Monday 19 August 2013

Brigadier Arthur Steven Mavrogordato

The name Mavrocordato, Mavrogordato, is that of a family of Phanariot Greeks, distinguished in the history of Turkey, Rumania and modern Greece. The family was founded by a merchant of Chios, whose son Alexander Mavrocordato (c.1636-1709) became dragoman to the sultan in 1673. He became a secretary of state and was created a count of the Holy Roman Empire.

            His son Nicholas Mavrocordato (1670-1730) was appointed hospodar (prince) of Moldavia. He
was the first Greek ruler of the Danubian principalities. He introduced the Greek language and customs, and set up a splendid court on the Byzantine model. His two sons, John and Constantine, both succeeded him as hospodars of Moldavia and Walachia. Prince Alexander Mavrocordato (1791-1865), a Greek statesman and a descendant of the hospodars, was born in Constantinople in 1791.

Dimitri Mavrocordato, was a merchant banker who was born in Chios. We do not know anything further about him, except that he was the father of Stephen Mavrocordato who made a name for himself in the banking world. He was the founder of the Credit Foncier in Constantinople and Paris, which unfortunately went into bankruptcy in 1867. Realising all his assets, he settled with his creditors in full, and was made the managing director of the new company which was formed. He was known as “Stefano il galante”. He died a year later in 1868. He married Frances Sarrell, the daughter of an English doctor who was medical adviser to H.M. the Sultan and the British Embassy. They had six sons and three daughters.

His son, Alexander Stephen (1859-1929) was born in Constantinople, where he lived and attended Robert College (now the American University). With his brothers, Nicholas and John he went to Berlin to school and also to Heidleberg University. In 1880 he returned to Constantinople where he entered his father’s bank for a short time, and then joined the British Relief Mission after the Chios earthquake disaster in 1881. On his return to Constantinople he was given a letter of introduction to the Govenor of Cyprus, Sir Garnet Wosley, by Sir George White, the British Ambassador in Constantinople. In the year 1878, Cyprus had been leased to Britain by the Turkish Government. Alexander joined the British Government in Cyprus, acquired British nationality and stayed in Cyprus as Financial Assistant to the Treasury until his retirement in 1923. In 1886 he married Alysoun Young, a Scottish lady who had come out to Cyprus on a holiday with her mother and sister. Two children were born to them, a son names Arthur Stephen and a daughter named Frances. (With his wife and daughter, he settled in Naples where he died in 1929.)

Arthur Stephen Mavrogordato, “Mavro” as he was known by nearly everyone, was the first and only member of this family to come out to Trinidad. He was born in Nicosia, Cyprus, in the year 1886, where he went to school until he was sent to Smyrna in order to learn the Turkish language. He was fluent in English, French, Greek, Turkish and Arabic. In 1901 he was sent to England to Oakham College in Rutland, where he spent the next four years, after which he returned to Cyprus in 1906. Here he joined the British Colonial Service when he became a member of the Cyprus Police. In 1913 he was sent to Sierra Leone as assistant commissioner of Police and where later he became Commissioner. He married first in 1915 to an English lady who unfortunately became incapacitated and was later hospitalized. She died in 1947.

During the First World War he served with the British Navy in M.I.5 until the end of the hostilities. Then, in 1921 after a period with the Royal Irish Constabulary, he was appointed the first Commissioner of Police in Palestine, after the British Mandate. He remained there until 1931 when he was sent to Trinidad as Inspector General of Police and Commandant of the Local Forces. He held this post until 1939 when he was transferred to Nigeria as Commissioner of Police. In 1941World War II, he was seconded to the British Security Mission in Beiruit and promoted to the rank of Brigadier. He served with the Ninth Army in Syria and the Lebenon until 1942 when he retired from active service and returned to Trinidad. There he joined the firm of J.N. Harriman & Co. Ltd., and in 1948 he married Miss Olga Boos. He remained an active director in the firm until his death in Barbados in 1964. 

For his distinguished Military and Police services he was awarded the O.B.E. He also held the King’s Police Medal for meritorious service and was a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour. He was also an Officer of the Order of the White Lion of Czechoslovakia. In addition, he was the proud holder of the Silver Acorn, the highest Scouting award.  He was also a high ranking Mason.
His outstanding qualities and experience as a Police Officer were not forgotten, for after his retirement he was appointed by the Dominion Office to be Commissioner to enquire into Police Administration in South Africa, and he later served as Commissioner to conduct a similar enquiry in the Leeward Islands, St. Lucia, Grenada and St. Vincent.

C. of C. President

He quickly began to associate himself actively with all matters affecting the business community of the island. For many years he served as a member of the Management Committee of the Chamber of Commerce, of which he was president in 1945 and 1946. He was a Second Vice-President of the Associated British Caribbean Chambers of Commerce, in the activities of which he, for a long period, took a prominent part.

But it was not only in the official and commercial fields that he was active. He had a highly developed sense of service for the community, and especially for the physically handicapped. Among the organisations that owe much to his leadership and guidance were, the Boy Scouts (he was Chairman of the executive Committee for many years), the Blind welfare Association, the Trinidad St. Dunstan’s Association, the Church Army, The Tacarigua and Belmont Orphanages, and the Homes run by the Carmelite Sisters.

He was keenly interested in all forms of sport and served as Chairman of many governing bodies. Perhaps Rugby Football took pride of place with him, and for many years he was President of the Trinidad Rugby Football Union. The progress that the game has made in Trinidad is in no small measure due to his guidance, encouragement and support.

Sources: Olga Mavrogordato and Roy Alston

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