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John Hilary Smith (1928-)
Papers 1906-1979

MSS 0183

Biographical Note

John Smith, ca 1997.John Hilary Smith was born in 1928 and educated at Cardinal Vaughan School in London betweetn 1935 and 1945.  In 1948 he completed an Honours Degree in Modern History at University College, London and by 1951 had finished a Colonial Service 1st Devonshire Course at University College, Oxford.

His military service began in 1948, when he was commissioned in the Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment and served in the Canal Zone in Egypt and Aqaba with the 1st Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment until 1950.

In 1950 John was appointed to the Colonial Service and was posted to Nigeria in July 1951 as an administrative cadet in Kano Province.  His subsequent service was in district administration in Zaria and Kabba Provinces, as aide-de-camp to the Governor of Northern Nigeria, as assistant secretary in the Premier's Office and as private secretary to the Governor.  After Nigerian independence, John spent 1960-1962 at the Institute of Administration in Zaria in charge of the administrative and executive services training courses, as deputy secretary to the Premier, director of the Staff Development Centre and finally as permanent secretary Ministry of Finance in the newly created Benue-Plateau State.

On leaving Nigeria at the end of the Civil War in 1970, John was appointed financial secretary in the Solomon Islands, where he was instrumental in establishing the tuna fishing industry.  In 1973, he was appointed Governor of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands and oversaw separation and constitutional development leading to independent Kiribati and Tuvalu.  The Banaban claim for separation and the future of the phosphate industry were dominant issues.

John Smith as Governor in gubernatorial uniform, Gilbert and Ellice Islands, 1975Upon completion of his five years' service as Governor, John resigned from the Overseas Service and in 1979 was appointed College Secretary and Clerk to the Governors of Imperial College, London.

During his overseas career, John enjoyed two semesters at Duke University in North Carolina as a distinguished visitor and as a lecturer in politics.  When resident in London, John was elected chairman of the Scout Association and also served on governing bodies of university institutions and schools.  Since his retirement from Imperial College in 1989, John has undertaken a variety of administrative consultancy tasks for universities, medical charities and the Government.

In recognition of his services, John was awarded an Order of the British Empire in 1964, a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1970 and the Ana Tokabeti Kiribati (Kiribati Grand Order) in 2009.  Has been awarded fellowships of University College London, Imperial College London, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Heythrop College, as well as the Sir Arthur Keith Medal of the Royal College of Surgeons.

John and his wife, Mary (Slyvester), have three children and live in Cheltenham.  John's interests include walking, sailing, opera and chamber music and art and he enjoys reading history, politics, biography, classical and modern novels.

John donated the following papers, relating to his service in the Solomon Islands and the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, to the Barr Smith Library in July 2014.  The papers are arranged according to his listing.

A copy of John Smith's 2011 book An Island in the Autumn is also held in the Pacific Collection of Rare Books & Special Collections (996.81 S6511i).


Contents Listing


Part I - Kiribati and Tuvalu (former Gilbert and Ellice Islands)

Series 1: Biographical

Resume outlining educational background, career appointments and personal interests; photograph of Smith as Governor, location and date unknown, but likely Gilbert and Ellice Islands, ca 1973; photograph of Smith, also undated.

Series 2: Gilbert Islands (General documentation)

English-Gilbertese dictionary, Rev. G.H. Eastman, 1948; Gilbert Islands and the Southern Line Islands Annual Reports, 1975 and 1976.

