Joseph West Ridgeway

Sir Joseph West Ridgeway, GCB, GCMG, KCSI, PC (Ire) (16 May 1844 – 16 April 1930) was a British civil servant and colonial governor. He was known as "Sir West Ridgeway". He was involved in the sodomy and child molestation charges against Hector Archibald MacDonald, commander of British forces in Ceylon. Ridgeway ordered MacDonald's return to London, careful to prevent the huge scandal that was to be expected: "Some, in fact most of his victims ... are the sons of the most respected men in the colony, British as well as locals," he wrote, noting that he was able to convince the local press to hold still so "no more dirt comes to light".

Joseph West Ridgeway
18th Governor of British Ceylon
In office
10 February 1896  19 November 1903
MonarchsVictoria, Edward VII
Preceded byEdward Noël Walker
(Acting governor)
Succeeded bySir Everard im Thurn
(Acting governor)
11th Lieutenant Governor of the Isle of Man
In office
Preceded bySir Spencer Walpole
Succeeded byThe Lord Henniker
Personal details
Joseph West Ridgeway

16 May 1844
High Roding, Essex, England
Died16 April 1930(1930-04-16) (aged 85)
London, England
SpouseCarolina Ellen "Lina" Bewicke
Military service
Branch/serviceBengal Infantry
Years of service1860–1869

Military career

Educated at St Paul's School, London, Ridgeway was commissioned into the Bengal Infantry in 1860.[1] In 1869 he was selected for civil employment in India.[1] In 1881 he married Carolina Ellen "Lina" Bewicke.[1]

Colonial service

In 1884 Ridgeway was given command of the Indian section of the Afghan Boundary Commission, established by Russia and the United Kingdom to determine the northern boundary of Afghanistan.[1] The following year he became Chief Commissioner.[2] He was Under-Secretary for Ireland from 1887 to 1892, and Lieutenant Governor of the Isle of Man from 1893 to 1895.[3][4]

He was Governor of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) from 1896 to 1903.[3][5] During that time, he was involved in bringing charges of sodomy and pederasty against Hector MacDonald, commander of the troops in Ceylon. Ridgeway advised MacDonald to return to London, his main concern being to avoid a massive scandal: "Some, indeed most, of his victims ... are the sons of the best-known men in the Colony, English and native", he wrote, noting that he had persuaded the local press to keep quiet in hopes that "no more mud" would be stirred up.[6]

He later unsuccessfully stood twice for election to the House of Commons, in the City of London and London University constituencies.


A species of Asian snake, Lytorhynchus ridgewayi, is named in his honour.[10]


  1. Joseph West Ridgeway at Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  2. Salisbury, Robert (2020). William Simpson and the Crisis in Central Asia, 1884-5. ISBN 978-1-5272-7047-3
  3. Men and Women of the Time : A Dictionary of Contemporaries by Victor Plarr, 1899, p. 912 (via Google Books)
  4. Onchan Online A Tour of Onchan, Round The Edges
  5. Sri Lanka
  6. Denis Judd, Empire: The British Imperial Experience, from 1765 to the Present, 2001, p.171.
  7. "No. 27150". The London Gazette. 2 January 1900. p. 2.
  8. "University intelligence". The Times. No. 36779. London. 28 May 1902. p. 12.
  9. "The Colonial Premiers in Edinburgh". The Times. No. 36831. London. 28 July 1902. p. 4.
  10. Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2011). The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. (Ridgeway", p. 221).
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