Obituary: Sir Maurice Dorman

Ralph Grey
Wednesday 10 November 1993 00:02

Maurice Henry Dorman, colonial administrator: born 7 August 1912; Administrative Officer, Tanganyika Territory 1935-40; Clerk of Councils, Tanganyika 1940-45; Assistant to the Lt-Governor, Malta 1945-47; Principal Assistant Secretary, Palestine 1947; Assistant Secretary, Social Services Department, London 1948-50; Director of Social Welfare and Community Development, Gold Coast 1950-52; Colonial Secretary, Trinidad and Tobago 1952-56; Acting Governor of Trinidad 1954-55; Governor, Commander-in-Chief and Vice-Admiral, Sierra Leone 1956-61 Governor-General (after independence) 1961-62; Governor and Commander-in-Chief, Malta 1962-64; Trustee, Imperial War Museum 1972-85; Almoner, Venerable Order of St John of Jerusalem 1972-75, Chief Commander, St John Ambulance 1975-80, Lord Prior 1980-86; married Monica Smith (one son, three daughters); died Overton 26 October 1993.

FOR JUST over 60 years, Maurice Dorman gave unstinting and successful public service in several countries around the world, culminating in two governorships and their translation into governor-generalships as independence came to Sierra Leone and Malta.

After education at Sedbergh and Magdalene College, Cambridge, Dorman went to Tanganyika in 1935 as an administrative officer and thus began a long career in the Colonial Service. His suitability for advancement was recognised 10 years later by appointment as assistant to the Lieutenant-Governor of Malta (the country to which he was to return in very different circumstances) and then to Palestine in 1947 and a two-year secondment to the Colonial Office in 1948.

The style and essence of British colonial administration were changing rapidly in those days as countries advanced towards independence - and nowhere more rapidly than in the Gold Coast, the Ghana of today. Dorman spent two years as Director of Social, Welfare and Community Development, appropriately for one schooled to give local effect to the changing lessons of colonial development.

From West Africa he moved as Colonial Secretary to Trinidad and Tobago, another dependency learning to tread the new paths, and here he showed, as Acting Governor, the quality that would carry him back to West Africa as Governor of Sierra Leone, for five years. There too independence was not far off and Dorman served in 1961 as the country's first Governor General.

Rapid changes in the theory and practice of colonial governance made demands on the adaptability of administrations - indeed those for whom the changes were made were not always themselves successful in giving effect to them. Dorman's transfer to Malta as Governor in 1962 brought him and his wife back to a country, people and problems very different from those with which he had dealt successfully in Africa, but one in which they had made good friends and for which they already had great affection. Local politics brought some trials and tribulations as the years went by. An 'off-duty' home in the Maltese countryside was denied to him and other happiness was diminished by local controversies - but all was well in the end, and most friendships persisted.

The advances that Dorman made, in a time of special stress, in the development of progress from mixed manners of communal management to a commonly accepted style of self-government, required calm, skilful, sincere direction. The tasks of a governor general were often to be fulfilled by manners less obviously important - he had to look and play the part and achieve by personality what had hitherto been won by laying down the law. Dorman played both roles well, with dignity and appropriate solemnity but mindful always of the realities.

It was no doubt inevitable that Dorman and his wife, after their years in Malta, so long the home (and the fortress) of the Knights of the Order of St John, should be volunteers for the service of the Order in the United Kingdom. They gave themselves enthusiastically to that service. Dorman was appointed Almoner and in 1972 became Chief Commander of St John Ambulance. This volunteer post demands in practice what amounts to almost full-time devotion. Dorman laboured strenuously but also found time and energy to serve in the Swindon Hospital Management Committee, and then in health authorities for 14 years.

Dorman followed Lord Caccia as Lord Prior of the Order of St John, and he served with distinction for five years. His services to the Crown overseas had been recognised by his appointments as GCMG and GCVO. The Sovereign Military Order, with whom he had fraternal association from his Malta days, made him a Knight Grand Cross of the Maltese Order of Merit. He was a Deputy Lieutenant for Wiltshire and a long-time trustee of the Imperial War Museum.

It was a long, varied and strenuous life and through all his doings in all its many places and sometimes rather disagreeable surroundings, he was sustained by Monica, his wife, and their son and three daughters. They will miss him sadly and there will be many to share with them proud and cheerful memories.

(Photograph omitted)

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