Series 3: The Future of Dependent Territories

Secretary of State's despatch re policy on the future of the Dependent Territories, 1975; background information on United Kingdom's present policies towards the Dependent Territories and their path to independence, 1975; letter from Smith to E.N. Larmour Esq., Assistant Under-Secretary of State, London, re future of the Gilbert Islands, 1975. Also includes additional, subsequent correspondence. 1975-1976

Series 4: The Coriolis Incident July 1974

[Coriolis was a French research ship intending to refuel at Ocean Island, which ministers opposed due to French atomic tests. This coincided with Prime Minister Harold Wilson's visit to Paris to seek U.K. membership of the common market.]
Correspondence, primarily telegrams, re visit of the French research vessel, Coriolis, and its request to call at Ocean Island to take on water. Includes letters from James Callaghan, British Foreign Secretary, outlining the Islanders' concern about the ship's arrival and the potential for their demonstration should they be requested to aid in pumping the water. 1974

Series 5: United States Claims to Phoenix and Line Islands

Listing of U.S. claims to Phoenix and Line Islands; copy of 1939 "Exchange of notes between His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom and the United States Government regarding the administration of the islands of Canton and Enderbury; copy of 1961 "Record of U.S. policy toward annexation of Pacific Islands 1789-1930"; extracts from Digest of International Law on Guano Islands. 1906-1961

Series 6: Tuvalu Separation

"Funafuti physical development plan 1973", David Ball; unpublished Report of Commissioner Appointed to Study the Relationship between the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, Leslie Monson; Governor's comments to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (F.C.O.) re Monson's report; Ellice Islands Referendum Order 1974; Ellice Islands referendum results; Governor's despatch reporting the Ellice Islands 1974 referendum; statement by the Governor following the referendum; 1977 Tuvalu House of Assembly "Report of a committee to ascertain the views of Tuvaluans on the constitutional provisions best suited to an independent Tuvalu"; correspondence re the position of Ellice ministers; letter from Pacific Dependent Territories Dept. to Smith on ministerial relationships; copy of Tuvalu constitutional discussion; various personal letters from Tom Layng, Commissioner of Tuvalu. 1973-1977.

Series 7: Gilbert and Ellice Islands Constitutional Documents

Gilbert and Ellice Islands Order 1967; Report of a Select Committee on Constitutional Development 1970; Gilbert and Ellice Islands Order 1970; Gilbert and Ellice Islands Royal Instructions 1970; Gilbert and Ellice Islands Amendment Order 1971; Gilbert and Ellice Islands Order 1974; Gilbert Islands Order 1975; Gilbert Islands Order 1975 as subsequently amended.

Series 8: Constitutional Development

Copy of Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony (G.E.I.C.) "Organisation of Government", organisation of Government arrangements under the new constitution, 1971; letter from Smith to F.C.O. re appointment of Deputy Governor, 1973; minute from Smith to Chief Secretary re office and security measures required on the appointment of a Chief Minister, 1973; minute from Smith to Chief Secretary re development of ministerial system, 1973; despatch on the Gilbert and Ellice Islands general election, 1974; notes of a meeting in the Office of the Secretary to the Chief Minister re the ministerial system, 1974; copy of "Proposals for internal self-government for the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, 1976; official release on the introduction of internal self-government, 1976.

Series 9: Constitutional Conference 1976

List of briefs of the Gilbert Islands constitutional discussions, 1976, including associated papers on: internal self-government, independence, U.S. claims and their use of the Phoenix Islands, etc.

Series 10: Internal Self-government

Correspondence with Solomon Islands regarding role of Chief Minister with respect to security; correspondence between Smith and F.C.O. re internal self-government and exchange on issues of internal security. 1974-1977.

Series 11: Constitutional Convention 1977

Papers prepared for discussion group by Dr Murray, including "A constitution for the Gilberts Islands: some issues...", "The legislature", "Electoral systems", "Political parties in the constitution", etc.; copies of Smith's broadcasts as Governor re the constitution and Gilbert Islands' independence; copy of "Independence: questions to be answered...", author unknown; University of the South Pacific publication " Thinking about independence and our political future: the constitutional convention..." in English and Gilbertese language; Governor's opening and closing addresses; report of the Constitutional Convention 1977; Governor's despatch to Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Dr. David Owen, reporting the Constitutional Convention; copies of articles from Pacific Perspectives, "The constitutional convention and Gilbertese culture", R. Teiwake and "Thoughts on future constitutional development...", J. Smith. 1977-1981

Series 12: Select Committee on the Independence Constitution 1977

Various papers from Smith to Select Committee, particularly re the recommendations of the Constitutional Convention on citizenship. Also includes minutes of the Committee, points of detail concerning the Independence Constitution of the Gilberts, copy of "Constitution making: Tuvalu & Kiribati" by Dr D.J. Murray and letters to Smith from Lord Goronwy-Roberts and Hugh Cortazzi re the need for an autonomous position for the Banabans.

