Back to search results
Name: REMINGTON, Thomas Edward Crew
Birth Date: 26.8.1867 Teddington
Death Date: 26.10.1903 Mombasa
First Date: 1890
Last Date: 1903
Profession: Previously employed by the GPO in London, he took up his appointment as Postmaster to the IBEA Co. at Mombasa on November 29th 1890 and remained in service until his death. Appointed Postmaster Gen. Zanzibar and EA in 1895.
Area: Mombasa, Zanzibar
Married: In Zanzibar 4.11.1896 Mme. Henriette Mary Dumonteil-Lagrèze b.1873 Salonika, d. 1964 France (sister of Messageries Maritime's Zanzibar agent)
Children: Felix George (b. & christened 1897 Zanzibar, killed in action in France 11 May 1917)
Book Reference: Gillett, Rail Museum, Police, EAHB 1905, Red 25, EAS, North, Playne, EA Diary 1903, IBEA, EASC, EAHB 1906, EA Diary 1902, EAHB 1904, Barnes
Christine Nicholls' blog, Old Africa April 2017 The postal service of East Africa was first begun as a branch of that of Zanzibar, and its first postmaster-general resided in Zanzibar for eight years before coming to British East Africa in 1899. In those early days the postal importance of Zanzibar was much greater than that of the mainland. However, when the construction of the Uganda Railway was begun the growth of its business in East Africa so increased the postal importance of Mombasa that a change of headquarters was needed. The postal association of East Africa and Zanzibar was terminated at that time. The East Africa Protectorate was admitted to the Postal Union in 1895 and six years later the postal service of Uganda was united with that of East Africa. The principal feature of the postal service in early years was the immense value of money orders to remit to India on behalf of the Indian workers employed in the construction of the Uganda Railway.
That this was completed successfully was due to the work of Thomas Edward Crew Remington. Born in Teddington, Middlesex, on 26 August 1867, Remington lost his father in his early years, necessitating his mother taking in boarders and putting him out to work as a telegraph messenger before he was fourteen. He worked with Kingston on Thames post office before departing for East Africa as an employee of the Imperial British East Africa Company in 1890. After an initial posting to Taveta, he took charge of the IBEA Co’s postal department in Mombasa in 1891, living in a turret in Fort Jesus. In 1895, when the British Government took over the territory, he became postmaster-general, East Africa Protectorate and Zanzibar. The following year he found himself a French wife in Zanzibar, the sister of the Messageries Maritimes agent there. Remington oversaw an agreement to merge the postal administration of East Africa and Uganda in 1901, although the accounts and stamps of the two territories were kept separate. Kenneth Henderson described him rather unfairly as ‘an insignificant and rather common little man’. Remington’s hard work took its toll and he died aged 36, of chronic gastric catarrh and a burst blood vessel, at his residence in Mombasa on 26 October 1903. He was buried in Mombasa cemetery at Mbaraki.
Europeans began to come to East Africa in larger numbers in 1903 and this caused great changes in the postal services. Different coloured flags were flown from the roof of Nairobi Post Office to announce the arrival of a mail boat from Europe at Aden, to indicate that it was therefore time to post mail to go back to Europe, and also to show that the mail from Europe had actually arrived at the Post Office and was ready for collection. At night a similar series of coloured lights told the same story. The telegraph lines were extended in various directions and by 1909 there were 1,800 miles of line in Uganda and British East Africa. New post and telegraph offices were opened at different points and by 1909 there were 73. There were 150 officers employed in the telegraph construction department.
One of the most interesting features of the postal service was the internal mail service begun by Remington and the means by which it was carried to even the remotest settlements. With the exception of those places through which the Uganda Railway ran, every settlement depended for its mails on a system of native runners, and a vast network of these spread throughout East Africa and Uganda. Starting from the principal stations on the railway and at Lake Victoria, relays of African mail men were posted some 30 miles apart. The mail was passed from relay to relay, never pausing day or night until it arrived at its destination. Though many of these relay lines were several hundred miles in length the system worked with such regularity that the distant settlements regarded the failure of the mails to arrive each week at its appointed time with astonishment.
There were occasional failures but these were infrequent and usually spelt tragedy of some kind. The search party looking for the relay which had failed to arrive usually knew at what point of a particular stretch of country to direct its efforts. The dense forests or rivers in spate usually revealed some trace of the carriers. Fatal accidents were exceedingly rare. Through the more dangerous districts precautions were taken, with runners carrying lights at night and being armed with rifles. Even this did not always avert disaster and there were instances of lions attacking and devouring runners. Afterwards there was some difficulty in getting the mails carried over that particular part of the route and it was not until the tribal medicine man had sprinkled the track with medicine made from the bark of trees near the lions’ attack that the runners considered the roads safe again. The telegraphs also received attention from animals. The rhinoceros’ favourite rubbing post was a telegraph pole and giraffes regularly cantered beneath the wires, dragging them to the ground.
