Did you know

14 Feb 2023

Did You Know? Building Government House

In 1878, the War Office dispatched a prefabricated residence, which arrived on one of the ships of the Mediterranean Fleet anchored off Larnaca. The very next day the boats of the British Fleet began ferrying the wooden panels, the foundations, the felt roof, every part of the new building onto the beach. Watching it arrive was a young British Lieutenant of the Royal Engineers called Hugh Sinclair, whose task it was to sort and stack every piece and prepare it for its journey to Nicosia:

Sinclair described this event in his own words: I was absolutely alone. I had no sort of staff or foreman, only gangs of ignorant natives whom I could only direct through my poltroon of an interpreter. All went fairly well the first day but on the second, which was a Sunday, the men stopped work and informed me that they wanted a rise of wages - 1/- a day was the rate. Meanwhile the beach was getting congested. I had a thunderous message from the Admiral to say that if I didn't clear the beach straight away, he would stop work. What the next step after that would be I had no idea, nor what would happen if I increased the wages, small enough though they seemed.

I told my interpreter to find the ringleaders and bring them up to my office - a small erection of four poles and a piece of matting on a mound in the middle of the beach. I had a stout Malacca cane in my hand. The men, some half dozen, were brought up in full sight of the whole gang. I asked the first, a great stalwart peasant with a fierce moustache and truculent air, if he would go on working. "Ochi" (no) he replied. I suddenly seized him by the collar, bent him down with all my strength and administered cuts with my cane on the softest part of his person till he roared out that he would work. I called up the second, a hulking Mohammedan, with my cane at the "carry". He would not reply so again I administered personal chastisement, till he, too, gave in. The others needed no coercion and the victory was won.

The ‘Did You Know’ series is made possible with the support of OPAP (Cyprus) and Active Citizens Fund.

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