[Editor: This article, about Lord Brassey and his visit to Sydney, was published in The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, NSW), 4 July 1887.]
Arrival of Lord and Lady Brassey.
The yacht Sunbeam.
Welcome by the Naval Artillery Volunteers.
Lord Brassey arrived in Port Jackson from Melbourne yesterday in his steam yacht the Sunbeam The yacht entered the Heads early in the morning, and anchored in Watson’s Bay, where it was visited during the forenoon by a party from Government House, consisting of Lord and Lady Carrington, Colonel St. Quintin, Mr. Wallington, Mr. L. D. Cunliffe, and Lady Brassey and her three daughters, who had come overland, and now rejoined the Sunbeam. In the afternoon the yacht got under weigh and steamed slowly up the harbour, and when near Bradley’s Head was met by the Naval Artillery Volunteers in their boats, under Commander Lee, this welcome being tendered to Lord Brassey as the head of the Naval Artillery Volunteer movement in England. A number of yachts and sailing boats accompanied the Sunbeam to Farm Cove, where she dropped anchor. The volunteers were then invited on board, and were hospitably received by Lord and Lady Brassey. The lively scene in Farm Cove was witnessed from the shore by some thousands of spectators, and when Lord Brassey and his family went ashore at man-o’-war steps, on their way to Government House, they were heartily cheered by the people.
The visit of Lord Brassey is an event of considerable interest to the people of any colony founded as this has been by the maritime power of England, and vitally concerned in the maintenance of that power. Lord Brassey’s political career is intimately associated with the effort which has been made of late years to arouse the nation to a proper sense of the danger of defective arms of defence, whether ashore or afloat. The defects of the English army and navy are attributed in the last place to that laxity which was a consequence of our successes in the earlier wars of the century; and in the next place, and in a much larger degree, to the pernicious results of party government. It is very strange, indeed, that questions of such immense importance as the armed defence of the interests of the Empire, and the fitness of the army and navy to defend those interests, should be made subject to the paltry convenience of personal ambition and party politics. Lord Brassey belongs to a school of what truly may be termed patriots, that aims at wiping away this state of affairs, or, at the least, counteracting its consequences. Their motive principle has been very clearly and shortly expressed in the words of Lord George Francis Hamilton, who, as First Lord of the Admiralty in the Salisbury Cabinet of 1885, made a great effort to bring about many essential reforms. The evils then attacked had been foreseen for many years, and it was as long ago as 1868 that Lord George Hamilton urged the policy on which he latterly acted in these terms:— “It would be better to leave no army at all than one in an inefficient state; and it would be nothing short of madness to allow our navy, which provides the most gigantic commence the world has ever seen, to degenerate into a state unequal to cope with the navies of other countries.” This reads like ordinary common sense, pure and simple. Yet politics have reached such a stage in England that the dictates of ordinary common sense in naval and military policy can only be enforced by long and bitter struggles, and not always even then. It is in these struggles that men like Lord George Hamilton become the true friends of the nation. This is the struggle in which Lord Brassey also has been engaged; and he extends his watch from the most delicate question of naval policy to the personal comfort of the humblest bluejacket. Among the many voices now complaining of the weakness of the navy is also that of a warm friend of the colonies, Lord Charles Beresford, whose statements recently caused a strong sensation. They hold that the truest service to the country is to firmly expose defects so that they may be remedied, and to fearlessly attack the abuse and corruption which would destroy the efficiency of any system in the world.