Series 13: Gilbert Islands Constitutional Conference 1978

Gilbert Islands brief prepared by Professor Murray; information papers 1-7 re procedure for joining the Commonwealth etc.; papers presented to the conference on citizenship; copy of paper "Gilbert Islands approach to the Banaban issue"; address by Lord Rawlinson on the Banaban issue; various reports of the meeting of the Conciliation Committee, Finance Committee and Constitutional Committee; draft report of the Gilbert Islands Constitutional Conference re the future status of Banaba (Ocean Island).

Series 14: The Kiribati Bill

The Kiribati Bill Hansard extract; letter to The Guardian "Britain's duty to fight fair on Banaban rights", Bernard Braine MP; letter to The Guardian "A Pacific Island apart", K. Jackson; letters of Professor Murray re progress of Kiribati Bill through parliament; correspondence between Smith and F.C.O. requesting early attention to the Bill so that the anticipated date of independence can be met; extract from Hansard of Peter Tapsell's question to Parliament re independence of Gilbert Islands. 1979

Series 15: Ocean Island, Phosphate and the Banabans

Copy of "Pre-Rabi Banaban experiences with regard to the phosphate industry of Ocean Island", thesis by Betty Schutz; letter from Trafford Smith to Chairman, Rabi Island Council, re the rights of Banaban land owners; address to the South Pacific forum by Tekoti Rotan seeking independence; letter from the Rabi Council of Elders to the Australian Minister of External Affairs, re independence for Banaban people on Ocean Island in association with Fiji; paper "Banabans" produced within the Pacific Dependent Territories Dept. (P.D.T.D) of the F.C.O. re history of mining in the Banabans and division of phosphate royalties; copy of "History of Banabans' claim for independence for Ocean Island", by D.B. Dowds; Banaban petition to the Secretary of State following the separation of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands; minute to Chief Minister re legality of separation of Banaba; record of meeting between Lord Goronwy-Roberts and Gilbert Islands' Delegation re postponement of self-governance, future status of Ocean Island and division of phosphate revenues between Gilberts and the Banabans; Chief Minister's draft statement re his visit to London to discuss with Lord Goronwy-Robert the future of Ocean Island and the Banaban claim for separation and integration with Fiji; notes "Kiribati and Banaba" distributed to MPs and the press. 1967-1977

Series 16: The Posnett Report 1977

Copies of draft and final report "Ocean Island and the Banabans: A report to the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Commonwealth Affairs" by R.N. Posnett re phosphate mining on Ocean Island, ministerial views from the Gilberts, the Banaban move to Rabi Island, the Banaban claim to Ocean Island etc.; summary of Posnett's meeting with Ministers in Bairiki re revenue from remaining years of phosphate mining; copy of Posnett's discussion with Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs re the Ocean Island phosphate and Banaban issues; record of meeting at B.P.C. office in Melbourne re operation of phosphate mine on Ocean Island; "Ocean Island and Banabans", Secretary of State's statement in the House of Commons re the Posnett report; letter from Smith to Professor David Murray, University of the South Pacific, re developments in the Gilberts; government publication "Ocean Island (Banaba)", distributed to MPs and U.K. media following the Banaban claim for independence; "Ocean Island: Go tell in to the judge - but tell it true", pamphlet drafted by Smith and issued on behalf of Gilbert Islands Government; "Banaba and the Gilbert Islands: a factual summary", produced by Gilbert Island Government prior to final independence conference in London; "Massey's imperialism and the politics of phosphate" by Barrie Macdonald, senior lecturer in History, Massey University. 1977-1982

Transcript of Vice-Chancellor's Judgment in the High Court in Rotan Tito v Waddell and Rotan Tito v H.M. Attorney-General, delivered on 29th Nov - 3rd Dec 1976. Judgment is in five parts.

