Henry Rawlingson Carr was born on August 15, 1863 to Amuwo Carr and Rebecca Carr who were liberated Saro (Sierra Leonean) emigrants of Yoruba extraction. It was in the days after the bombardment of Lagos in 1851 by the British military forces but he grew up all the same in the Lagos of British Nigeria.
Henry Carr’s father died in Abeokuta when he was barely seven years old, leaving Rebecca Carr in charge of young Henry’s education. Banking on a sponsorship by Reverend T.B. Thomas who is a friend of his mother, Henry Carr was able to later complete his secondary education in a Wesleyan High School in faraway Freetown, Sierra Leone.
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At the prestigious Fourah Bay College where the likes of Ajayi Crowther were the founding students, Henry became the first person to receive an honours degree from the higher institution in 1880.
Henry Carr proceeded to St. Mark’s College, Chelsea, (now University of St Mark & St John) and the Royal College of Science, South Kensington, England. He later graduated with an honours (M.A.) in mathematics and physical science at Durham University in 1882. In 1906 he was made Chancellor of the Diocese of Western Equatorial Africa.
On his return to Lagos, Nigeria after his stint abroad, he served as school master at Lagos Grammar School between 1885 and 1889. He became the first native Inspector of schools of the Colony of Lagos between 1900 and 1906; Senior Inspector of Schools of the Western Provinces of the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria between 1906 and 1915 and eventually Chief Inspector of Schools of the Southern Provinces of Nigeria between 1915 and 1928. His focus on colonial duties and championing the interest of the British Empire must have further estranged his relationship with the locals starting from Lagos.
Henry was also a member of the Legislative Council in Lagos between 1918 and 1924 when the elective positions to the Colony’s legislative council was established. He was later appointed by the colonial government as the Resident of the Colony – a representative who had to interact with the natives within the Southern Protectorate. But as Henry had little cultural knowledge of the hinterlands and even Lagos, his time was tainted with diverse conflicts with native authority, kings, chiefs and ordinary people.
Herbert Macaulay, a major foe and contemporary of Henry, also did not make matters easy for him as he became a major opposition for many of the policies championed by Henry, on behalf of the colonial administration.
Dr. Henry Rawlinson Carr who also earned a Honorary D.C.L (Doctorate) from Dunelm in 1934 was later awarded the British merit award, Order of British Empire (O.B.E.) in 1929 and a Commander of the British Empire (C.B.E) in 1934 for services in favour of the British Empire.
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As Acting Director of Education with the British colonial government in Nigeria, Carr advised Governor of the Lagos Colony, Walter Egerton, convinced the London Board of Education that King’s College Lagos was integral to Nigeria’s development.
As a lover of books, Henry Carr would let kids into his personal library to read from his vast collection of books. His library of books was so vast and concise that it was later acquired by the Nigerian government at his death and it formed a central nucleus of the books which constitutes the University College, Ibadan (now University of Ibadan) library.
Henry Carr died in 1945, having laid a solid foundation for education in early Nigeria and as an accomplished educationist himself. A public library was commissioned by former Lagos State Governor, Alhaji Lateef Jakande at Agege in 1983 in Henry Carr’s honour.
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