Thomas Southorn

Sir Wilfrid Thomas Southorn KCMG KBE (4 August 1879 – 15 March 1957) (Chinese Translated Name: 修頓, Old Translated Name:蕭敦), known as Tom, was a British colonial administrator, spending the large part of his career in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) before serving as Colonial Secretary of Hong Kong, then Governor of The Gambia.

Thomas Southorn
Governor of the Gambia
In office
22 October 1936  23 March 1942
MonarchsEdward VIII
George VI
Preceded byArthur Richards
Succeeded byHilary Blood
Colonial Secretary of Hong Kong
In office
1 May 1925  23 March 1936
GovernorCecil Clementi
William Peel
Andrew Caldecott
Preceded byClaud Severn
Succeeded byNorman Lockhart Smith
Personal details
Born4 August 1879
Died15 March 1957(1957-03-15) (aged 77)
Alma materCorpus Christi College, Oxford
Thomas Southorn
Traditional Chinese修頓
Simplified Chinese修顿
Alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese蕭敦
Simplified Chinese萧敦


He was educated at Warwick School and Corpus Christi College, Oxford.[1]

Colonial service career

He had joined the Ceylon Civil Service in 1903, and was appointed Additional Assistant Colonial Secretary in 1909, Principal Assistant Colonial Secretary in 1920, and Principal Collector of Customs and Chairman of the Post Commission in 1923.[1]

He was the Colonial Secretary of Hong Kong from 1925 to 1936 and served as Acting Administrator of the colony from February to March 1930 and from May to September 1935, and then in November the same year, at either end of the tenure of Sir William Peel as governor.[2] His official (summer) residence was Mountain Lodge.[3]

In 1936, he was made Governor of the Gambia, notably describing the colony as "a geographical and economic absurdity".[3] He left The Gambia in March 1942.[4]

Personal life

In 1921 he married author Bella Sidney Woolf (1877–1960), whom he met through her (later) more famous brother Leonard Woolf, when the two men were colleagues in Ceylon. In 1904, then a humble 'Office Assistant', Southorn had met Leonard Woolf on his arrival in Ceylon from England.[3][5]


Southorn Playground in Wan Chai, Hong Kong was named for him in 1934, while he was Colonial Secretary. Also bearing his name are the associated Southorn Stadium and adjacent Southorn Centre.[2]


  1. "Sir Wilfrid Thomas Southorn". Honorary Degrees Congregation, The University of Hong Kong. 1936. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  2. Yanne, Andrew; Heller, Gillis (2009). Signs of a Colonial Era. Hong Kong University Press. pp. 36, 69. ISBN 9789622099449.
  3. Out and about - Bella Southorn's stories reflect the life she loved as the wife of a colonial civil servant, SCMP Magazine, Jason Wordie, 24 Apr 2011
  4. Perfect, David (2016). "Southorn, Sir Wilfrid Thomas (1879–1957)". Historical Dictionary of The Gambia (5th ed.). p. 408. ISBN 9781442265264. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  5. Letter in Daily News, Sri Lanka, quoting Leonard Woolf's biography Archived 2011-01-14 at the Wayback Machine

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