor
Governor of Ceylon
Succeeded by
Preceded by Governor of Straits Settlements and
British High Commissioner in Malaya

Succeeded by
Sir John Scott (Acting)
Sir Cecil Clementi