More about Thomas Remington (see last month’s blog)
One of Remington’s relatives has contacted me and kindly given me more information about this extraordinary man who established postal services in East Africa. The Frenchwoman he married in Zanzibar was Henriette Mary Dumonteil Delagreze, and it was in Zanzibar that their only son Felix George was born in 1895. Henriette and Felix returned to London after Thomas’s death. Unfortunately Felix died fighting in France in the First World War, on 11 May 1917, and he is buried there. Henriette then took up extensive travelling.
Thomas became a corresponding member of the Zoological Society of London in 1896 while he was living in Mombasa. He provided the London Zoo with a monkey.
Left a Deputy (Henry R. Holt) in charge at Mombasa. Remington was then based at Zanzibar.
Rail Museum - On the train following Supt. Ryall's when he was killed by a lion at Kima.
EAHB 1905 - IBEA Co. General Africa Staff - appointed 29th November 1890
Red 25 - Postmaster General 1890-1903
The African Standard - 26-2-1903 - Invited to the wedding of H.R. Phelips & Miss Jacquette Edith Lambe in Mombasa (Mr & Mrs T.E.C. Remington) ................... Mr T.E.C. Remington, Postmaster General of EA and Uganda, is expected back in Mombasa next week, after an extended tour through the Uganda post offices.
North - IBEA Co. appt. 29/11/1890 - Taveta at first; took charge IBEA Co. Postal Dept. 1891; Lamu on shooting trip to Mafano Nov 1894; 'At the Fort … the postmaster lives in a sort of turret there' (CMI) April 1895; Appt. Postmaster General EAP & Zanzibar 1/7/1895; moved to Zanzibar Sept. 1895; son christened Felix George, Oct. 1897, Zanzibar; postal services split, moved back to Mombasa 1/1/1898; Entebbe 21/10/1901; d. 26/10/1903 Mombasa, chronic gastric catarrh, burst blood vessel, aged 36, buried at Mbaraki; 'An insignificant and rather common looking man' (Kenneth Henderson, RH)
Playne - The Post Office of EA was first commenced as a branch of that at Zanzibar, and its first Postmaster-General, Mr T.E.C. Remington, resided at Zanzibar for some 8 years before coming to BEA in 1899. In those early days the postal importance of Zanzibar was much greater than that of East Africa. When, however, the construction of the Uganda Railway was taken in hand, the growth of business in EA so increased the postal importance of Mombasa that a change of Headquarters was necessitated. The postal association of EA and Zanzibar terminated at about that time. The EAP was admitted to the Postal Union in 1895. Six years later the postal service of Uganda was united with that of EA and Uganda also joined the Postal Union. The principal feature of the post office work in the days of the first Postmaster-General of the EA and Uganda Protectorates was the immense volume of money order remittances made to India on behalf of the Indian coolies employed on the Uganda Railway construction. These at one time amounted to two and a half lacs of rupees per month. Mr Remington died in 1903 practically at the commencement of the European immigration. With him rests the credit of laying the foundations of the post and telegraph system of the Protectorates, and the successful organisation of the money order service necessitated by the coolies' remittances already referred to, which, having regard to the limited local resources at that time, involved a very considerable strain upon all concerned.
IBEA Co. - Nominal List of British Born Subjects resident in IBEA Territories outside the Sultans Domain, 30 April 1891 - T.E.C. Remington, England, Asst. IBEA Co.
EAS - 15/1/1903 - Mr T.E.C. Remington, Postmaster General of East Africa and Uganda has left on tour of inspection EASC Vol 2 p. 103 - Mombasa - Post Office first opened 23 May 1890. T.E.C. Remington combined the duties of Postmaster Mombasa with PMG IBEA Co. from November 1890 to June 1895, continuing under the Protectorate. At some time during the period 1895-99 when Remington combined the duties of PMG EAP with those of PMG Zanzibar, Henry Holt became Postmaster Mombasa.
