Cecil Clementi

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There were two men known as Sir Cecil Clementi, both having been colonial governors in Singapore. Sir Cecil Clementi, who served between 1930 to 1934, was Sir Cecil Clementi Smith's nephew.
Sir Cecil Clementi
SIRCECILCLEMENTIHKU.jpg
17th Governor of Hong Kong
In office
1 November 1925 – 9 May 1930
Preceded by Sir Reginald Edward Stubbs
Succeeded by Sir William Peel
Personal details
Born (1875-09-01)1 September 1875
Cawnpore, India
Died 5 April 1947(1947-04-05) (aged 71)
High Wycombe, England
Spouse(s) Marie Penelope Rose Eyres
Alma mater Oxford University
Profession colonial administrator, merchant

Sir Cecil Clementi, GCMG, KStJ, FRGS, MRAS (Chinese: 金文泰; pinyin: Jīn Wéntài) (1 September 1875 – 5 April 1947), was a British colonial administrator who served as Governor of Hong Kong from 1925–30, and Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Straits Settlements from 1930–34.

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Cawnpore, India, Clementi was the son of Colonel Montagu Clementi, Judge Advocate General in India, and his wife, Isabel Collard. He attended St Paul's School and Magdalen College, Oxford, where he studied Sanskrit and the classics. In 1896, he achieved a first-class result in mods, and was awarded a Boden scholarship in Sanskrit in 1897. He was given honorable mentions for the Hertford (1895), Ireland (1896) and Craven (1896) scholarships.

Clementi was proxime accessit (runner-up) for the Gaisford Greek Prose prize in 1897, and obtained his B.A. (2nd class lit. hum., i.e. classics) in 1898. Clementi was also proxime accessit for the Chancellor's Latin Essay prize in 1899, and obtained his M.A. in 1901.

Early Colonial Services[edit]

In 1899, Clementi placed fourth in the competitive examinations for the civil service, which allowed him his choice of postings. His choice was Hong Kong, and upon his arrival he was sent up to Canton, where he was a land officer until forced to return to Hong Kong by the events of the Boxer Rebellion. Clementi's facility with languages was demonstrated when he passed the Cantonese examination in 1900, and the Pekingese examination six years later, in 1906.

After serving as an Assistant Registrar General in 1901, Clementi joined as a member of the Board of Examiners in Chinese, in 1902. In 1902, Clementi was seconded for special service under government of India and was created J.P. in that same year. A year later, he was seconded for famine relief work in Kwangsi (Guangxi). A year afterwards, Clementi was appointed Member of Land Court, Assistant Land Officer and Police Magistrate at New Territories, Hong Kong, a position he served in until 1906.

Due to his outstanding performance in the services, Clementi was promoted to Assistant Colonial Secretary and Clerk of Council, in 1907. While he was in that position, Clementi represented the Hong Kong government in the International Opium Conference at Shanghai, in 1909. A year later, he became the Private Secretary to the Administrator at that time, Sir Francis Henry May. Clementi eventually became Acting Colonial Secretary and Member of both the Executive Legislative Councils of Hong Kong. He would remain there until 1912.

In 1913, Clementi was appointed Colonial Secretary of British Guiana, a post he held until 1922. From there he was named the Colonial Secretary of Ceylon, where he served until 1925. Each position imparted considerably responsibility, and on more than one occasion he was in charge of administering the entire government of his area of responsibility.

Governor of Hong Kong[edit]

In 1925, Clementi was appointed as Governor of Hong Kong, a position he would serve in for five years, until 1930. Since Clementi was well versed in Cantonese and was a fan of Chinese culture, he had no problems communicating with local people.

During his tenure, a Hong Kong-Canton mega-strike that crippled the Hong Kong economy was resolved. Also, during Clementi's tenure, Kai Tak Airport entered operation (it would operate until Hong Kong International Airport entered service in 1998.)

Clementi is remembered for ending the traditional Chinese "female maid servitude" system that often resulted in abuses of the maids by the employers. He also appointed Shouson Chow, a prominent Chinese merchant, as the first unofficial member of the Executive Council.

Governorship of the Straits Settlements[edit]

After his tenure as Governor of Hong Kong ended, Clementi went on to serve as Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Straits Settlements, which included Singapore, and High Commissioner for the Malay States, from February 1930 to November 1934. This was his last post in the Colonial Services.

6 years later, in 1940, Clementi became the Master of the Mercers' Company.

Personal life[edit]

Clementi was the nephew of the Rt. Hon. Sir Cecil Clementi Smith (1860–1916), Governor of the Straits Settlements and High Commissioner in the period 1887 to 1893.

Clementi married Marie Penelope Rose Eyres, daughter of Admiral Cresswell John Eyres, in 1912. The couple had one son, Cresswell, and three daughters.

Clementi died in High Wycombe, England on 5 April 1947.

Honours[edit]

Publications[edit]

Clementi published several books:

  • Cantonese Love Songs (1904)
  • Summary Of Geographical Observations..Kashgar To Kowloon (1911)
  • The Chinese In British Guiana (1913)
  • Pervigilium Veneris (1928)
  • Elements in Analysis of Thought
  • A Constitutional History of British Guiana. Macmillan (1937) – a definitive work on the constitution of colonial British Guiana

Place Names[edit]

Clementi has had several places named after him, such as Clementi Secondary School, Clementi Road, and Sir Cecil's Ride (金督馳馬徑) in Hong Kong and the town of Clementi in Singapore

See also[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
William Henry Manning
Governor of Ceylon, acting
1925
Succeeded by
Edward Bruce Alexander, acting
Preceded by
Claud Severn, Acting Administrator
Governor of Hong Kong
1925–1930
Succeeded by
Sir Wilfrid Southorn, Acting Administrator
Preceded by
Sir Hugh Charles Clifford
Governor of Straits Settlements & British High Commissioner in Malaya
1930–1934
Succeeded by
Sir Shenton Whitelegge Thomas