First Seychellois Scholarship Laureates 1902-1915
By Julien DURUP a student of the Seychelles History
Before 1902, many private students went to study overseas and their courses were defrayed by their affordable parents. At the beginning most of them went to Royal College of Mauritius. The first Seychellois to study there was Raymond Hodoul, born at Mahé. He was born on 7th November 1799, son of the Corsair Jean-François Hodoul and Corentine Olivette Jorre de St. Jorre.
Raymond’s, studies was cut short soon after the Mauritius capitulation in 1810. His father who did not trust the British went on his boat the Favourite immediately to bring him back to the Seychelles. Raymond became a sea captain and naval constructor and explorer of La Réunion Island.
And the most famous one was Sir Virgile Naz KCMG. He was born at Mahé on 21st October 1825, son of Jean-Baptiste Naz and Marie Alexandrine Josephine. Virgile became Seychelles’ first Lawyer and the best orator. Arthur Charles Hamilton Gordon, the Governor of Mauritius (1870-74) (Gordon was responsible for introducing Indentured Indian Labour in Fiji in 1879 despite protests) wrote to the Secretary of State in England about Virgile Naz. He said “that he was a very brilliant Créole, however he has African blood”.
At that time there were two colleges in Mauritius; the first one was the “Ecole Centrale” opened in 1791 and in 1800 it became the “Lycée Coloniale”, and then the Royal College of Curepipe. Then in 1799, the “Lycée des iles de France et de la Réunion » was opened in Port Louis and later became the Royal College of Mauritius. We assume that both of them went to study at the Royal College at Port Louis.
In 1842, Virgile Naz was a brilliant student of the Faraquet Institute (1) and then at the Royal College. He left Mauritius in 1854 to study law in England. He died on 3rd August 1901; his daughter, Hélène, later left money to build the basilica of Sainte Hélène at Curepipe in Mauritius.
The first “Independent Seychelles Scholarships” was instituted by Ernest Bickham Sweet-Escott with the Ordinance no. 30 of 1900. Sweet-Escott started his colonial career as a classics professor of the Royal College of Mauritius. In 1899 he was appointed Administrator of the Seychelles. And he became in 1903, the first Governor of the island. During his tenure of office he turned his attention to Education and reformed the old government un-denominational school of 1891. He also had the first “Seychelles Blue Book” published in 1899.
After the enactment of the Seychelles Scholarships Ordinance he had money voted for two scholarships to follow studies at the Royal College of Mauritius or in some school in England. The sum allocated was Rs 600, secure for three years. The laureate was also given an allowance to cover the cost of for the passage and returned journey. This provision was later revised by the Ordinance no. 14 of 1903.
The first scholarship was awarded in 1902, and the first students of Saint Louis de Gonzague’ College of Saint Louis, Mahé, to win a scholarship was Louis France Marcel Savy born on 8th May 1888, son of Louis Napoléon Charles Savy and Marie Eva Deltel.
In 1902, Marcel went to study in England and he died there during his study. Unfortunately we do not know what was his field of study was. In the same year Frédéric Marie Clement Nageon de l’Estang was chosen. He was born on 10th September 1888 at Mahé, the son of Etienne Nageon de l’Estang and Emma Westergreen. He went to study law in Mauritius and became a Notary.
In 1903, there were two scholarships to Mauritius. The y were awarded to Walter Tonnet , a Mauritian whose parents were living in the Seychelles, and Gustave Charles Albert Loizeau born on 1st June 1889, son of Joseph Loizeau and Julia Hugon. Both of them studied law and became lawyers. Tonnet stayed in his native land and became a prominent lawyer. Gustave came back and practiced as a lawyer.
There was no scholarship in 1904. In 1905 Joseph Rideau was selected. He was born on 20th November 1890, son of Philogène Rideau and Angèle Jean-Louis. Joseph went to Ceylon
(Sri Lanka) and became an engineer. After qualifying he was sent to work in East Africa and was well known for his contribution to the East African railway.
Fernand Touris was selected in 1906. He was born on 26th April 1892, son of Fernand Touris and Marie Alice Ducasse. Fernand Jr went to England and studied law. He became a prominent barrister in the Seychelles and also acted as Chief Justice.
In 1907, Louis Edward Harold Power went to England to study law and became a Lawyer. He was the son of Arthur Edward Power and Marie Roselina Belcourt. Coming back he went and practiced and settled in Zanzibar.
