HL Deb 24 January 1956 vol 195 cc479-520

2.37 p.m.


My Lords, my noble friend the Leader of the House, Lord Salisbury, would have wished beyond everything to be in his place today to express the sense of grief and loss which is felt by the whole of your Lordships' House at the death of Dr. Garbett. Archbishop of York. Lord Salisbury could have paid his tribute as a friend of long standing and as one who over many years had heard from these Benches the wise and direct counsel with which Dr. Garbett enlightened and enriched our debates. Inevitably, my Lords, my experience must be more recent and less intimate, but yet it was no time before, like many another. I found myself falling under the spell of his personality and beginning to understand why he was so individually loved as a man, so widely recognised as a true and powerful Churchman, and so universally acclaimed as a great Archbishop and statesman. From our own judgment we know that he was all that—and more, because when he spoke in this House on matters of national and international importance his was the authentic voice of the British people.

Where lay the secret of his unrivalled authority? His contemporaries and friends all testify that he was supremely good with the individual. He would mix with all and sundry. In country or town, in field or factory, he was equally at home and he would apply his sympathetic and inquiring mind to the problems which were brought to him by the people—problems personal, social and economic. Because he was possessed of absolute integrity and a high degree of common sense he won the confidence of everybody; and because he had a clear mind which he applied to the possible, and was possessed of great administrative abilities, he carried conviction. His work in parish and diocese lives as a telling memorial to the success of a practical administrator.

But others have had these qualities, and more is needed to explain the instant devotion and the lifelong loyalty which he drew from people, even on the most casual acquaintance. Perhaps part of the attraction lay in the stern, unbending standard of conduct which he set for himself. The sight of a man who is strong and secure and rejoices in his faith brings courage to others; and here, if ever, was a public witness to the good Christian life. But here, too, was one who, though he was armed himself with the strength of certainty, nevertheless was filled with comprehension of the difficulties and doubts of lesser men; and one who was always ready to draw on the reserves of his strength in order to help others along. It was perhaps this blend of strength, gentleness and humour—always that was there—which made him a natural and trusted leader of men through university and parish, Diocese and See.

But, my Lords, further afield as well. In the last twelve years of the life of the Archbishop, when other men would have been content to rest on their laurels—and who had more than he?—he travelled the world. In Europe, throughout the Commonwealth and in America his name became a household word and his advice commanded attention. But it was this House, and through it the country, which benefited most from his expanding experience. Whatever the subject, it was subjected to that same penetrating analysis that so many of us have heard so often—no frills and no padding. He would apply his mind to the business of the clay, and none of us was ever left in doubt as to his meaning. As your Lordships will remember, he was always constructive in his speeches, but there were two qualities in all of them which were constant and compelling: his ability to establish first principles and to argue from them, and to be direct, incisive and convincing. Then he had that rare courage, the courage which, whatever the circumstances, has no fear of the truth.

So to-day, my Lords, the Church and the nation and Parliament have lost a devoted servant, a man of stature and a man of distinction. For this House, in particular, to-day is a day of mourning, but it is also a day of gratitude, for there is not one of us who does not feel stronger and more resolute by the knowledge of the life of this triumphant Christian crusader.

2.46 p.m.


My Lords, I desire to associate my colleagues and myself with the touching and eloquent tribute paid to our colleague in this House who has departed. The occasion of the passing of a most reverend Primate from your Lordships' House is one of great moment, not only to his Church but to the whole nation. In this country of ours we have a devotion to a certain religion and to a way of life which has been nurtured and guarded for centuries by those who have been leaders of our Church. I say, as a Free Churchman, that on the maintenance of such a Church, with such a mission, and in spite of all criticism outside, depends to a very great extent the future of our nation and our Commonwealth. To my mind, the influence of the Bible upon ourselves and upon all the nations who now go to make up the Commonwealth has been almost indescribable.

