Sir Kenneth Maddocks

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Kenneth Phipson Maddocks, colonial administrator: born Haywards Heath, Sussex 8 February 1907; Civil Secretary, Northern Region, Nigeria 1955-57, Acting Governor 1956-57, Deputy Governor 1957-58; CMG 1956, KCMG 1958; Governor and Commander-in-Chief, Fiji 1958-63; KCVO 1963; Director and Secretary, East Africa and Mauritius Association 1964-69; married 1951 Elnor Rusell (died 1976), 1980 Patricia Mooring (née Duke); died Aldeburgh, Suffolk 28 August 2001.

In 1929, at the age of 22, Kenneth Maddocks set off to the Colonial Administrative Service in Nigeria to start a career which seemed to have a limitless future. Nigeria claimed him for close to 30 years. Then came a sort of culminative postscript in the South Pacific Colony of Fiji, where he was Governor and Commander-in-Chief from 1958 until 1963.

In those relatively languid and security-less days, the front gates to Government House in Suva were always open, with a solitary ceremonial soldier in the sentry box. The despatch boxes would go up and down the hill between Government House and the colonial secretariat, conveyed by means of protesting bicycles. The messengers who rode them had no accompanying protection, for there was nothing then to protect them from. The blue poster panorama of Suva harbour and reef from the Governor's airy wooden office gave Maddocks a sense of peace and calm when he arrived.

It was not to last. He presided, responsive, if uneasy at times, over the early stirrings of political change and Fijian-Indian-European-Chinese manoeuvres for the future; together with the growing erosion of Fijian cultural, social and economic traditions by urban drift, unemployment, overcrowding and rootless crime.

He would examine with deliberation the nuances of the official drafts submitted for the red ink of gubernatorial initialled approval. As only auditors used green ink, so only colonial governors used red. A satisfyingly lucid and well-reasoned draft from an Assistant Colonial Secretary of a despatch by the Governor to the Secretary of State in Whitehall was usually enough to ensure a benign and well-tempered day. The opposite was, well, the opposite. Maddocks was never tempted into tolerance of sloppy paper work.

Not that Maddocks was just "good on paper" or that this was all he expected of his staff. But there was a well-disciplined order and a controlled formality to his daily work of whatever kind. Rational argument appealed to his intellect; and he was quick to recognise the signs of it in others close to him.

For a product of Wadham College, Oxford, Maddocks was an unexpectedly austere, even shy man. That anyway was the popular perception, which was of no great concern to him. His concern for, and interest in, the welfare of the people of all races and classes in the community was deep and real. It was just that he concealed it.

When low wage frustrations erupted in 1959 into widespread oil distribution strikes and the worst rioting the Fijian capital had seen, Maddocks insisted on seeing the union leader. He wanted a personal perception to put beside the given wisdom presented on paper to him. Soon after, Sir Alan Burns, also ex-Nigeria, headed a year-long Commission of Inquiry into the Natural Resources and Population Trends of Fiji. It was the first comprehensive examination of its kind. The nature of it was due in large measure to the quiet persuasiveness of Maddocks's urgings upon London.

There were two marriages – both late – and no children. Maddocks was 44 when in 1951 he married Elnor, daughter of Sir John Russell FRS. After Elnor's death in 1976, Maddocks came to find his retirement increasingly lonely, while solitary housekeeping bordered on the tedious. Being a contented Knight of the Scrubbing Brush was not for him. At 73, in 1980, he married the widow of Sir George Mooring.

The circumstances were intriguing, since the careers of Maddocks and Mooring had matched each other step by step in Nigeria. Mooring arrived there two years after Maddocks, in 1931. Twenty-six years later, Maddocks was Deputy Governor of the Northern Region; while Mooring was Deputy Governor of the Western Region. When Maddocks moved to Fiji, Mooring found himself British Resident in Zanzibar for a similar period. He died in 1969; and 11 years later Maddocks married Patricia. The lingering spell of Nigeria had worked again, after what Maddocks himself would have termed a "decent interval".

Near the end of his time in Fiji – and of his colonial career – Maddocks faced a crisis of public confidence in the service which he headed in the colony. The Great Homosexual Scandal began with the British Council Representative and gradually revealed a clandestine network of conduct within the colonial government which, in those far-off days and different circumstances, was as mind-boggling as it was unpleasant. Case after case began to emerge of practices some of which are still unlawful in Britain today. The colony sizzled with salacious rumour. Bachelor administrative officers thought twice about continuing to share quarters with another male colleague. Then a young English district officer and magistrate was arrested, charged, convicted and jailed. This for Maddocks was bad enough. But for him worse was to come.

After he returned to Government House, in white uniform and plumed hat, heat-exhausted but exhilarated from taking the salute at the annual Queen's Birthday Parade on Albert Park in 1963, I had to tell him that his ADC, on loan from the New Zealand forces, had confessed to the police of prolonged improper conduct in his official flat. This was not only within the hallowed precincts of Government House grounds, but just through the wall from the Governor's day-time office.

Maddocks was devastated by the shock of such an affront from a trusted junior colleague both to the colonial government as a whole and to him personally as its head. No doubt Graham Greene would have made something of it all: but to Maddocks it struck at the heart of what he believed his service stood for. And that was, simply, its continuing credibility and acceptability throughout Fiji. But, for quite different, global reasons, those days were already running out.

Maddocks had neither the flamboyant PR qualities of his predecessor, Sir Ronald Garvey, nor the creative imaginativeness of his successor, Sir Derek Jakeway. His qualities were old-fashioned integrity and low-key leadership by example. His success lay in listening to, but distancing himself from, the manipulators and the pressure groups of all races and political and commercial interests. The need for popularity, let alone adulation, came low on his list of personal priorities.

Kenneth Bain