Lord Brassey comes of a very ancient Norman family of the name of De Bressy, whose English representative held lands in Wilts and Cheshire during the time of William I. His father was an eminent engineer and contractor, Mr. Thomas Brassey, who was well-known and popular all over Europe. Mr. Brassey’s name was prominently brought forward in connection with the military railway built at Balaclava during the Crimean war; as the firm to which he belonged — Sir Morton Peto, Brassey, and Betts — were the contractors for its construction. Lord Brassey is the eldest son, and is about 52 years of age. He was born in Staffordshire, and was educated at Rugby, whence he went to Oxford and entered the University College. In 1859 he graduated as B.A., and in 1862 he obtained his M.A. Three years after this — in 1865 — he was returned to Parliament as a Liberal by the electors of Devonport. During the next year he was called to the bar at Lincoln’s Inn. From 1868 to 1886, he represented Hastings; and, on the accession of the Gladstone Cabinet of 1880, he was appointed a Civil Lord of the Admiralty, and was made a K.C.B. He held that post from April 1880, down to November 1884, when he was appointed secretary to the Admiralty, a post for which he is admitted to have been eminently fitted. Among the large subjects which engaged his attention, he always found consideration for the personnel of the navy, and he gave much time to promoting the efficiency of our seamen; in striving to improve their social and material conditions, and in raising their individual character. His first important step in Parliament was taken in sympathy with these objects, when in 1869 he seconded and supported a motion for an inquiry into the labour laws. During the early part of 1876 he read an important paper at the Royal United Service Institution on the question “How best to improve and keep up the seamen of the country.” This subject was so ably dealt with, and the proposals made were so important, that the paper was fully discussed by many of the highest authorities, and it aroused a great deal of interest. Prior to this, however, he had entered on the task of increasing the efficient strength of the British navy, and in 1871 he commenced a series of lectures on naval administration, in which he has dealt with the defence of the commercial harbours, and the desirability for decentralising the management of the dockyards. Lord Brassey’s views on the policy of shipbuilding are of value to these colonies, as he strongly supports the current objections to the adoption of extreme dimensions in vessels of war. He was instrumental in obtaining the appointment of a Royal Commission on Marine Insurance in 1875, and he is a member of the Royal Commissions on unseaworthy ships, and the defence of the coaling stations, appointed in 1874 and 1875 respectively. He seconded a motion by Mr. Chaplin, in 1879, for the appointment of a Royal Commission on agriculture.
Lord Brassey’s high and responsible position at the Admiralty brought him in direct contact with the difficult question of the efficiency and inefficiency of the British navy. He had to deal with a naval policy which has been described as a policy of doing as little as possible, and doing that little late; a policy of extravagant expenditure in the same of economy, a policy of much talk and much paper, with but little action and little fact behind it. While this bad policy has ruled English naval orders for many years, other nations have steadily increased their naval strength till the power of England has become seriously threatened, and it is the aim of Lord Brassey and his sympathisers to restore the balance of power in favour of the British flag. Outside of his active duties in Parliament, and his functions in the Admiralty, Lord Brassey has vigorously applied himself to the advancement of his views by the publication of various works, which deal very thoroughly with the subjects treated of. His well-known book on “The British Navy: Its Strength, Resources, and Administration,” was completed in 1883. It extends to five volumes, and is the most exhaustive work of its kind. It appeared at a time when the force of the naval defence question was powerfully felt by the English public, and when rumoured combinations of European powers emphasised the seriousness of the situation. Among his other publications are “Work and Wages,” “English Work and Foreign Wages,” “British Women,” “Lectures on the Labour Question,” and many pamphlets on political, economical, and naval topics. He continued his work at the Admiralty till the expiration of the last Parliament, when, at the general election in 1886, he withdrew from the representation of Hastings, and stood for one of the divisions of Liverpool as a Gladstonian Liberal. In this contest he was defeated, and on the retirement of the Gladstone Ministry, he was raised to the peerage. The present secretary of the Admiralty is Mr. Forward, a member for Liverpool. On several occasions during his sitting in the Commons Lord Brassey advocated the organisation of a further naval reserve force. He at length obtained the authority of the Admiralty for the enrolment of a second class