Sir Herbert Macaulay

Sir Herbert Macaulay: Nigeria’s first Civil Engineer

The man popularly referred to as the “Father of Nigerian Nationalism” was born Olayinka Herbert Samuel Heelas Badmus Macaulay on November 14, 1864, in Lagos.

Most people will remember Sir Herbert Macaulay as an anti-colonialist who was at the forefront of Nigeria’s independence struggle. Few however realize he was Nigeria’s first civil engineer. He was also a politician, surveyor, architect, journalist, and musician.

Sir Macaulay qualified as a civil engineer in 1893 after studying in Plymouth, England, becoming the first Nigerian to do so. He was also elected to the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

A major cause of Sir Macaulay’s foray into Nigerian nationalism stems from the British colonial government’s refusal to sponsor him for further civil engineering education. His lecturer, Mr. G.D Bellamy, at Plymouth had recommended him for further training in civil engineering but the colonial government denied him that opportunity.

Also while he was made a surveyor of crown lands upon his return to Lagos, he became dissatisfied with the conditions of his employment as he was put on a salary scale of £90-150 per annum while a British civil servant junior to him in the same department earned £250 per annum.

This led him to leave government employment and start his private practice. It was also the genesis of his nationalist moves to free Nigeria from the colonial government of Britain which he felt was not treating Nigerians as equals.

During his career, he designed very few important buildings in Lagos, like Alex Taylor’s House on Victoria Street, Henry Carr’s House on Tinubu Street, Akinola Maja’s house, and the Doherty Villa in Campos Square.

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