In 1908 there was no award, but the next year Samuel Vidot was selected. He was the son of Louis Monchéry Vidot and Anna Herminie Gresle, both of Mahé. Born on 13th March 1893 at Pointe Golette, Maravie, Mahé, Samuel was a brilliant student and attained his Senior Cambridge examination with honours and distinction in French at Saint Louis College in December 1909. In 1910, Samuel won a scholarship to study medicine in Britain. At the age of sixteen, he sailed to England and studied at the famous Guy’s Hospital where he qualified as the first Seychellois Doctor with MRCS and LRCP degrees. Dr. Vidot was, later in the First World War, enlisted as a Lieutenant in the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC). After the war, Dr. Vidot MC visited his native land before going to Egypt to study tropical medicine. There he was appointed Director of Quarantine Office of Suez, and was based in Port Tewfik. He retired in 1946 and seemed to have moved back to London.
The Education Ordinance no. 11 of 1910 was promulgated to make the money awarded for scholarship free from income tax and it was tenable for four and five years. In that Ordinance arrangement was made for one student of the King’s College who had excelled in the London Matriculation Examination. That student was awarded a second class and return passage to study in England. With the Ordinance no. 2 of 1911, the award was reduced to one scholarship in every two years.
Another brilliant student, Raoul Touris, went to England in 1912 to study. Regrettably he had to abandon his study due to a depression and returned to the Seychelles.
In 1913, Louis Constant Daniel Hermitte, born on 14 June 1894, the son of Constant Hermitte and Marie Baillon, went to Scotland and qualified as a Doctor of Medicine in Edinburgh with MB, CHB. After graduation he held the appointment of house-surgeon at Graigleith, the 2nd Scottish General Hospital and at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary where he was also assistant pathologist for some time. In 1921 he obtained a DTM.&H. (Diploma in tropical medicine) of the English Royal Colleges. In the same year he took up appointment for years as medical officer to the Moabund Medical Association in Assam, India.
In 1926 he received the Diploma of Médicin Malariologiste of the University of Paris. He came back and practiced in the Seychelles from 1928 - 1933 as the best brain of medicine. During his time in the Seychelles this brilliant fils du sol was liked by the locals but was disliked by Dr. John Thomas Bradley, the Chief Medical Officer and the Governor, Sir Joseph Aloysius Byrne. Dr. Hermitte rightly challenged the acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Paul Lanier’s handling of the dysentery outbreak and he became a victim of injustice. He, through experience managed to indentify what type of dysentery it was. On 29 December 1928 he wrote an article on the issue which was published in the British Medical Journal(2). Drs. Lanier, Bradley and Sir Byrne joined forces to have Dr. Hermitte suspended; he had to go to England to face the British Medical Board. There, through his vast knowledge of tropical deceases, he easily defended his case. He came back triumphant with a huge local welcome; however, he decided it was enough. He left Seychelles and became pathologist and bacteriologist to the Sheffield Royal Infirmary, and later, to the Chesterfield Royal Hospital Infirmary and the Montagu Hospital, Mexborough. He was also demonstrator in pathology, and subsequently became head of the Department of Pathology at the Royal Infirmary in Sheffield, and later honorary lecturer of Sheffield University.
Dr. Louis Hermitte died in London on 9 January 1961. According to one of his students who became a famous consultant in Canada, Dr. Louis Hermitte was interesting in all branches of his speciality and was an outstanding histopathologist. He was also a talented and meticulously accurate artist. His illustrations made his reports an enchantment to see and loved by his students.
Dr. Louis Hermitte’s unique talent and his artistry can still be found through the surgical and pathological literature. His illustrations of the life cycle of plasmodia hold pride of place in the present department of haematology. His other forte was on tropical shell-fish; he became an international authority in this field. In 1946 he wrote a paper on the “Venomous Marine Molluscs of the Genus conus” in the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene(3). Before he left Seychelles he gave one of his shells collections and many valuable books to the Carnegie Library. Dr. Louis Hermitte was married to a Scotch woman; they had two children Gabrielle and Gordon.
During the 1914 war there was no award. In 1915 Henry Rideau, the brother of Joseph Rideau, went to England and became an engineer; he was sent to work in Bombay.
Henry Rideau was the last one to go after the First World War. The scholarships expenditure was abolished by the India-born authoritative and unpopular Governor, Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Richard Mackay O’Brien (1912-1918). O’Brien left to take his new appointment as Governor of Barbados Island and was replaced by another military man, this time a liberal Lieutenant-Colonel Eustache Edward-Twisleton-Wykekam Fiennes.
Governor Fiennes appointed a Board of Education to review the scholarship award. He appointed Mr. Philip Petrides(4), the Chief Justice, as Chairman, William Francis Stephens and Mr. Ellis, the Director of Education, as members. The committee decided to abolish the scholarships scheme and used the money instead to improve the general education in the Seychelles. They proposed setting funds for awards in a form of apprenticeships and cadetships for qualified students to take up appointments in Government Services in British East Africa.