reserve, for which the fishing population of the British coast would be eligible, and this force now reckons about 10,000 men. He was also an active advocate of the establishment of the Royal Naval Artillery Volunteers, in which he takes a keen interest, and he is honorary commander of the Liverpool Brigade of that force. The utility of this branch of the volunteer service was, to some extent, ignored in England, much as it has been with us, but Lord Brassey was the means of securing due recognition of it by initiating a conference of the naval and military authorities to define the duties of the Naval Volunteers in the defence of the coast and harbours. He is himself an expert navigator and practical sailor, and he handles his favourite yacht, the Sunbeam, as skilfully as many a naval officer. In 1873 he passed the voluntary examination instituted by the Board of Trade for yacht owners desirous of qualifying as master mariners, and he was the first yachtsman who obtained a master’s certificate from the Board of Trade. His yacht Sunbeam belongs to the Royal Yacht Squadron. Its voyages round the world have made its name famous, and have provided the material of those delightful books by Lady Brassey which are as well known to general readers as those of her husband are to the students of politics. These books include “A Voyage in the Sunbeam,” “Sunshine and Storm in the East,” and “In the Trades, the Tropics, and the Roaring Forties.” Lady Brassey was Miss Anne Allnut, an only daughter, and was married in 1860. She takes a deep interest in art and literature. One of her favourite social project is the extension of the operations of the St. John’s Ambulance Society. In addition to the public appointments already mentioned, Lord Brassey is a Brother of the Trinity House, an Associate of the Institute of Civil Engineers, and a governor of University College. He was the president of the Statistical Society in 1879-1880. Lord Brassey has with him on this voyage his three daughters — the Hon. Miss Mabelle, Miss Muriel, and Miss Marie Brassey, who came with their mother by the express from Melbourne. The Hon. Thomas A. Brassey, the only son of his Lordship, is expected to arrive within the next few days.
The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, NSW), 4 July 1887, p. 3
See also: Alex Hutchison, “Lord Brassey on Australian loyalty”, The Armidale Express, and New England General Advertiser (Armidale, NSW), 27 January 1888, p. 3
B.A. = Bachelor of Arts
the bar = barristers, in a collective sense (the expression “called to the Bar” means to become a barrister); the profession of a barrister (i.e. not including solicitors); the profession of a lawyer (in the USA)
See: 1) “Bar (law)”, Wikipedia
2) “Call to the bar”, Wikipedia
bluejacket = a sailor, especially a junior enlisted sailor (not a warrant officer or commissioned officer) in the British, British Commonwealth, or US navies
the Commons = the House of Commons (the lower house of the parliament of the United Kingdom)
Empire = in the context of early Australia, the British Empire
Gladstonian Liberal = a supporter of William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898), a Liberal politician who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom for four terms (1868-1874, 1880-1885, February to July 1886, 1892-1894)
See: “William Ewart Gladstone”, Wikipedia
Government House = the official residence and offices of a Governor-General, Governor, or Lieutenant-Governor (especially in a country, state, or province of the British Commonwealth), often used as a venue for hosting official functions
Hon. = an abbreviation of “honourable”, especially used as a style to refer to government ministers, or as a courtesy to members of parliament (as a style, it is commonly capitalised, e.g. “the Hon. Member”)
K.C.B. = Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
See: “Order of the Bath”, Wikipedia
Lord Brassey = Thomas Brassey, 1st Earl Brassey (1836-1918), a British Liberal Party politician, and Governor of Victoria (1895-1900); he was born in Stafford (England), and died in England in 1918
See: 1) B. R. Penny, “Brassey, Thomas (1836–1918)”, Australian Dictionary of Biography
2) “Thomas Brassey, 1st Earl Brassey”, Wikipedia
M.A. = Master of Arts (a master’s degree awarded by universities, usually given for studies in the area of the humanities and social sciences)
peerage = the aristocracy, the nobility, the peers of a country; in the context of the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth, peers are those who belong to any of the five classes of the nobility, being those who are entitled to the ranks of Duke or Duchess, Marquess or Marchioness, Earl or Countess, Viscount or Viscountess, Baron or Baroness (Baronets, although commonly regarded as part of the British aristocracy, are not part of the nobility or peerage)
See: 1) “Peerages in the United Kingdom”, Wikipedia
2) “Australian peers and baronets”, Wikipedia
[Editor: Changed “who was well known” to who was well-known” (added a hyphen, in line with the usage later in the same article); “respectively, He seconded” to “respectively. He seconded”; “Ite voyages round” to “Its voyages round”.]