EASC Vol 4 pp 496/9 - article by Roy Dunstan - ' It is suggested that Remington was recruited in London and is unlikely to have reached Mombasa until into January 1891. Taveta is 150 miles northwest of Mombasa and the journey, in those days on foot, would have taken at least 10 days. It is likely therefore that he reached Taveta in February or March 1891. This was the time of the improvised hand stamped and manuscript provisionals by various officials of the Company. An employee of the GPO in London, as the youthful Remington is reported to have been, would have found anathema this amateur and unofficial method of coping with a shortage of specific values. One can only presume that Remington, having successfully carried out his first task as a junior officer, was looked upon by the Company as someone having the necessary background to put the fledgling postal service onto a proper footing. It is therefore suggested that he was appointed Postmaster in mid-1891. It is significant that, save for a brief period in February 1895, no further provisionals were issued until the failure of the insolvent Company in July 1895. Unfortunately little appears to have been written concerning Remington as an individual although much is recorded of his activities as Postmaster General. Perhaps the best source of information about him can be found in his obituary in the Zanzibar Gazette. From this it seems clear that he was held in high esteem by all sections of the community since the Commissioner of BEA, Sir Charles Eliot, personally escorted the widow to the funeral. Also present were 2 officers and a detachment of 100 askaris. At the graveside nearly all the white residents in Mombasa were to be seen and, as well, the leaders of the local Goanese and various Indian communities. A number of people who were unable to attend due to sickness even sent their gharries as a mark of respect. All Government offices were closed, as were all places of business along the long funeral route. The flags at the Consulate and the Grand Hotel were flown at half mast. 'We are told he was ' …. always of cheery temperament and genial bearing, and hospitable to a degree'. Hardly the man, one would think, to warrant the strictures of the Philatelic Press which at one time ' …. refused to list any further fabrications of the illustrious fabricator of unnecessary surcharges who is in charge of the postal affairs of BEA and Zanzibar'. ………. …… investigation …. Mr C.H. Bowden …… comment: 'of Mr Remington's bona fides, and of the strict regularity in the conduct of his department, no vestige of doubt can now remain in my mind. The explanations which he unhesitatingly gave me concerning the questions at issue were both convincing and conclusive.' ………. On 26 October 1903 Remington died in Mombasa. The cause of death was given as 'acute gastritis'. I venture to suggest that it may well have been due to a perforated gastric ulcer, the toll of his 12 years as PMG in East Africa. His apparently endless problems with shortages of stamps and the criticisms of the efforts he made to overcome these shortages, the inevitable travelling under difficult and tiring conditions, combined with the sultry and ennervating climate in Zanzibar and Mombasa, may well have combined to induce such a condition. There is one very sad footnote. In May 1904, Remington's widow applied for relief to the Foreign Office on behalf of herself and her young son George because, as a result of her husband's early demise, she had been left in a difficult financial position. Alas the Foreign Office felt unable to help. Such was the reward of the heirs of a man who spent one third of his life in conscientiously carrying out a difficult job to the best of his not inconsiderable ability. EA Diary 1902 - Listed as Post Master General
EA Diary 1903 - Imperial British East Africa Co. Nov 29 1890; Postmaster-general for East Africa and Zanzibar July 1 1895; Postmaster-General for EA Protectorate and Uganda Jan 1 1899; H.H. Sultan of Zanzibar's Order of Hamondich (4th Class), medal and clasp 1897
Mombasa Cemetery - 26 Oct 1903, T.E.C. Remington, aged 36, PMG's bungalow, chronic gastric cataarh, burst blood vessel
Gazette - 1/11/1903 - Obituary - It is with deep regret that the death is recorded of Mr Thomas Edward Crew Remington, Post Master General of the East Africa and Uganda Protectorates. The sad event took place on the morning of October 26th after a very short illness.
The deceased officer entered the IBEA Co's service in November 20th 1890 was transferred to that of the East Africa Protectorate and became Post Master General for East Africa and Zanzibar on July 1st 1895. In 1897 he received from HH the Sultan the 4th class of the Hamoudieh medal and clasp in recognition of his services. On the fusion of the Postal Departments of Uganda and East Africa he was made Post Master General for the two Protectorates the appointment which he held up to the time of his death.
For these important posts Mr Remington was eminently fitted by his experience and intimate practical knowledge of all the details of his profession. It would take too long to chronicle all the improvements which he introduced but it is not too much to say that he created the Postal Department and brought it up to its present standard of efficiency. In him the Government which he served for so many years loses a faithful servant whose place it wiill be hard to fill.
In private life he was a sincere and warmhearted friend whose geniality and ready kindness endeared him to all and his death will be greatly felt by the many who knew him in both Protectorates while their most profound sympathy will be extended to his widow and child in their bereavement.
Mombasa Cathedral plaque: sacred to the memory of / Thomas Edward Crew Remington / Postmaster-General of the East Africa / and Uganda Protectorates / who died at Mombasa / on the 26th of October 1903 aged 36 years this tablet is erected as a tribute of regard / and esteem by his fellow officers and friends
Back to search results