Series 17: Pacific Forum 1977

Correspondence, mostly telegrams, re Fiji's attempt to prevent Gilbert Islands becoming a member of the forum on the grounds that no date had been set for independence. Includes letter from Smith to Maris King, MBE, Australian High Commission, Nauru, re the likelihood of the Banabans being prevented by Fiji from admission to the forum; responses from M. King to Smith advising the acceptance of Gilbert Islands as a member of the forum.

Series 18: Governor's Personal and Confidential Correspondence

18.1 Relationships with the British Phosphate Commissioners (B.P.C.) 1974-1975
Correspondence, primarily telegrams, with the B.P.C. including: letter from Smith to J.R. Williams, (P.D.T.D), Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London, re the lack of information received about B.P.C. operations on Ocean Island and Smith's letter to B.P.C. outlining concerns over appointment of Ocean Island manager, Mr Chapman. Also includes records of meetings between Australian and British officials regarding B.P.C. and G.E.I.C communication and the need for closer informal consultation.

18.2 Relationships with the British Phosphate Commissioners (B.P.C.) 1976-1977
Correspondence, primarily with the F.C.O., London including letter from E. Patterson to Smith outlining options for the future of Ocean Island phosphate operations and letter to Smith re general Banaban matters including the referendum and the problems caused by the B.P.C. Also includes records of official discussions at the Dept. of Administrative Services, Canberra, with B.P.C. representatives re proposals for Gilbert Islands' independence and paper prepared by the B.P.C. providing a general background on their mining operations on Ocean Island.

18.3 Banabans 1974
Letters and telegrams re Banabans generally. Includes paper by E.A.W. Bullock , P.D.T.D., to Mr Larmour and Mr Guest "Banabans' legal actions and related issues", record of meeting between Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and representatives of the Banaban leaders at the F.C.O. re Banaban petition for separation of Ocean Island and copy of E.A.W. Bullock's summary of talk with Rev. Tebuke Rotan re Banaban's life on Rabi Island and their desire to preserve their national identity.

18.4 Banabans 1975 (January - May)
Correspondence, primarily telegrams, re Banabans generally. Includes statement by Tekoti Rotan, Leader of the Banaban delegation, to a meeting with the G.E.I.C. delegation, discussing the Banaban's claim to seek independence of Ocean Island from Britain and record of meeting between Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and Rev. Tebuke Rotan and the F.C.O, also re the independence claim.

18.5 Banabans 1975 (June - August)
Correspondence, primarily telegrams, re Banabans generally. Includes copy of Shipley's(?) report on the visit of the Chief Minister and the Minister of Education, Training and Culture to London; Chief Minister of Gilbert and Ellice Islands, Hon. Naboua T. Ratieta, statement regarding the future of Ocean Island; letter from David Aiers, British High Commission, Canberra, to R.G. Pettitt, P.D.T.D., re leak of a letter on the Banabans in "Private Eye".

18.6 Banabans 1975 (September - December)
Typewritten letters, telegrams and records of meetings re Banabans generally. Includes records of four meetings arranged for E. Rowlands, Nick Larmour and Tony Bullock at the Dept. of the Special Minister of State, Canberra; letter from Smith to E. Bullock urging the cessation of weekly sitreps on Ocean Island; copy of Bullock's response advising the ongoing need for regular security reports and his reluctance to withdraw police reinforcement from the island.

18.7 Banabans 1976 (January - August)
Correspondence, primarily telegrams, re Banabans generally. Includes letter from Tony Bullock to Smith re possibility of establishing a small capital fund, the annual income of which would go to Rabi Council of Leaders for general community purposes as part of settlement package; records of meetings between Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Prime Minister of Fiji re the future of the Banabans.

