― 327 ―

27. Chapter XXVII In Australia Once More

ON June 30th, 1913, His Majesty visited our battle-cruiser, the Australia, then lying at Portsmouth, before departing for her station as flagship in the Southern Seas. The visit was a strictly private one, as the King was, I believe, anxious thoroughly to inspect without ceremony the latest product of the naval genius of the Empire. The Prince of Wales went down with His Majesty, who graciously invited me to go too. The only great official commanded for the occasion was the Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth, Sir Hedworth Meux, who is one of the new members of the House of Commons. I had looked forward to the visit with rather anxious feelings, because I was not at all fitted for the task of inspecting every part of a modern battleship. However, with that kindliness and tact which never seem to fail, the King placed me in the care of the Commander-in-Chief on the main deck, where a massive capstan of my own circumference proved a friend in need.

An unusual honour was conferred upon our first Commander-in-Chief, Rear-Admiral Patey, who was knighted on the quarter-deck.

A few weeks later, on July 24th, the King gave a further proof of his cordial good will for his Australian Dominion by laying the foundation stone of Australia

  ― 328 ―
House, our new offices in the Strand. Her Majesty, bringing with her Princess Mary, also honoured the ceremony with her presence. It was a beautiful day. The streets along which the Royal progress was made were thronged with spectators, who cheered Their Majesties heartily. A most interesting group of spectators crowded the improvised pavilion. I presented to Their Majesties Lady Reid and my daughter Thelma—from whom the Queen was graciously pleased to accept a bouquet; next the Agents-General; then the Chief Justice, Sir Samuel Griffith; and the Official Secretary. I presented an address to the King, of which the following was the closing paragraph:

“I feel I need not remind your Majesty that this new building will proclaim something more than the industrial growth of Australia. It will also testify to the increasing intimacy and harmony of the political relationship between the Mother and the Daughter lands. Some ties have gone, but the ties that really do unite Britain and the Dominions beyond the seas—mutual betterment, pride of race, grandeur of tradition, glory of achievement, loyalty to the Throne, a resolve to stand shoulder to shoulder when our King calls—all these remain, and they are strengthened by the flight of time.”

Photograph facing p.328. Queen Mary

The King, having accepted the address, which was illuminated on a purple silk scroll, replied as follows:

“It gives me much pleasure, and not less pleasure to the Queen, who accompanies me, to be present on this interesting occasion for the purpose of laying the foundation stone of the new offices of the Commonwealth Government in London. I congratulate

  ― 329 ―
the Commonwealth on the acquisition of this splendid site and on the noble structure which it is proposed to erect upon it. When completed it will take its place as a worthy and welcome addition to the buildings which adorn the centre of the Empire, and it will not only serve those useful purposes for which it is designed, but will also call to the mind of all who pass by the immense opportunities and limitless resources of the great continent under the Southern Cross. I cherish the most happy recollections of my two visits to Australia in 1881 and 1901, and of the warmth of the reception accorded to me in all the States on both occasions. My second visit remains to both of us an inspiring memory, when I was deputed by my dear father to inaugurate the first Parliament of the Commonwealth. Nothing can gratify me more than the testimony which you bear to the growing sense of kinship and unity which pervades the self-governing communities of the Empire, and to those indissoluble ties which knit them to one another and to my Throne.

“I am well assured that, as in the past, in any national emergency Australia will be ready to play her part for the common cause, and that the loyalty of her sons will never be appealed to in vain.”

After the reference to the “indissoluble ties” which bind the self-governing communities to the Throne, the King had to wait, which he did smilingly, for what seemed to be fully a minute before the tumult of applause subsided sufficiently to permit him to continue his reply.

  ― 330 ―

The King and Queen were highly gratified, as the Secretary of State telegraphed to me later in the day.

