Robert Black (colonial administrator)

  (Redirected from Robert Brown Black)

Sir Robert Brown Black GCMG OBE (Chinese: 柏立基, 3 June 1906 – 29 October 1999) was a British colonial administrator. Born in Edinburgh and educated at George Watson's College and the University of Edinburgh, he would spend three decades overseas and return to Britain in the 1960s. He was Governor of Hong Kong from 1958 – 1964, Governor of Singapore from 1955 – 1957 and as Colonial Secretary of Hong Kong from 1952 – 1955.

Sir Robert Black

Sir Robert Black.jpg
23rd Governor of Hong Kong
In office
23 January 1958 – 31 March 1964
MonarchElizabeth II
Colonial SecretaryEdgeworth Beresford David
Claude Bramall Burgess
Edmund Brinsley Teesdale
Preceded byAlexander Grantham
Succeeded byDavid Trench
3rd Governor of Singapore
In office
30 June 1955 – 9 December 1957
MonarchElizabeth II
Chief SecretaryWilliam Goode
Preceded byWilliam Goode (Acting)
Succeeded byWilliam Goode
19th Colonial Secretary of Hong Kong
In office
20 February 1952 – 30 March 1955
MonarchElizabeth II
Preceded byJohn Fearns Nicoll
Succeeded byEdgeworth Beresford David
Personal details
Robert Brown Black

(1906-06-03)3 June 1906
Edinburgh, Scotland
Died29 October 1999(1999-10-29) (aged 93)
Dunedin Hospital, Reading, Berkshire, England
Spouse(s)Anne Black
ChildrenBarbara Black
Kathryn Black
Professioncolonial administrator
Chinese name
Robert Black College of the University of Hong Kong was named after him.

Colonial administration careerEdit

Sir Robert Brown Black served in the administration of Britain's colonies for more than 30 years. Entering the colonial service, Black was assigned to Trinidad, but the remainder of his postings were in Asia.

During his posting in North Borneo Black was commissioned into the Intelligence Corps and involved in guerilla resistance against the Japanese. He was captured in 1942 and spent the remainder of World War II in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp.

After the war ended, he returned to the colonial service and served in North Borneo and Hong Kong before moving on to Singapore as Governor (1955–57). Subsequently, he became Governor of Hong Kong from 1958 to 1964.

Governor of Hong KongEdit

During his governorship, Hong Kong became increasingly prosperous. At the same time, many tens of thousands of refugees were illegally crossing the border from China every year, driven in part by widespread famine in China during the years 1958–1961. Some were stopped and sent back, but almost all of the hundreds of thousands who reached Kowloon were allowed to stay. This influx placed an enormous burden on the colonial authorities, but the needs of the refugees were met by a programme of public housing construction and public health measures.

Robert Black had been dealing with the patriotic Hong Kong Chinese in a heavy-handed way. On 18 April 1958, a raid was conducted on the library of the Pui Kiu Middle School (PKMS). The officer-in-charge of the Hong Kong Island Section of the Inspectorate of Education visited the school with five assistants. Nineteen books were confiscated and four were used as evidence of the 'mismanagement of the school' in a warning letter addressed to the school supervisor on 13 May. On the basis of these and other accusations, such as hiring of unregistered teachers and discussion of political issues in school meetings, To Pak-fui (杜伯奎), the principal of PKMS, was deported on 6 August, to Lo Wu.[1]

Hong Kong experienced a prolonged drought of unanticipated severity during the last two years of his tenure, which led to a serious water shortage. Water rationing was imposed in May 1962 and continued through August 1964. From June 1963 until late May 1964 (when the arrival of Typhoon Viola ended the drought) the water supply was restricted to a single four-hour period every four days.

Black helped establish the Chinese University of Hong Kong by uniting several smaller institutions.[2] He served as Chancellor of both the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the University of Hong Kong during his tenure as Governor of Hong Kong.

He was knighted (KCMG) in 1955 and promoted to GCMG in 1962.


Black returned to Britain in 1964.[3] He was active with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the Royal Commonwealth Society, and served as chairman of the Clerical Medical and General Life Assurance Society in the 1970s. He died on 29 October 1999, having been predeceased some years earlier (in 1986) by his wife Anne. He was survived by their two daughters, Barbara and Kathryn.[2]



  1. ^ Hong Kong socialist experimentation in the colonial era: Patriotic schools, 1946-1976, by Lau Chui-Shan, Hong Kong Baptist University, [1]
  2. ^ a b Sir Robert BlackTough Scot sorting out the end of Britain's empire
  3. ^ Hong Kong, Report for the Year 1963. Hong Kong Government Press. 1964.
Government offices
Preceded by
Sir Alexander Grantham
Governor of Hong Kong
Succeeded by
Sir David Trench
Preceded by
Sir John Fearns Nicoll
Governor of Singapore
Succeeded by
Sir William Allmond Codrington Goode
Preceded by
Sir John Fearns Nicoll
Colonial Secretary of Hong Kong
Succeeded by
Sir Edgeworth Beresford David