18.8 Banabans 1976 (September - December)
Letters and telegrams re Banabans generally. Includes letter from Smith to H.S.H. Stanley, F.C.O., Assistant Under Secretary of State, re postponement of internal self-government; Stanley's response to Smith confirming his aim to introduce internal self-government on 1st Nov; records of meetings between the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and the Prime Minister of Fiji re the Banaban cause etc.

18.9 Banabans 1977 (January - March)
Letters, telegrams and records of meetings and talks re Banabans generally. Includes draft minute on Rev. Tebuke Rotan's call to Lord Goronwy-Roberts re legal case between H.M.G. and Banabans. Detailed paper by Maurice Chandler Esq. to Mr. Chandler(?) titled "Go tell it to the judge" outlining important background on the Banaban grievance over use of their land for mining, as well as the distinction between the Banabans and the Gilbertese. Also includes a summary showing the origin of persons enumerated on Rabi Island at the 1976 population census; notes on the meeting with Fijian Prime Minister Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara; records of Mr Posnett's discussions with Australian Prime Minister, Australian D.F.A. officials and Australian officials at the Dept. of Administrative Services. Copy of a record of a meeting between Mr Posnett and Prof. H. Maude re the Banabans and Ocean Island generally and letter from Donald Tebbit to H. Cortazzi Esq. re Posnett's visit to Australia to discuss the Banabans, etc.

18.10 Banabans 1977 (April - June)
Correspondence and records of meetings and discussions re Banabans generally. Includes record of discussions between R. Posnett and New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials, particularly with regard to the phosphate industry; record of a call by R. Posnett to B.E. Talboys re possibility of the banks administering a trust fund for the Banabans; records of meetings between Lord Goronwy-Roberts and a Gilbert Islands' delegation re internal self-government; copy of A.M. Finlay's question and draft answer by Minister of Foreign Affairs re the amount, and terms of payment, that New Zealand will contribute to the Banaban fund.

18.11 Banabans 1977 (July - November)
Correspondence, primarily telegrams, re Banabans generally. Includes letter from H. Cortazzi to Smith seeking advice on the time-table for independence for Gilbert Islands; letter to Maris King, Australian High Commissioner, Nauru, and David McDowell, New Zealand High Commissioner, Suva, from Smith re Bairiki resolutions.

Series 19: Kiribati Aid Issues

Letter from E.A. Bullock to Smith re various aid issues, including aid relations with the Solomon Islands; exchange with Bernard Braine following his visit to Tarawa; note of a meeting in F.C.O. re Gilbert Islands aid; summary record of a meeting between Parliamentary Under-Secretary and a delegation at the Ministry of Overseas Development re future British aid to the Gilberts; summary record of a meeting between Lord Goronwy-Roberts and a Gilbert Islands Delegation re matters including transport, coconut and fisheries development and tourism; notes of a meeting with Mr. Tomlinson, Minister of State in the Ministry of Overseas Development, re U.K. aid to the Gilbert Islands. 1976-1977

Series 20: Speeches by Governor

Copies of speeches given by Governor John Smith, including: speech for Teacher Training College; opening of Betio Upper Air Station; broadcast during workers strike; broadcast prior to general election on Gilbert and Ellice Islands; speech in House of Assembly prior to election of the first Chief Minister; opening address at a housing seminar; address to the General Assembly of the Gilbert Islands Protestant Church; Christmas messages - 1973, 1974 and 1978; opening address at the induction courses for expatriates - 1973 and 1976; speech at the Medical Assistants and Nursing School; Governor's prize day speech at King George V School; speeches at the 22nd and 27th course, Marine Training School Passing out Parade. 1973-1978

Series 21: Miscellaneous

Copies of Gilbert and Ellice Islands Annual Reviews, 1974-1977; notes of a meeting between Council of Ministers and E. Rowlands, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, F.C.O.; letter from N.T. Ratieta, Chief Minister Gilbert Islands, to E. Rowlands re matters including Marakei airfield, Betio/Bairiki causeway and future visit of officials; copy of "A national defence force for the Gilbert Islands", paper published by the Office of the Governor; letter from Smith to B. Miller, British High Commission Suva, summarising the cholera outbreak (the first in the Pacific); despatch on the Gilbert Islands (pre-independence) General Election; Governor Smith's valedictory despatch. 1975-1978


