Ronald Garvey

Sir Ronald Herbert Garvey KCMG KCVO MBE (4 July 1903, in Lincolnshire – 31 May 1991) was a British Colonial Service administrator who served in the Pacific, the West Indies, and as Lieutenant Governor of the Isle of Man at the end of his career.

Sir Ronald Garvey
14th Administrator of Saint Vincent
In office
MonarchGeorge VI
Preceded bySir Alexander Elder Beattie
Succeeded bySir Walter Coutts
14th Governor of British Honduras
In office
28 February 1949  1952
MonarchGeorge VI
Preceded bySir Edward Hawkesworth
Succeeded bySir Patrick Renison
17th High Commissioner for the Western Pacific
In office
6 October 1952  31 December 1952
MonarchElizabeth II
Preceded bySir Brian Freeston
Succeeded bySir Kenneth Maddocks
19th Governor of Fiji
In office
6 October 1952  20 October 1958
MonarchElizabeth II
Preceded bySir Brian Freeston
Succeeded bySir Kenneth Maddocks
20th Lieutenant Governor of the Isle of Man
In office
MonarchElizabeth II
Preceded bySir Ambrose Dundas
Succeeded bySir Peter Stallard
Personal details
Born4 July 1903
Lincolnshire, United Kingdom
Died31 May 1991(1991-05-31) (aged 87)
SpousePatricia Dorothy McGusty
Children3 daughters, 1 son
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge
OccupationColonial administrator


Education and early career

A parson's son from the Lincolnshire Wolds, Garvey was admitted on a choral scholarship to Trent College (Long Eaton) where he studied from 1916 to 1923.[1] He then entered Emmanuel College at the University of Cambridge, where he read history and graduated B.A. in anthropology, while preparing to take the civil service examination, hoping to join the Indian Civil Service.[2] He became involved in breaking the 1926 general strike, and did not find time to study for this examination, and instead applied for a position in the Colonial Service.[3] He accepted a position in the Solomon Islands Protectorate, and sailed from Southampton to Fiji in November 1926.[4]

Garvey spent six years in the Solomons, most of them as a district officer for the Santa Cruz Group, on Vanikoro, more than 500 miles away from the colony's headquarters at Tulagi.[5] Amidst other occupations, he searched for archeological evidence of the French explorer Lapérouse's presence on the island.[6] In July 1932, he accepted an appointment as Assistant Secretary at the Western Pacific High Commission in Suva, Fiji,[7] where he married in October 1934 the daughter of a local doctor (see below).[8] In 1938–1939, he served as acting Resident Commissioner of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony, a senior position not usually offered to people in their thirties.[9] He returned to his former position in Suva, but was sent to Tonga in late August 1939 to persuade Queen Salote to declare war on Nazi Germany if war was to break out in Europe.[10] Due to his success, a few months later he was appointed a member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).[11]

In Spring 1940, while on his way back to Britain on leave, he was recalled to serve as acting Resident Commissioner in the New Hebrides, at a time of turmoil as this Franco-British territory was the first to follow Charles de Gaulle's appeal to fight against Philippe Pétain's government.[12] Garvey assisted the French Commissioner Henri Sautot in his quick and bloodless overthrowing of Vichy power in New Caledonia.[13] In October 1941, he was again sent to the Gilbert and Ellice colony[14] to put phosphate-rich Ocean Island "on a war-time footing" as its "Supreme Co-Ordinating Authority", until Japan's advance led to the island's evacuation in March 1942.[15]

Garvey then left Fiji for a new position in East African Nyasaland, but did not arrive until October before of the difficulty of travelling due to war-time restrictions.[16] He found it hard to adjust to this African setting after 16 years in the Pacific, but was soon offered the position of Administrator of Saint Vincent, in the West Indies.[17] The Garvey family left Nyasaland for England in February 1944, Ronald sailing for St. Vincent in September.[18]


Garvey started work as Administrator of Saint Vincent in 1944.[19] He moved on to be Governor of British Honduras in 1949;[20] there he had to contend with a general strike and the need to devalue the local currency.[21] He launched one of the first credit unions in British Honduras to protect poorer people from loan sharks.[22] He then served as Governor of Fiji from 1952, where he demonstrated his considerable public relations skills,[23] until his retirement in 1958.[24]

In retirement he became Lieutenant Governor of the Isle of Man:[25] he launched major initiatives there in the early 1960s to increase tourism, including the establishment of a new casino, and promoted the local tax incentives.[26] He also sent the Home Office a Manx cat to replace the one they had lost.[27] He subsequently wrote a memoir entitled Gentleman Pauper published in 1984.[28] He is buried in Wrentham cemetery in Suffolk.[29]


He married Patricia Dorothy McGusty (1913-2005),[30] daughter of Dr. V.W.T. McGusty, a District Medical Officer in Fiji,[31] on 30 October 1934;[8] they had one son, Anthony (born 1935), and three daughters (Grania, Lavinia and Julia)[32]


  • Sir Ronald Garvey, Gentleman Pauper, Bognor Regis: Anchor Publications, 1984.


  1. Garvey 1984, p. 5.
  2. Garvey 1984, p. 13.
  3. Garvey 1984, p. 15.
  4. Garvey 1984, p. 23.
  5. Garvey 1984, p. 30.
  6. Garvey 1984, p. 39.
  7. Garvey 1984, p. 47.
  8. Garvey 1984, p. 49.
  9. Garvey 1984, p. 53.
  10. Garvey 1984, p. 71.
  11. Garvey 1984, p. 81.
  12. Garvey 1984, p. 89.
  13. Garvey 1984, p. 92.
  14. Garvey 1984, p. 99.
  15. Garvey 1984, p. 101.
  16. Garvey 1984, p. 95.
  17. Garvey 1984, p. 115.
  18. Garvey 1984, p. 118.
  19. World Statesmen: Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  20. Rulers of Belize
  21. Belize, general strikes, 1952 by Edward T. Brett
  22. The perils of organising credit unions in developing countries
  23. Obituary: Sir Kenneth Maddocks The Independent, 1 September 2001
  24. Rulers of Fiji
  25. World Statesmen: Isle of Man
  26. Obituary: Sir Charles Kerruish, The Independent, 2 August 2003
  27. Home Office cat history revealed BBC News, 4 January 2005
  28. Gentleman Pauper by Sir Ronald Garvey, published by Anchor Publications in 1984
  29. Wrentham Cemetery Records
  30. National Portrait Gallery
  31. Garvey 1984, p. 26.
  32. Isle of Man Report British Pathe, 21 September 1959
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