Edward Stubbs

Sir Reginald Edward Stubbs GCMG (Chinese: 司徒拔; 13 October 1876 – 7 December 1947) was a British colonial governor, who was once the Governor of Hong Kong. He caused controversy while Governor of Ceylon over the Bracegirdle Incident.

Edward Stubbs
27th Governor of British Ceylon
In office
23 December 1933  30 June 1937
Preceded byFrancis Graeme Tyrrell
(Acting governor)
Succeeded byMaxwell MacLagan Wedderburn
(Acting governor)
3rd Governor of British Cyprus
In office
29 October 1932  8 November 1933
MonarchGeorge V
Preceded bySir Ronald Storrs
Succeeded bySir Herbert Richmond Palmer
Governor of Jamaica
In office
26 April 1926  9 November 1932
MonarchGeorge V
Preceded bySir Samuel Herbert Wilson
Succeeded bySir Alexander Ransford Slater
16th Governor of Hong Kong
In office
30 September 1919  1 November 1925
MonarchGeorge V
Colonial SecretarySir Claud Severn
Preceded byFrancis Henry May
Succeeded byCecil Clementi
Acting Governor of British Ceylon
In office
24 March 1918  10 September 1918
MonarchGeorge V
Preceded byJohn Anderson
Succeeded byWilliam Manning
In office
4 December 1915  15 April 1916
MonarchGeorge V
Preceded byRobert Chalmers
Succeeded byJohn Anderson
In office
24 January 1913  18 October 1913
MonarchGeorge V
Preceded byHenry Edward McCallum
Succeeded byRobert Chalmers
Personal details
Born(1876-10-13)13 October 1876
Died7 December 1947(1947-12-07) (aged 71)
SpouseMarjory Stubbs
Alma materCorpus Christi College, Oxford
ProfessionColonial administrator
Chinese name

Early life and education

Reginald Edward Stubbs was born on 13 October 1876, the son of William Stubbs, a historian and bishop of Chester and Oxford, consecutively. He was educated at Radley and Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He obtained first class honours in Lit. Hum. in 1899.

Early Colonial Services

He entered Colonial Office in 1900 as a second-class clerk, eventually serving as acting first class clerk from 1907 to 1910, when he became a permanent 1st class clerk. In that same year, Stubbs was sent on a special mission to Malay Peninsula and Hong Kong. He was a member of West African Lands Committee in 1912, and became a colonial secretary of Ceylon in from 1913 to 1919.

Governor of Hong Kong

He was appointed Hong Kong Governor in 1919, a position he served until 1925.

During Stubbs' tenure, strikes were frequent, including ones that were very damaging to the Hong Kong economy, such as the Seamen's strike of 1922 and the Canton-Hong Kong strike that began in 1925.

Stubbs engaged in cordial talks with Sun Yat-sen and his supporters in Hong Kong prior to Sun's triumphal return to Canton in February 1923.[1]

There followed, in 1925, the general strike that involved workers in Hong Kong and Canton, China. The strikers demanded the annulment of the "unequal treaties" (Treaty of Nanking, Treaty of Peking, and New Territories land lease agreement, which, altogether, allowed British control of Hong Kong). The strikers also demanded better treatment of Chinese labourers in Hong Kong.

At first, Stubbs tried to suppress the strikers with legal and forceful means. He regarded the strike as a Bolshevik plot headed by Dr. Sun Yat-sen to overthrow the colonial government, without any attention to the pressing economic grievances at stake.[2] He banned the Chinese Seamen's Union, the organizer of the strike and banned Dr. Sun and the Soviet military and political advisers in Canton from entering the colony due to Sun's anti-colonial remarks.[3] The efforts backfired and caused an exodus of more than 100,000 Chinese labourers to China.

Stubbs took a conservative stance, in line with his Chinese elite advisors, on the issue of mui-tsai, a form of child slavery then prevalent in the colony. He was criticized by London for acquiescence.[4]

Stubbs rejected repeated calls among the local European community for direct election of the Legislative Council, fearing the exclusion of local Chinese from similar rights may lead to unrest.[5]

Both Stubbs and his Colonial Secretary Claud Severn were replaced in 1925, having failed to quell the disorder and leaving behind a seriously damaged Hong Kong economy.[6] British Consul General in Canton James Jamieson criticised their leadership, seeing them as out of touch and out of date, unable to converse in Chinese and ignorant of republican China.[7]:98

Stubbs received an M.A. degree during his tenure, in 1920.

