Laurence Nunns Guillemard



Sir Laurence Nunns Guillemard (b. 1862 – d. 1951, London, England) was the only Governor of the Straits Settlements who had no previous experience as head of any other colony in the British Empire.1 His governorship was associated with several notable building projects which still stand today. Guillemard laid the foundation stones for the Cenotaph and the Causeway. He opened the clubhouse of the Singapore Yacht Club at Trafalgar Street. He also opened the new building of the Singapore General Hospital and in his time, the King Edward VII Medical School was upgraded into the King Edward VII College of Medicine with a building to match.
 
Appointment of Guillemard
On 10 October 1919, M. E. Sherwood, then private secretary to the Officer Administering the Government, received a telegram in Singapore announcing the appointment of Sir Laurence Nunns Guillemard as Governor of the Straits Settlements.2


Guillemard, with his wife, Lady Ellen, and aide-de-camp Lieutenant Arthur Mallet, left England on 1 January 1920.3 They were expected to arrive in Singapore on 3 February 1920 on board the S. S. Kashmir.4

Guillemard did arrive on the expected date, anchoring at Johnston’s Pier at about 10am. Then Acting Colonial Secretary H. Marriott went aboard the S. S. Kashmir to welcome him. A large crowd composed of curious spectators and notable members of society gathered along Anderson Bridge to greet him. A salute of 17 guns was fired from Fort Canning, and Guillemard was introduced to the civil servants and military officers present at the pier. They then proceeded to the Council Chamber for the oath-taking ceremony.5

Present for the oath-taking ceremony were members of the Legislative Council, representatives of the sultans of the Federated Malay States and the states of Kedah, Kelantan, and Brunei, among others. Representatives of the Municipal Commissioners,
Straits Settlements Association, Singapore Chamber of Commerce, Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and the Muslim Association then read welcome letters. Guillemard responded to each of them in turn. From there, Guillemard went to Government House (now known as the Istana), where he resided for the next seven years.6

Education and career
Guillemard was born in 1862 and educated at Charterhouse School and Trinity College, Cambridge. When he took his civil service examination, he obtained second place. Dissatisfied with this result, he retook the examination the following year and obtained first place in all England.7

Guillemard entered the civil service in 1886 and began working in the Treasury in 1888. Between 1892 and 1902, he worked as private secretary to Sir William Harcourt, Chancellor of the Exchequer.8
He was then appointed chairman of the Board of Customs and in 1908 he became deputy chairman of the Board of Customs and Excise after the board was restructured. By 1919, Guillemard had decided to retire when he was offered the position of Governor of the Straits Settlements.9 With no background in overseas administration, Guillemard’s most valuable assets as governor were his experience in finance and treasury.10

Guillemard’s achievements

On 24 April 1920, Guillemard made his first official visit to the state of Johor. The occasion was the beginning of construction of the Causeway across the Strait of Johor. From aboard the governor’s yacht, Sea Belle, Guillemard released 500 tons  of granite rubble into the Straits.11 Thus was laid the foundation of the road and railway track that would connect Singapore with Malaya (now Malaysia) till today. The Causeway was officially opened on 28 June 1924.12

On 15 November 1920, Guillemard laid the foundation stone for Singapore’s first war memorial, the
Cenotaph, dedicated to the memory of the 124 men who left Singapore to fight in World War I and died in Europe.13 The Cenotaph was opened on 31 March 1922 in the presence of Prince Edward of Wales.14 The next month, in December, Guillemard formally opened the Singapore Yacht Club, now known as Republic of Singapore Yacht Club.15

Under Guillemard’s governorship, the King Edward VII Medical School was upgraded into a medical college in 1921:
King Edward VII College of Medicine. Guillemard inaugurated the college building on 15 February 1926. The Chinese community raised $87,000 for the building.16 Next to the medical college was a new building for the  Singapore General Hospital which Guillemard opened on 29 March that same year.17 The Singapore General Hospital remained a teaching hospital for the medical college for many years.

How Guillemard was viewed

Despite all the public works promoted by the governor, local opinion expressed through The Straits Times newspaper was not too kind to Guillemard. Remarks about how things had “gone deplorably to the bad since early 1920 when Sir Laurence made his appearance” were quite common.18

The press regarded Guillemard as a man who lacked “bold initiative”. However, when the governor promoted changes such as trying to grant the Federated Malay States greater control over their internal affairs, these changes were disapproved of.19
Eventually, Guillemard had to abandon some of these proposals.20 This may be why it is said that the most popular and successful governors were often “those who did not seek to rock the boat”.21

In 1927, Sir Hugh Charles Clifford succeeded Guillemard as Governor of the Straits Settlements. Guillemard died in London in 1951.22




References
1.
Guillemard, L. (1937). Trivial fond records. London: Methuen, pp. 78–79. (Call no.: RCLOS 923.5595 GUI); Turnbull, C. M. (1977). A history of Singapore, 1819–1975. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, p. 77. (Call no.: RSING 957.57 TUR-[HIS])
2.
The new governor. (1919, October 10). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3.
Sir Laurence Guillemard. (1920, January 2). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Our new governor. (1920, January 30). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5.
Sir Laurence Nunns Guillemard arrives. (1920, February 3). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6.
At the Council Chamber. (1920, February 4). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7.
Heussler, R. (1981). British rule in Malaya: The Malayan Civil Service and its predecessors, 1867–1492. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, p. 235. (Call no.: RCLOS 354.5951006 HEU-[SEA])
8.
Guillemard, L. (1937). Trivial fond records. London: Methuen, pp. 3–72. (Call no.: RCLOS 923.5595 GUI); The new governor. (1919, October 10). The Straits Times, p. 10; The new governor. (1920, February 3). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9.
Guillemard, L. (1937). Trivial fond records. London: Methuen, p. 75. (Call no.: RCLOS 923.5595 GUI); The new governor. (1920, February 3). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 6; The new governor. (1919, October 10). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10.
Heussler, R. (1981). British rule in Malaya: The Malayan Civil Service and its predecessors, 1867–1492. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, pp. 235–242. (Call no.: RCLOS 354.5951006 HEU-[SEA]); Guillemard, L. (1937). Trivial fond records. London: Methuen, pp. 78–79. (Call no.: RCLOS 923.5595 GUI)
11.
Johore Causeway: Governor lays 500 tons of granite. (1920, April 26). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12.
The Johore Causeway. (1924, June 30). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13.
Singapore’s war memorial to the glorious dead. (1920, November 11). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14.
Our glorious dead. (1922, April 1). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15.
Singapore Yacht Club. (1920, December 20). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16.
Medical college. (1926, February 16). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17.
The new hospital. (1926, March 30). The Singapore Free Press, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18.
Turnbull, C. M. (1995). Dateline Singapore: 150 years of The Straits Times. Singapore: Singapore Press Holdings, p. 77. (Call no.: RSING 079.5957 TUR)
19.
Turnbull, C. M. (1995). Dateline Singapore: 150 years of The Straits Times. Singapore: Singapore Press Holdings, p. 77. (Call no.: RSING 079.5957 TUR); Turnbull, C. M. (1977). A history of Singapore, 1819–1975. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, p. 155. (Call no.: RSING 957.57 TUR-[HIS])
20.
Turnbull, C. M. (1995). Dateline Singapore: 150 years of The Straits Times. Singapore: Singapore Press Holdings, p. 78. (Call no.: RSING 079.5957 TUR)
21.
Turnbull, C. M. (1977). A history of Singapore, 1819–1975. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, p. 155. (Call no.: RSING 957.57 TUR-[HIS])
22.
Sir Laurence Guillemard. (1951, December 18). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 23 April 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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