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21 October 2021

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Black History Month Profile

Sir Lesley McCarthy: A Pioneer of Africanisation
of the Senior Civil Service in the Gold Coast
by Margaret Esiri, Emeritus Fellow

My late husband, Frederick’s, grandfather was Leslie McCarthy (1885-1970). Leslie’s father hailed from Sierra Leone and his mother from Hull. They probably met when Leslie’s father came to Britain to qualify as a lawyer. After they married they settled in Sierra Leone but, sadly, his mother died there in 1889 at the age of 32. Leslie seems then to have been brought up by his maternal family and went to school in Clapham, London. He then came in 1904 to read Law at Keble College. The photograph shows him as a member of the Keble College Football Team, bottom row, left.

Like his father, Leslie trained as a lawyer and was called to the Bar in 1911. He then went to Sierra Leone to practise as a Barrister. In 1921 he became a pioneer of Africanisation of the Senior Civil Service as Crown Counsel in the Gold Coast (now Ghana). There he rose to be Solicitor General, a High Court Judge and a member of the Legislative Council. He was knighted in 1949.

Beyond his impressive achievements in his profession he played important roles in many aspects of the Gold Coast’s (and later Ghana’s) life, including in education, sport, historic monuments and commercial interests. His late daughter, Agnes, who was brought up in Nigeria, was Frederick’s mother.

Photo: Leslie McCarthy and fellow students at Keble College c. 1904-6.

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