HL Deb 12 July 1921 vol 45 cc1032-7

My Lords, I had intended on Thursday last to say a few words, at the commencement of business, on the deplorably sudden death of Lord Balfour of Burleigh, which had occurred on the evening before. Unfortunately, in the brief interval that elapsed between my leaving the House after taking my seat and returning to this bench, I found that public business had begun, and that another noble Lord was already addressing your Lordships. I hope, however, that it is not too late to say a word or two about the noble Lord who, for the best part of half a century, was one of our most powerful and influential members, and who was highly esteemed in every quarter of this House.

If ever there was a man framed by nature and shaped by practice and experience to exercise an influence upon public and administrative affairs, it was the late Lord Balfour of Burleigh. Possessed of a dignified and imposing appearance, a courteous and conciliatory manner, an eminently judicial mind and inexhaustible patience and industry, he seemed to be one of those men designed by Providence to regulate and adjudicate the affairs of their fellow men. I suppose that the noble Lord, in the course of his public life, presided over more Committees and Commissions than any man of his time. If ever there was an industrial or a commercial or a financial dispute that seemed difficult of solution, he was pointed out as the man to solve it. He was, in fact, a born arbitrator, a predestined umpire, and, had the chances of life taken him into the legal profession, I conceive that. he would have made a very eminent Judge. More especially was he concerned in questions that related to differences between employers and employed, and in these cases, where he gave his services, as he was always ready to do, gratuitously, he regarded it as part of his obligation to the State. At the same time, Lord Balfour was possessed of a singularly independent mind, and showed himself ready on more than one occasion in his career to make no small sacrifice in pursuance of the convictions which he so sincerely held.

He had, indeed, all the best qualities of the famous and formidable race from which he sprung; shrewd perception, long vision, tenacity of purpose. It would not be unfair to describe him as a great Scotsman, and I believe that during the time he occupied the post of Secretary for Scotland, he was one of the best incumbents of that office that have been known. Lord Balfour showed how a man without any conspicuous advantages, except those with which nature and training had endowed him, without any theatrical display—for he was an essentially unostentatious man—and without aspiring to the highest office, could yet, by the exercise of sound judgment and by a high sense of public duty, become one of the most useful public men of the day.

In this House We recall Lord Balfour's constant attendance, and his frequent and fruitful participation in our debates. We have often seen him in the Chairman's seat there, discharging his duties to the acceptance of all; and there is not one of us who does not look with almost a pang of sorrow upon the corner seat of the bench opposite, where he so constantly sat, watchful and ready at any moment to guide and advise his fellow Peers—altogether a very admirable man. I feel that the country has lost one of its most useful public servants, and that this House has lost one of its most esteemed and honoured members; and in offering this inadequate tribute to his memory, I ask you, my Lords, to permit me to tender our united and sincere condolences to his widow and family.


My Lords, I greatly regret that the unavoidable absence of the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, prevents you from hearing, in phrases the felicity of which I cannot rival, an expression of how deeply and sincerely we upon these benches, who did not always agree with the political opinions of the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, feel and share in the sentiments to which the noble Marquess, the Leader of the House, has just given such effective and such impressive utterance. It was impossible for any one to come into the slightest and most casual contact with Lord Balfour without being impressed by his sagacity, his courage, his devotion to duty, and his reverent observation of truth; but I think it may be that there were many who had only felt the influence of his dominating presence and of his vigorous voice, who would not realise so quickly the kindliness, patience and gentleness which were just as marked characteristics of the man. Nor do I think that even the shortest tribute to his memory would be complete unless some reference were made to his touching and undeviating devotion to his native country. There was no Scotsman, however poor, and no Scottish institution, however obscure, but was certain of the zealous advocacy of Lord Balfour, if once they could satisfy him that the shadow of injustice had crossed their path. To me it often seemed as though he retained some of the qualities of the mould in which he had been shaped, and that in Lord Balfour you could realise some feeling of the steadfastness of the Scottish hills and the invigoration of the moorland wind.

His memory will remain with each and all of us as long as memory is retained, and I think that whenever we do recall him we shall unconsciously being back to our minds words which have been familiar to us from boyhood, and which none the less, as they seem to me to be the exact epitome of the man, your Lordships will perhaps permit me to repeat Justum et tenacenm propositi viram Non civium ardor pram jubentium, Non vultus instantis tyranni Mente quatit solida Si fractus inlabatur orbis, Impavidum ferient ruina. These are qualities of which this nation at this hour stands in peculiar need, and it is therefore not only with the sense of personal loss, which each of us feels, not only with the sense of the loss to this Assembly, which is very great, but also with the sense of the great loss which this nation has suffered, that I desire to associate myself with what has been said by the noble Lord.