Part II - Solomon Islands

Series 1: Annual Reports

British Solomon Islands annual reports, 1970-1973

Series 2: Legislative and Governing Council Papers

Legislative council paper no. 22/1969 "Report of the special select committee appointed to examine legislative council paper no. 119 of 1968 entitled Interim Proposals on constitutional development"; legislative council paper no. 84/1969 "Remuneration of elected members of the legislative council"; British Solomon Islands Order, 1970 and 1974; Governing council paper no. 89/1972 "Report of a special select committee on constitutional development"; report of the Constitutional Committee, including letter to E.A.W. Bullock from Deputy Governor, A.T. Clark, entitled "Solomon Islands constitutional committee report". 1969-1975

Series 3: Governing Council Official Reports

Governing Council debates, official reports of the Governing Council Honiara, 3rd-9th meetings. 1970-1973

Series 4: Development Plans

British Solomon Islands Protectorate sixth development plan 1971-73, including chapters on natural resources, commerce and industry, economic infrastructure etc.; sixth development plan 1st and 2nd annual reviews. 1971-1974

Series 5: Reports, Proposals and Feasibility Studies

Feasibility study "Rennell Island bauxite project, prepared for the Government of British Solomon Islands Protectorate (inc. Annex A), Mitsui Mining and Smelting Co. Ltd.; "Bauxite on Rennell Island" by Mackay & Schnellmann Ltd.; 1st and 2nd reports of consultants on mining taxation and accountancy to the Government of the British Solomon Islands Protectorate; U.N. Development Advisory Team proposal for Solomon Islands currency; "Commercial exploitation of tuna type fish", report by Allan, Charlesworth & Co. to the British Solomon Islands Protectorate. 1970-1973

Series 6: General Papers, Journal Articles, Publications and Programmes

"The ancient order of the rubber rafters of Choiseul" by Sir Alexander Waddell, undated, including copy of Waddell's obituary by John Smith published in The Independent. F.M. Talasasa's article "Settlement of disputes in customary land in the British Solomon Islands Protectorate" reprinted from Melanesian Law Journal; J. C. Grover's article "Some geographical aspects of the British Solomon Islands in the Western Pacific", reprinted from The Geographical Journal; "A short history of the Solomon Islands", Education Dept., Honiara; "Programme for the visit to the British Solomon Islands of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh 14th-16th March 1971. 1957-1971

Series 7: Kakamora Reporter

Edited by Henry Raraka, with contributions by Francis Bugotu and others, the Kakamora Reporter offers a lively local commentary on events. J. Smith notes that Tony Hughes also provided inspiration and support. Includes copy no's. 7-46. Number 33 was never issued and number 40 is missing (or possibly never published?). 1970-1975

Series 8: Speeches

Smith's speech at presentation of certificates at Teacher Training College; speech to Chamber of Commerce business luncheon re trade and the changing political scene in the Solomons; copy of Smith's talk "The financing of primary education". 1971-1972

Series 9: Handover Notes

Copy of J. Smith's detailed handing over notes on departure to, at the time, an unknown successor. 1973

Series 10: Correspondence

Letters from Smith to D.E. Glason re governance in the Western Pacific; letter from Francis Bugotu to Smith thanking him for his speech on the Appropriation Bill; exchange with W.B. Hussey, United Nations Development Programme; exchange with A.W. Macbeth, Headmaster, King George VI School, Honiara, re school uniforms; exchange with J.D. Macgregor, Director Medical Services, Honiara, concerning a statement in Smith's budget speech about public health control over the sale of fresh meat; two letters from David Kausimae; despatches 318/71 and 309/72 referring the annual estimates of revenue and expenditures for the British Solomon Islands Protectorate to the F.C.O.


Lee Hayes
15 September 2014


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