John Pope Hennessy

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This article is about the colonial administrator. For his grandson, the art historian, see John Pope-Hennessy.
For other uses, see Hennessy (disambiguation).
Sir John Pope Hennessy
Sir John Hennessy.gif
8th Governor of Hong Kong
In office
22 April 1877 – 30 March 1883
Preceded by Sir Arthur Edward Kennedy
Succeeded by Sir George Ferguson Bowen
15th Governor of Mauritius
In office
1 June 1883 – 11 December 1889
Preceded by Sir Frederick Napier Broome
Succeeded by Sir Charles Cameron Lees
Personal details
Born (1834-04-05)5 April 1834
County Cork, Ireland
Died 7 October 1891(1891-10-07) (aged 57)
Political party Irish Parliamentary Party
Alma mater Queen's University of Ireland
Religion Roman Catholic
Caricature by Ape published in Vanity Fair in 1875

Sir John Pope Hennessy, KCMG (Chinese: 軒尼詩; 5 April 1834 – 7 October 1891), was an Irish and British politician and colonial administrator who served as the eighth Governor of Hong Kong.

Early life[edit]

Sir John Pope Hennessy was born in County Cork the son of John Hennessy (originally Ó hAonghusa) of Ballyhennessy and educated at Queen's College, Cork. Hennessy completed his medical training at Queen's University of Ireland.

Public service[edit]

He started his Public Service career as the Supplemental Clerk at the Privy Council, and eventually became a minor Conservative member of the British Parliament, representing King's County from 1859 to 1865.[1] Whilst an MP he studied law at the Inner Temple, being called to the bar in 1861. In 1890, as MP for North Kilkenny he joined the Irish National Federation. He died the following year.[1]

Early colonial service[edit]

Hennessy eventually joined the Colonial Office and became colonial Governor of Labuan in 1867 where he put the Crown Colony into solvency by introducing convict labour from the Straits Settlements. He went on to became the Governor of Sierra Leone from 1872 to 1873, when he moved to the governorship of the Bahamas.[2] He became Governor-in-Chief of the Windward Islands, from 1873 until 1877, with primary authority over Barbados, and executive oversight over the various British Lt. Governors and Administrators charged with running day-to-day affairs on the various islands.

Although born into the Anglo-Irish landowning gentry, Hennessy's status as a Roman Catholic made him something of an outsider, particularly in his dealings with Protestant British colonial elites, whether in Barbados, Hong Kong, or Mauritius. Indeed, his earliest contributions as a Member of Parliament in 1860 pertained to the temporal power of the Pope, and unfolding events in Italy [1]. Coming into colonial administration, he was among a cohort of "new thinkers" whose ideas gained ground following the Sepoy Mutiny in India in 1857. Speaking at length in the House of Commons on 26 July 1860 about British civil and military forces in India, Hennessy urged a shift in policies so that "the military administration of India would be conducted with greater skill, with more economy, and, as a natural result of a higher educational standard, with a greater regard for the feelings and interests of the Native population. Indeed, recent events furnished us with the most conclusive evidence that many of the British officers, entrusted with grave authority in India, had, from an ignorance of popular customs and a disregard of national habits and traditions, given great cause of complaint and encouragement to disaffection. As long as we send out officers to India who seem inclined to treat the Natives as slaves, who seem unable or unwilling to appreciate the noble qualities, of that unfortunate people, and who add the grossest military outrages and insults to the civil misgovernment and financial burdens we have imposed upon them, so long will our rule in India be a blot upon civilization".[3]

Governor of Hong Kong[edit]

Immediately after his tenure in Barbados, Hennessy was appointed as Governor of Hong Kong, a position from which he served until 1882.

During his tenure, Hennessy realised that the Chinese people, who were treated as second-class citizens up to that time, had developed an increasingly important influence on the Hong Kong economy. With that in mind, he lifted the ban that forbade Chinese people from buying lands, constructing buildings, and operate businesses in the Central District. This caused a development boom in the Central District. Also, he allowed Chinese immigrants in Hong Kong to naturalise as British subjects. He appointed the first Chinese member (Ng Choy, who would later become the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of China) to the Legislative Council.

Also, during his rule, he established the first Grant-in-Aid system, a milestone in the educational history of Hong Kong.

Soon after arriving in Hong Kong, in April 1877, Hennessy set out to implement the "separate system" in Victoria Gaol, meaning separate cells for prisoners, during the night if not also during the day. This plan hinged upon sending long-term prisoners to Labuan, for convict labour [Hong Kong Government Gazette, 23 February 1878].

Sir John Pope Hennessy Governor of Mauritius, medal by Oscar Roty

Governor of Mauritius[edit]

After his tenure as Governor of Hong Kong was over, Hennessy went on to become the 15th Governor of Mauritius from 1 Jun 1883 to 11 Dec 1889, but was suspended from 14 Dec 1886 to 12 Jul 1887.[4] This was his last post in the Colonial Service.

Personal life[edit]

Hennessy's family

Having had two illegitimate children by his mistress Miss A. M. Conyngham, Hennessy married Catherine Elizabeth ("Kitty") Low, daughter of Sir Hugh Low. They had three sons,[5] the eldest being Richard Pope-Hennessy.[6]

His personal motto was "Three Grand Qualifications to Success", which he described as "The first is audacity, the second is audacity, and the third is audacity".

Sir John Wyndham Pope-Hennessy (1913–1994), who was a British art historian and the director of the British Museum from 1974 until 1976, was Hennessy's grandson.

Hennessy died in 7 October 1891.

Honours[edit]

Places named after him[edit]

As he is not popular among the European community of Hong Kong, there was no construction named after him until much later. On 14 June 1929, Hennessy Road, which is a main road located on the new reclamation, present-day a crowded commercial and shopping area at Wan Chai and Causeway Bay on Hong Kong Island was named after him. A major street in Port Louis, capital of Mauritius is named after him. A street in civil lines, Nagpur, Maharashtra state, India is also named after him.

Notes[edit]

Sources[edit]

  • "Sir John Pope Hennessy dead". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-08-21. 
  • Pope-Hennessy, James (1964). Verandah: some episodes in the crown colonies: 1867-1889. London: George Allen and Unwin. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir Patrick O'Brien, Bt
Loftus Henry Bland
Member of Parliament for King's County
1859 – 1865
With: Sir Patrick O'Brien, Bt
Succeeded by
Sir Patrick O'Brien, Bt
John Gilbert King
Preceded by
Edward Marum
Member of Parliament for North Kilkenny
1890 - 1891
Succeeded by
Patrick McDermott
Government offices
Preceded by
Herbert Taylor Ussher
Governor of the Gold Coast
1872
Succeeded by
Charles Spencer Salmon, acting
Preceded by
John Jennings Kendall, acting
Governor of Sierra Leone
1872–1873
Succeeded by
Robert Keate
Preceded by
George Cumine Strahan
Governor of the Bahamas
1873–1874
Succeeded by
Sir William Robinson
Preceded by
Sanford Freeling, acting
Governor of Barbados and the Windward Islands
1876–1877
Succeeded by
George Cumine Strahan
Preceded by
Sir Arthur Edward Kennedy
Governor of Hong Kong
1877–1882
Succeeded by
Sir William Henry Marsh, acting
Preceded by
Sir Frederick Napier Broome
Governor of Mauritius
1883–1889
Succeeded by
Sir Charles Cameron Lees