Andrew Gurr took thousands of pictures of St Helena during four years as governor. He showed some of them when he addressed the Friends of St Helena, and agreed to share them with readers of this website. This first selection gives a flavour of life at his official residence, Plantation House.
The governor’s office (actually in The Castle) is large: the same size as the council chamber, just across the landing. A portrait of The Queen keeps watch on her official representative on the island.
“One of the great privileges of being governor is the entertaining,” says Andrew. At Christmas, the table is set to suit the grandeur of the 18th Century mansion. Plantation House was built in 1792.
“We had a dinner for Bobby Robertson and Dulcie on their 60th wedding anniversary,” says Andrew. “Bobby never said a word against me in council after that. It was one of the shrewdest dinners I ever gave.” Bobby was a popular and long-serving councillor who helped many families on St Helena. Shortly before he died, he was awarded the island’s Badge of Honour.
“We had a smaller room at the back converted into a dining room for us. We used to dine at that table, just Jean and myself, with this wonderful Napoleonic chandelier. Napoleon died under part of it. It’s two parts from Longwood House: one part was in his dining room, one in his bedroom.” After Napoleon died, the chandelier was put back together and moved to Plantation House. There had been talk of returning it to Longwood at one time.
Not every aspect of life at Plantation House was glamour and luxury. The kitchen was not impressive: “It was a disgrace, in my view – a health risk”
Andrew had the kitchen stripped out and fitted with modern equipment. “I apologise to one of the cooks bending over there,” he says. “It’s just how it was.”
Councillor Mervyn Yon at a function in the garden at Plantation House. Andrew chose pictures featuring well known personalities on St Helena, but says of the picture: “It’s unfair – he wasn’t always on the booze.”
Ethel Yon is a Saint who rose to become Deputy Chief Secretary of St Helena Government. “Ethel was a very hard worker – a very useful person to have around.”
“We did have a tennis tournament or two at Plantation. We put a few tents up, and people came and had a great time.”
When the St Helena cricket team took part in its first ever overseas tournament in 2012, Dax Richards scored more runs on his own in one match than the whole of the Mali national team. He also cut an impressive figure on the tennis court, for rather different reasons. “Some of the men dress up as females,” says Andrew. No further explanation required.
Sharon Wainwright, taking a break from her arduous role in pushing for St Helena to be given an airport. Her efforts were successful, but she did not live to see the day of the announcement, in November 2011. She died suddenly while in London. “She was a wonderful person. I used to have a weekly chat with her. A very good man manager. She got things done: a priceless individual, sadly missed.”
Visit St Helena Online again for Andrew Gurr’s pictures of the natural wonders of St Helena, due to be published on Wednesday, 8 August 2012.
The inside story on St Helena, by former governor Andrew Gurr
Experts, expats and what England expects: a governor’s view, part 2
Civil service versus the can-do culture: a governor’s view
What the nurse said to the governor: Andrew Gurr looks back