Obituary: Sir Sidney Ridley

Sidney Ridley, colonial civil servant and college administrator: born 26 March 1902; Indian Civil Service 1926-47; Revenue Commissioner in Sind and Secretary to Government 1947-54; Kt 1953; Domestic Bursar, St John's College, Oxford 1960-68, Fellow 1962-69 (Emeritus); married 1929 Dorothy Hoole (died 1987; three daughters); died Waytown, Dorset 9 October 1993.

SIDNEY RIDLEY was one of the small group of senior members of the Indian Civil Service who, at the time of independence in 1947, offered their services to the government of Pakistan to assist in the establishment and maintenance of the machinery of government in the new dominion. In his case, it was a question of returning home, as he had spent the first 10 years of his service in the province of Sind. Ridley continued as the Revenue Commissioner in Sind till 1954, being among the last of the British members of the ICS to leave. He was rewarded with a knighthood in 1953.

'Sam' Ridley was equally at home in secretarial posts and district administration. He was the first Finance Secretary to the Government of Sind when the province was formed in 1935. From 1936 to 1940 he was on deputation as Secretary to the Agent General for India in South Africa, yet, after leaving Pakistan, he acted as representative of the West Africa Committee (concerned with British commercial interests) in Ghana, Sierra Leone and the Gambia.

Ridley was universally popular with colleagues both British and Indian and, though a very hard worker, was always ready to enjoy a light-hearted occasion with friends. Legend has it that his sobriquet arose from the popularity of his rendering at parties of the old ditty 'Sam, Sam, pick up th' musket', in an authentic Northern accent - he came from Lancashire. Dorothy, whom he married in 1929, was a wonderful partner in all he did, cheerfully undergoing the rigours of the relentless touring and camping that district officers in Sind had to maintain.

Ridley's service included three years as Deputy Commissioner, Upper Sind Frontier, the headquarters town of which, Jacobabad, was officially the hottest place in India, among places where records were kept. Sam and Dorothy built up a wonderfully united family with their three daughters, who, with their husbands, had been a great source of strength to Sam since Dorothy's death in 1987.

On his return from West Africa in 1960 Ridley took an appointment as Domestic Bursar to St John's College, Oxford, joining that band of retired civil servants and officers of the defence forces who grace such appointments. For eight years he attended to the detail of his responsibilities in the manner of a good district officer, popular with everyone. Though the overall financial position of the college was not his direct responsibility, his views on investment, and finance generally, were listened to with care; and shortly after Ridley retired, the college was able to enter on a period of considerable expansion.

After leaving Oxford, Sam Ridley concentrated on his main affections, first his family, and then his links with Pakistan and particularly Sind. Until recently, he presided over an annual reunion, held in London, of people who had lived and worked in Sind.

(Photograph omitted)

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