OBITUARY: Sir Colville Deverell

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The Independent Online
Colville Deverell had to face an exceptionally wide variety of problems and situations during his long career, first in government service, in a variety of postings in Africa and the Caribbean up until 1962, and then as the first Secretary- General of the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

Due to his tireless efforts at that time IPPF became firmly established as the largest international family planning organisation, many of the national family planning associations (particularly in Africa and Asia) having started through the encouragement of his evident fairness and integrity.

Educated at Portora School in Ulster, and Trinity College Dublin (for whom he played both cricket and tennis), he arrived in Kenya in 1931 as a district officer and spent his first seven year in the Colonial Service in some of the more remote districts which gave him his love and understanding of Africa.

In 1941 he was seconded to the Civil Affairs branch of East African Command, working throughout what is now Somalia and in Ethiopia, and reaching the rank of Colonel. His experience at this time convinced him that the way forward for the Somali peoples had to include political unity, as "Greater Somalia", as it was then called. But the decisions taken at the Italian peace treaty negotiations in 1946 rejected this concept, although Deverell (then on secondment to the War Office) worked hard to get it accepted, realising that this was an opportunity that would never recur.

On his return to Kenya in 1946 he was made Secretary of the important Authority for Post War Development and Reconstruction, and then in 1949 became Administrative Secretary. In this capacity he was primarily responsible for the planning and organisation of the visit to Kenya of Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh in 1952, which ended so tragically with the death of King George VI. That same year Deverell was transferred to Jamaica as Colonial Secretary, and for the next three years his astute judgement and extrovert nature (helped surely by his prowess as a cricketer) were invaluable to the Governor, Sir Hugh Foot, in negotiating the awkward and difficult path towards independence.

In 1955 Deverell was appointed Governor of the Windward Islands, where he had to cope with a new phenomenon in the shape of Hurricane Janet and the huge devastation it caused in Grenada. But this cruel experience stood him in good stead when he was transferred as Governor of Mauritius in 1959. For as soon as he arrived a very damaging cyclone hit the island and the first months of his administration were devoted almost entirely to repairing the consequences.

Deverell retired from the Colonial Service in 1962, but very soon his great ability to get on with people at all levels and of different backgrounds, and to reconcile conflicting views, was harnessed in the cause of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, of which he became the first Secretary-General in 1964. He went to India as chairman of the UN (FP) mission in 1965, the first of many such UN visits to different parts of the world. He retired from the IPPF in 1969.

Dev - he was never called anything else, having such impossible Christian names - dealt successfully with all the situations that faced him in the course of his career because he was a natural all-rounder with a splendid ability to persuade, cajole, oppose, instruct - whatever was needed. He was helped always by a ready wit and a dry, incisive sense of humour.

Dev married Margaret Wynne Willson in 1935, and she and their two younger sons survive him. Their eldest, John, a director of MI5, was killed in the helicopter crash on the Mull of Kintyre in June 1994.

Frank Loyd

Colville Montgomery Deverell, colonial administrator: born 21 February 1907; Clerk to Executive and Legislative Councils 1938-39; Civil Affairs Branch, East Africa Command 1941-46; OBE 1946, GBE 1963; Secretary, Development and Reconstruction Authority, Kenya 1946-49, Administrative Secretary 1949-52; Colonial Secretary, Jamaica 1952-55; CVO 1953; CMG 1955, KCMG 1957; Governor and Commander-in-Chief, Windward Islands 1955-59; Governor and Commander-in-Chief, Mauritius 1959-62; Secretary-General, International Planned Parenthood Federation 1964-69; married 1935 Margaret Wynne Willson (two sons, and one son deceased); died Wokingham 18 December 1995.

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