When we lose a leader of the Church we must ask ourselves how such a man came to be a leader in all the great holy issues which are so important for us. I am fascinated when I read the story of Dr. Garbett. He was a grammar-school boy at Portsmouth—a grammar-school boy of whom I first heard on my visits to Portsmouth in 1929, when I was at the Admiralty, for he had, in my experience, a unique record in the Christian ministry. He went almost straight from the university, where he won a scholarship and took an honours degree, to Portsea parish church, as a curate. And what an illustration it is of the humility of tie man that he stayed there as curate for nine years, serving, a place that he knew, associating with people that he knew and to whom he wished so much good. Then he remained there as vicar until 1919 and had no other parish charge until he was elevated to his first great post at Southwark.

It was in Southwark where the working-class people of this country came to know something of those qualities on the social side which have been hinted at by the noble Earl. I have been talking during only the last few days to my old friend Mr. George Isaacs—still at the age of seventy-three the Member for the borough of Southwark—and he said to me: "We shall never forget in Southwark what the work he did as Bishop meant to our borough, especially in relation to his important work, on the great Southwark housing survey." He did his work because he believed that to raise the standard of life of the people was the Master's work. I do not know so much of his work at Winchester. I met him for the first time at Athens, in 1946, when I was on my way back from India and he happened to be lunching at the residence of the British Ambassador in Athens at that time; and we discussed many things across the table.

Since then, for only a brief period of five or six years, I, together with your Lordships, have seen something of the contribution that he has made to the life of this House as well as to the concentrated, intensive studies we try to make here. I have not always agreed with him but I have always admired him. I admired him, first of all, for his humility, and for his courage in stating his convictions—a quality so often possessed by those who have true humility. I admired him, above all, for what I have heard from my long association with Yorkshire at Sheffield—for the way in which he has kept touch at all times with the common people, in all parts of the countryside, in his great church up there.

We shall miss him very much and we grieve his loss in this House. The Church will be much the loser in his departure. I think the best thing we can do at this time, while his memory remains sweet and reverent in our minds, is to pray that there may be raised up for him a successor worthy to carry on the great work.

2.52 p.m.


My Lords, it happens all too frequently when some well-loved Member of your Lordships' House dies that there appears to be inadequate opportunity to pay the tribute, at least in public, which many of us feel we should like to pay. On the other hand, it sometimes happens that public tribute, and indeed sincere tribute, is paid to some eminent servant of the State who may, by circumstance alone, be little known as an individual or as a personal friend to a large number of your Lordships. On this sad occasion, however, we record both a collective regret and a personal sorrow at the absence from our midst of an eminent and able Primate, and at the same time a colleague and a friend whom we shall sorely miss. Direct both in thought and in speech, he was never inflexible in his approach. He was always human and humane; he was never ruthless or illiberal, and he was never unwilling to consider with sympathy, and often with humour, the opinions of those who might occasionally differ from him. We on these Benches sincerely and sorsowfully join in these words of regret and of admiration for a fine man, a fine leader and an irreplaceable friend.

2.53 p.m.


My Lords, I am personally grateful for all the words that have been said this afternoon in which have been portrayed the shining characteristics of Cyril Garbett. In churches all over the country, and in the language of the Church, this Church of England has been paying tribute to him, both for itself and for the nation, and has been offering faithful thanksgiving to Almighty God for the qualities and the power, expressed here this afternoon, of his Christian character and of his Christian leadership. The most moving funeral service in York Minster, and the great services in Southwark Cathedral and in Winchester Cathedral, mark out the three main chapters of his episcopal ministry.

One of the surprising things about this great man is the fact that the last chapter, when he was a septuagenarian, was the most vigorous, prolific and fruitful of them all. In Southwark, wedded to his shy graces, it was the strength of his character, of his moral force and of his severe discipline upon himself and upon everybody else that most impressed the Church and people. In Winchester, wedded to his strength, it was perhaps the flourishing graces of his character which most impressed. There he was able, for the first time after Portsea and Southwark, to give time to develop his keen interests in books, in art, in the countryside and, above all, in friendship. There, he could indulge to the full his passion to explore everything. He had an insatiable desire to know all he could about everything that came to his notice; and he went out to meet new challenges of thought or experience, and to travel, as your Lordships have been reminded, both in space and in spirit.