My Lords, I feel that it is almost intrusive On my part to add a word to what has been said with remarkable force, lucidity, eloquence and pathos by the two noble Lords who have addressed you, but on the basis of a friendship of fifty-three years, and of a quarter of a century of fellowship in public work with Lord Balfour of Burleigh, I ask to be allowed simply to add a single word to the testimony which has been already borne. During the twenty-five years in which I have been allowed to participate in public affairs, I have never failed, I think, in any question of moral, social and educational well-being in which I have felt bound to bear my part, to look to him to for some word of counsel, it may be of warning, or it may be of stimulus, and I have never looked to him in vain. He was not a member of the Church of England, but in everything that affected the welfare of the Church in which I hold a responsible position I found him an unfailing adviser and friend; and with regard to the Church in which he was perhaps the foremost ornament of our time, in the General Assembly and elsewhere, I look with grateful recollection to the thought that he reciprocated that relationship, and that I, not once or twice, or even twenty times, but constantly, had the privilege of attempting to be his counsellor as well as his friend.

The testimony which has been borne to him to-night, and the status which in the eyes of all men he had attained in this country, constitute, I think, an example of the position which can be reached by a man of absolute probity, of untiring public spirit., and of quite remarkable straightforwardness and simplicity in his handling of affairs, all based upon an unfailing and, when need called for it, outspoken expression of the religious basis upon which his life was lived. I feel that we have indeed suffered a loss which it is difficult to express in words, and which is suffered with peculiar pathos at the hour when one of the very efforts to which he devoted more than twenty years of steady work was, so far as this House is concerned, about to reach its consummation and fulfilment. That the House, in all its parts, will concur in the testimony which has been borne to a great man I have no doubt whatever, and I should like to join in that testimony with these few words.


My Lords, I desire to add a very few words to what has been so well said with regard to Lord Balfour of Burleigh. We all deplore his loss. The one dominant characteristic of his life was his strong sense of public duty. No man ever earned more profound respect; no one ever achieved more implicit trust; and I think I may say that few have ever inspired greater affection than Lord Balfour of Burleigh. What has been said with regard to Lord Balfour might be said by all the members of the House, from whatever part of the United Kingdom they come, but it has a special force for those who, like myself, come from his own country of Scotland. I may say with truth that on his death every Scotsman had a feeling of personal loss. He had so identified himself with the country, and he had so worthily represented it, that we all feel that his death is indeed a catastrophe.

To one aspect of his end special allusion has been made. It was the fortune of Lord Balfour of Burleigh, like other leaders, to bring his followers within sight of the promised land, but not to enter it. A measure is coming up to your Lordships' House in which Lord Balfour took the profoundest interest. It is one that affects the country he loved so well, and it is one which affects that country in those matters which were nearest to Lord Balfour's heart. He has fallen within sight of the full achievement of what he purposed; he has left behind him a memory that Scotland will not willingly let die.


My Lords, were it not that I have, during the past two years, been in very intimate association with my dead friend, I should leave to those eloquent voices which your Lordships have just heard the expression of the sorrow of this House. Probably the last letter that Lord Balfour wrote was to myself. He asked my co-operation and consultation with him on a matter seriously affecting the higher learning of Scotland. I was about to put pen to paper to reply when I learned of his serious illness, and on the following morning came the sad announcement of his death.

Reference has been made by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House to the association of Lord Balfour with the Scottish Office. It is for that reason that I venture to interpose these few words of homage. It was my fortune to be for four or five years inside that Office. I assure your Lordships that, having had much experience of the inside of administrative offices, I have never known a record so pure, a record of administrative service so effective and of such high value for the Department, as the record which Lord Balfour of Burleigh has imprinted upon the history of that Office. I wish, in presence of your Lordships, to give this testimony with all the greater candour because, as Lord Balfour and I both recognised, we had been fighting each other nearly half of our lives.

There are two things which Scotland loves in her public men. She loves men of principle, and she loves men of patriotism. Lord Balfour of Burleigh—and in this I associate myself with the most rev. Primate—was, in the deepest sense; a man of principle, and those deeper springs of conduct were in him perennial; and I do not know, even while I differed from him most, any occasion in all his life which I could attribute to anything but this: that he saw the truth from a different point of view from my own, but both of us were in search of the truth. The late noble Lord was a friend of all good causes, because he loved the good. He was a friend and servant of his country, because he loved his country. From Solway to the Shetlands to-day Scotland mourns, and it mourns because it has lost a typical Scotsman, with the best characteristics of his race, and the best record of a life spent for his country.

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