Jamaica and Cyprus

After his stormy tenure as Governor of Hong Kong, Stubbs was made Captain-General and Governor-in-Chief of Jamaica a year later, in 1926. He would hold this position until 1932, when he was appointed Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Cyprus. He would serve in this position until 1933.

Governorship of Ceylon

In 1933 Stubbs was appointed to his last position in the Colonial Service: Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Ceylon (Sri Lanka).

Bracegirdle affair

In 1937, he was prevailed upon by the White planters to become involved in an illegal attempt to deport Mark Anthony Bracegirdle, an Australian planter who had gone over to the side of the workers and joined the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP). Bracegirdle was served with the order of deportation on 22 April and given 48 hours to leave, but he defied the order, going into hiding instead. The Colonial Government began a man-hunt, but was unsuccessful. The LSSP started a campaign to defend him. At that year's May Day rally at Price Park, Colombo placards declaring 'We want Bracegirdle – Deport Stubbs' were displayed, and a resolution was passed condemning Stubbs, demanding his removal and the withdrawal of the deportation order.

On 5 May, in the State Council, the LSSP members Dr N.M. Perera and Philip Gunawardena moved a vote of censure on the Governor for having ordered the deportation of Bracegirdle without the advice of the acting Home Minister. Even the Board of Ministers had started feeling the heat of public opinion and the vote was passed by 34 votes to 7.

On the same day there was a 50,000-strong rally at Galle Face Green, which was addressed by Dr N.M. Perera, Philip Gunawardena, and S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, condemning Stubbs. Bracegirdle made a dramatic appearance on the platform at this rally, but the police were powerless to arrest him. They managed to arrest him a couple of days later, but a writ of habeas corpus was served and the case was called before a bench of three Supreme Court judges presided over by Chief Justice Sir Sidney Abrahams. The brilliant H.V. Perera, the county's leading civil lawyer, volunteered his services free on behalf of Bracegirdle; he was made a King's Counsel (KC) on the day that Bracegirdle appeared in court. On 18 May order was made that he could not be deported for exercising his right to free speech, and Bracegirdle was a free man.

Stubbs retired shortly afterwards.


A year after his retirement, Stubbs became the vice-chairman of West India Royal Commission (until 1939) and Chairman of Northern Division Appellate Tribunal for Conscientious Objectors from 1941 to 1947.

Personal life

Stubbs married Marjory Stubbs in 1909. The couple had two sons and one daughter. He died on 7 December 1947.


  • CMG, 1914
  • KCMG, 1919
  • GCMG, 1928
  • Honorary Fellow, Corpus Christi College, 1926
  • Hon. LL.D., University of Hong Kong, 1926


See also


  1. Wilbur, Martin. Problems of Starting a Revolutionary Base: Sun Yat-sen and Canton, 1923 (PDF). p. 670.
  2. Chan, Lau Kit-ching (2000). "The Perception of Chinese Communism in Hong Kong 1921-1934". China Quarterly. 164: 1046. doi:10.1017/S0305741000019299. ISSN 0305-7410.
  3. Share, Michael (2005). "Clash of Worlds: The Comintern, British Hong Kong and Chinese Nationalism, 1921-1927". Europe-Asia Studies. 57 (4): 607. doi:10.1080/09668130500105258. ISSN 0966-8136. S2CID 154903351.
  4. Smith, Carl T. (1981). "The Chinese Church, Labour and Elites and the Mui Tsai question in the 1920s". Journal of the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. 21: 91–113. ISSN 0085-5774.
  5. Miners, N. J. (1986). "Plans for Constitutional Reform in Hong Kong, 1946-52". The China Quarterly. 107: 464. doi:10.1017/S0305741000039862. ISSN 0305-7410.
  6. Nield, Robert (2012). May Holdsworth; Christopher Munn (eds.). Dictionary of Hong Kong Biography. Hong Kong University Press. p. 390. ISBN 9789888083664.
  7. Kwan, Daniel Y K (1997). Marxist Intellectuals and the Chinese Labor Movement: A Study of Deng Zhongxia (1894–1933). University of Washington Press. ISBN 9780295976013.
  8. Yanne, Andrew; Heller, Gillis (2009). Signs of a Colonial Era. Hong Kong University Press. pp. 2, 66. ISBN 978-962-209-944-9.
  9. Revival of Royal vs Trinity boxing dual after lapse of 50 years
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