Philip Allen

Philip Allen was born in County Cork, Ireland before 1830 and died in Pietermaritzburg on 1st July 1865, colonial treasurer of Natal, was the youngest son of William and Mary Allen. Although an Irish insolvent, arrested for debt in Bangor, Carnarvonshire, and imprisoned in Caernarvon Castle, Wales, he received in 1852, as patronage from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, the post of Colonial Treasurer of Natal. He settled at Pietermaritzburg in November that year, his wife and four children following in October 1854. The Treasury Chest robbery which took place in 1854 resulted in grave problems for Philip Allen, so much so that he was suspected of being involved in the theft because he had among other things failed to have the Treasury audited. He was, nevertheless, appointed to investigate the robbery, but this matter could not be brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

When Natal became a separate colony under the Natal Charter of 1856 and was given limited representative government, Philip as Colonial Treasurer became a member of the Executive Council, acting as Colonial Secretary from 1857 to 1858. He also held the post of emigration agent, acted as Secretary for Native Affairs, and was resident magistrate for Pietermaritzburg. Simultaneous to his post as Colonial Treasurer of Natal, he was elected to the first board of directors of the Natal Bank in May 1854, and was its first chairman. He made a grave error, however, by depositing government funds in the bank before its registration had been completed and without the knowledge of the Lieutenant-Governor. Philip Allen’s interests were many: he was a foundation member of the Natal Carbineers and was appointed the first lieutenant in Pietermaritzburg in 1855 and lieutenant-colonel in 1858, in which year he commanded the troops who acted against Chief Matyana. Interested also in the activities of the Pietermaritzburg Agricultural Society, he became its president in 1857. He was one of the founder members of the Victoria Club.

When Prince Alfred visited Natal in September 1860 he accompanied him as one of his aides-de-camp. Philip Allen also became involved in speculation, acquiring large landholdings in various districts of Natal, but this venture resulted in his ultimate bankruptcy. Although Allen enjoyed the confidence of the Lieutenant-Governor Sir John Scott and strongly supported him during his term of office, he had many enemies among the colonists. He became involved in numerous civil suits with a number of the most prominent people of his time. In 1861 he had to answer to charges brought against him before a select committee of the Legislative Council. Although he was only admonished, this resulted in further civil suits which, together with his deepening financial crises, ended in his resignation as Colonial Treasurer and from the Natal Carbineers in April 1862. However, on the recommendation of Scott, he was appointed magistrate of Newcastle in 1863. An incident which occurred during a sermon on 25th June 1865, in which Dean Green referred personally to members of the congregation and condemned their conduct, threw his mind quite off-balance, and a few days afterwards he shot himself; he died four days later.

He was a controversial figure. As Colonial Treasurer he was a failure and his personal finances were in a muddle. He took a dilatory attitude towards important financial matters, but because of his oratorical ability, his thorough knowledge of British law and of
colonial regulations and British parliamentary procedure he was an asset to the colonial authorities on the Legislative Council in its early stages. On 17th October 1847 he married Frances Cocks and had six children, two of whom were born in Natal. Were your ancestors from Ireland? find out more here.