Richard Akinwande Savage Snr – Last African Medical Officer in the Service of British Colony in West Africa

Posted by Timige, On 1 Jan, 2021 | Updated On 7 Dec, 2021 No Comments »

Richard Akinwande Savage was the last African medical officer in the West African Medical Service after colonial master introduced colour bar on the employment of black doctors

Part of the Savage medical dynasty, which had numerous connections to Edinburgh’s medical school, Agnes followed in the footsteps of her father and brother, as well as her working-class Scottish mother, in coming to Edinburgh. Agnes’ Nigerian father, Richard Akiwande Savage Snr married Maggie S Bowie, a Scottish iron turner’s daughter in 1899.

A Nigerian medical student, Richard Savage Snr was also sub-editor of The Student during his time in Edinburgh and graduated with a MB ChB in 1900. As a student, he was vice president of the Afro-West Indian Society – a student association whose object was “the promotion of social life and intellectual improvement among African and West Indian students in Edinburgh” – and attended the trail-blazing 1900 Pan-African Conference organised by Henry Sylvester Williams in London, along with Trinidadians William Meyer (who attacked pseudo-scientific racism for “trying to prove that negroes were worthless and depraved persons who had no right to live”) and John Alcindor (who went on to become president of the Africa Progress Union) (Fryer, 2010, p.283).

Richard Savage Snr left Edinburgh in 1903, first to Lagos where he established a newspaper. In 1906, colonial officials decided Richard Savage would be better employed in colonial Ghana, and was given a medical job in Cape Coast – the last African medical officer in the West African Medical Service after the introduction of a colour bar on the employment of black doctors.

Richard Savage Snr, nevertheless, continued his newspaper printing in Ghana – publishing the Gold Coast Leader. The Savage family returned to Lagos in 1915 – where Richard founded the Nigerian Spectator. An important early African nationalist figure, who believed: “When we think of a united Nigeria we must also think of a united British West Africa”, Richard Savage Snr was an enigmatic figure.

Walking along the Lagos beachfront, with Maggie, one Sunday afternoon “when they passed a cigarette stall the salesman said, ‘See that Doctor, he be proud oh.’…[Richard] spun round and responded in pigeon, “This doctor no be proud. Dis Doctor he swank.” (Correspondence with Mike Savage,25/09/1991). And he was admired by future Nigerian president, Nnamdi Azikiwe, as a ‘cosmopolitan’, and for the ‘superb English of his editorials’ (Sherwood, 2014).

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