So he came to York, for thirteen memorable years of his Archiepiscopate; and there everything, the strength of Southwark and the graces of Winchester, came to their full fruition. After he was seventy he travelled more than ever. If I may venture on a personal memory, I may tell your Lordships that after every one of his apostolic journeys he would come back and talk to me, and say. "Well, that is the last journey I shall ever do; I am too old for any more." But I knew perfectly well what would happen. Five or six months later, with that kind of shy impudence of the schoolboy which he never lost, he would say, "I have never been to so-and-so. I have always had a great desire to see some famous object there. Perhaps I might undertake just one more journey." This became a regular habit. Waiting for the next journey never ceased to exhilarate him. And so he went on and on, to the very year in which he died, for his last journey was to revisit, after forty years, Greece and the Holy Land. The problems of the Holy Land had always had a deep and abiding place in his concerns.

Not only did he travel more, but he wrote more. I once counted up all the books he had written: at Southwark, practically nothing, except some slight observances on parish work; at Winchester, a certain amount, but not a great deal; then he went to York, where he wrote books which will endure for a long time to come—this astonishing progress of vigour and vitality as his life went on. And at York I think he spoke to the public and was listened to by the public, more than ever before. All that came in the last decade of his life; and, as has been said this afternoon, with increasing years his undoubted and unquestioned authority grew.

Here, in the House of Lords, he was peculiarly at home. He enjoyed every moment he spent in and about this Chamber. It began when he was at Southwark. In his Oxford days he had been a keen and passionate student of the social problems of that time, and in speaking about them he had become President of the Union. At Southwark, these very problems pressed hard on his conscience and awoke in him to the full the crusading and reforming zeal which he never lost. Indeed, it was in Southwark, when he had plenty to do elsewhere, that he formed the habit of dropping into the House of Lords whenever he could, and particularly to listen here to the well-informed speeches on social problems and allied topics which were his special concern. So it was that he grew to become a regular speaker on social problems in this House, such as housing (a subject which remained if his interest to the end of his life), road casualties—in fact, anything which concerned the lives and spiritual welfare of our people.

And as his life grew on, his range of informed knowledge grew as well, so that in his speeches he was able to embrace all the torturing field of international relations and such world problems as the feeding of the world as its population increases—a problem which had a special place in his speeches here and in his knowledge. I know how, when he went to York, he took special trouble to see that he did not lose that habit of attendance at the House of Lords and of speaking here. It was part of his duty, as of mine, to spend not less than three weeks every year sitting in the Church Assembly. If I absented myself, he had to take the Chair and had to keep me informed throughout. I know how often he would say, "Perhaps I might slip off this afternoon to the House of Lords"; and more often than not he was here instead of in the Church Assembly—for which I did not necessarily blame him at all. As your Lordships know, he was always well informed when he spoke, always direct and forceful, always outspoken in his denunciation of the insincere, the muddle-headed and the cowardly. And, as has been said this afternoon, he always did his utmost to be constructive and to point a way forward in faith and hope.

My Lords, we have tried to say a word or two about one who held our deepest affection and respect. He enjoyed it not only here but throughout the nation. As he cared for them, he spoke for them. As he cared for truth, he spoke always for truth. As he cared for the Church of England and the Catholic Faith above all earthly things, he lived every day strenuously and gloriously in their service And at the right time, before he could be crippled by illness or frustrated by infirmity, which he would have hated, he passes from us—a great man and a beloved friend.

  2. cc488-9
  4. c489
  5. SEXUAL OFFENCES BILL [H.L.] 99 words
  6. cc489-90
  8. cc490-4
  10. cc495-520
  11. COERCIVE ACTION (RELIEF) BILL [H.L.] 10,174 words, 1 division
  12. c520
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