HL Deb 09 February 1915 vol 18 cc472-4

My Lords, I am certain that the House would not desire altogether to pass over in silence the heavy and sudden loss which the Front Bench opposite has sustained by the death of Lord Londonderry. It is now some thirty years since Lord Londonderry went to Ireland as Viceroy, and since that time he has filled various high offices under the Crown and been a prominent and energetic member of the Unionist Party. Lord Londonderry was one of those men of whom examples can be found in many Administrations, so far as our memory can carry us back, who would be the first themselves to disclaim the possession of commanding talents or the application of profound study to public affairs, but who, actuated by a sense of duty and by a feeling of the responsibility imposed on them by the position in which they were born, have devoted themselves to public life, have lived laborious days, and have deserved well of their fellow-countrymen. I think myself that all Lord Londonderry's friends would say that he never did a wiser thing than when, in the years 1895 and 1896, he undertook the chairmanship of the London School Board. There, with great industry and devotion, he obtained an invaluable apprenticeship to the high administrative offices which he was afterwards called upon to fill. In his personal capacity Lord Londonderry was intimately known to many of your Lordships' House. He was a man of the greatest personal geniality and charm, and few have left or could leave more friends behind to mourn their memory. Lord Londonderry was the representative of two great families, one English, the other Irish. In the North of England he occupied a great industrial position and fulfilled in that part of the country the duties belonging to such a position and all the functions appertaining to a large landowner. But I think all who knew him would agree that his heart was most of all in the country of his paternal descent, the North of Ireland, with which he was in many ways so closely associated. Of late years, as we all know, Lord Londonderry had been much mixed up with the more combative character of Irish politics. He held strong—some might even be tempted to call them violent—views on certain subjects. But I venture to think that in him there was perhaps less essential bitterness of spirit than in some politicians of more careful speech and more subdued expression than his. I believe that his experiences in the Irish Viceroyalty had, while in no way diminishing the intensity with which he held what I may describe as the Ulster view, given him a more large and generous outlook towards the other parts of Ireland than his position of Ulster leadership altogether permitted him to indicate. I am certain, my Lords, that the House, without exception, would desire to express to his family our profound condolence with the loss of their head, so distinguished and so beloved by many.


My Lords, we who sit on this Bench are very grateful to the noble Marquess for the manner in which he has spoken of our old colleague. It has become the custom of your Lordships' House when a conspicuous member of it is taken from our midst by death to say a few words of appreciation and farewell, and I think your Lordships will agree with me that those words could not have been spoken more appropriately or with kinder feeling than they have been spoken by the noble Marquess who leads the House. I venture to agree with what the noble Marquess said when he told your Lordships that there was probably no man who would have less wished that anything like an extravagant panegyric should be spoken of him. We who knew him well are aware that he himself would have been the last person to claim for himself a place in the rank of our foremost British statesmen. But for all that his friends have a right to remember at a moment like this that for between thirty and forty years Lord Londonderry served in one or other House of Parliament, and that during the whole of that long period he gave an unremitting attention to the duties which fell upon him. Outside the House he never shirked the responsibilities which his high station entailed or those responsibilities which the opportunities of public life from time to time brought within his reach. Lord Londonderry held high office, both political and municipal, and acquired a very considerable knowledge of our public affairs. But it was to Irish affairs and Irish affairs in all their momentous and dramatic interest, that he gave most of his attention. The cause which was nearest to his heart was the cause of the Union, and I do not think I am using exaggerated language when I say that for the sake of that cause Lord Londonderry would have risked his life or sacrificed the greater part of his worldly possessions. The keenness of his feelings naturally brought him into sharp antagonism with those from whom he differed. But although he was a keen fighter, I think it will be admitted that there never was a fairer or more honourable antagonist, and in that way it came to pass that he earned the respect both of friend and foe. We who knew him in private life knew him as a courteous English gentleman, as an admirable host, as an exemplary landlord, and, above all, as a very true and faithful friend. In and out of Parliament he will be missed by those who were his associates, and he will be remembered with no unkindly feelings by those to whom he was politically opposed. We take leave of him with regret. Upon this occasion we do not think it necessary to move any formal Resolution, but we do nevertheless offer to his family and to all who are mourning him a sympathy which is both profound and sincere.