The 4 cents Straits Settlements stamp is probably the 4c violet on red paper King Edward VII issued in 1902 and it is postmarked SINGAPORE/ B/ DE 21/ 98. The letter is simply addressed to Malacca, part of the Malay peninsula British colony made up of Malacca, Penang and Singapore. Its administration had been transferred from India to the British Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1867, at which time stamps of India were replaced by those of Straits Settlements. The letter was redirected to the Honble W. Egerton, C/o The Union Bank of Australasia Ltd, Melbourne, where three tax markings were added: a ‘T 4’ in an oval, a ‘T’ in a triangle, a manuscript 4/20c plus the Melbourne postmarked 4d Victorian postage due (Figure 1).
The Ebay seller identified the addressee as Walter Egerton who in 1902-03 had the title of Resident in the colony of Negri Sembilan (an adjoining State to that of Malacca of which he had been Acting Resident Councillor from 1898 -1901). The Malay States up to 1943 are shown with Singapore, Malacca and Negri Sembilan indicated by red, blue and green arrows (Figure 2).
Walter Egerton was identified as a career administrator in the British Colonial Administration, for in addition to his position in Negri Sembilan he became High Commissioner for Southern Nigeria from August 1904 until 28 February 1906. On the latter date he was made Governor of Southern Nigeria until 1907 (for the first time), with a resumption of that position for the second time from 1907 to 1912. During his initial appointment in Southern Nigeria he was knighted in 1905 with the KCMG (Knight Commander of St. George & St. Michael). Later he became Governor of British Guiana from 1912 until 1917.
Walter Egerton had a long life from 1858 until 1947, but to date no further appointments for him have been found. Similarly no information concerning a stay in Australia has been found for 1898, so that the bank address may have been one of convenience, rather than an appointment by the Colonial Office. In 1911, the University of Edinburgh bestowed an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws on him. A photo of him in impressive full dress was found in a genealogical site (Figure 3).
A surprise was the finding of his philatelic connection, for the 1903-04 imperforate plate proofs of local design of the King Edward VII stamps of Straits Settlements “were prepared by Mr Noel Trotter (Postmaster General of Straits Settlements) and Mr. W. Egerton (later Sir Walter Egerton, Governor of British Guiana)”.
Addendum: Irene Ferguson, Archives Department, Edinburgh University Library mailed me a copy of Egerton’s Laureation Address in 1911 (when he represented the West African Colonies), which is quoted in part. “After twenty-three years passed in various grades of the Colonial Service in the Straits Settlements, Sir Walter Egerton was transferred in 1904 to the Governorship of Lagos, soon to change its name to Southern Nigeria………”. “He appears here after spending seven years in West Africa, and not long ago our first impulse would have been to congratulate him on (this) surprising fact.”
After some rather unusual information concerning Egerton’s experiences in Lagos, the Address finishes up with the following: “The University gladly offers her tribute of admiration to the disinterested (sic) and patriotic circumstances of a great captain of British colonisation.
The reason for bestowing an honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) on Egerton and other colonial administrators is given as follows: “The 1911 Senate Minutes (of the University) records that the visit to Great Britain of a number of Royal guests representing the Colonies and the Overseas Dominions at Their Majesties’ Coronation (King George V and Queen Mary) on (22) June (1911) should be regarded as a special occasion”.