At one stage of the proceedings His Majesty smiled broadly. Some people thought I had indulged in a joke. The fact was that in the excitement of the moment my tongue got back to the courts far away, where I had practised for so many years, and I addressed the King as “Your Honour”! On a previous occasion I had amused King Edward by the beginning of a similar blunder. I had begun to address His Majesty as “Your Excellency,” when I suddenly recovered myself before finishing the word. I got as far as “Your Ex—”

My proposal to the Government in connection with Australia House was a more modest one than that adopted. I suggested buying the whole of the existing Strand frontage to a depth of about 70 feet. A building on that site would have left a small estimated loss (under £5,000 a year) on the transaction. When the Prime Minister, Mr. Batchelor and Senator Pearce, and the delegation of members of the Federal Parliament visited the site, they were so pleased with it that the question went round, “Why not take the whole block?” And we did take the whole block. There will be a large lettable space to reduce the annual charges; but the War and the abstention of five of the States will make the figures look very bad for a long time to come.

Having been accorded leave of absence for the purpose of visiting Australia, I arranged to sail on September 12th, with Lady Reid, our daughter, and

  ― 331 ―
two sons, in the Otranto, another of the fine new mail steamers belonging to the Orient Company.

I have had a great many compliments in the course of a long public career, but one of the least expected and most welcome of them was offered me, in the shape of a luncheon before my departure, at which I was asked to be the guest of the British Press. This event took place at the Trocadero on September 8th.

When leaving London for the Tilbury Docks we had an adventure which might have ended badly. We were on the platform talking to a large number of friends. No whistle sounded, and no warning was given. Suddenly the train began to move away. Our compartment was some distance ahead. I began to run, so did my wife and children; but the train was going faster and faster, and but for some friends who helped us, my attempt to enter the carriage might have ended fatally. I had not attempted to run during the previous twenty years, and had never done so foolish a thing in “catching” a train before. It did not prove to be a bad omen, because it was the only approach to an accident during the whole trip.

There is no voyage which gives one so impressive a series of proofs of the position of Great Britain as a World Power as that between England and Australia.

The British Channel, Gibraltar, the Mediterranean, Port Said, the Suez Canal, the Indian Ocean, Colombo, the South Pacific, and Australia, and the vessels that steam over those seas, reveal the supremacy of the White Ensign, and of the Red Ensign too.

  ― 332 ―

Any Power seeking to rise to the first place amongst the nations must feel sore at this universal lordship of the waterways of mankind, backed up as it is by such a splendid empire on four continents.

A long sea voyage is the greatest enjoyment the world can offer me, especially if some of my fellow passengers can play bridge! I don't know any combination of science, and contrivance, and forethought for human comfort, which equals a first-class ocean liner. The weather was beautiful, the passengers were numerous, and there were no tremendous swells, real or make believe, to disturb the complacency of the ordinary traveller.

When I left Australia in 1910 I had to give up many valued intimacies, and cut myself off from a generous body of supporters in all parts of the Commonwealth and from the electors of East Sydney, who only rejected me once, and then I deserved it.

When I reached Fremantle a legion of pleasant memories leaped out of their brain cells and became part of my active life again.

My outlook upon the world and its affairs—the Empire and its interests—had become, I hope, larger and clearer; but nothing I had seen or learned had lessened my love for Australia and Australians, or the ardour of my desire for their continued progress and prosperity. In every part of Australia I met opponents who were generous enough to greet me with cordiality. Of course, stronger feelings were revived when I met my old political friends and supporters, and when I addressed Australian audiences again.

  ― 333 ―

In the short time we had in Adelaide we managed to do several pleasant things. We lunched with the Governor and Lady Bosanquet; went on to a large garden party given by the Mayor, who happened to be a son of one of my old friends, Sir Langdon Bonython; and then went to the seaside to visit Sir Samuel Way, the Chief Justice, who was not very well. He was one of the most agreeable hosts in Australia. His record as a Chief Justice, if we may judge from the way in which the Privy Council supported his judgments, was very high. The number of important duties he performed as a good citizen, his overflowing courtesy and geniality to everybody, great or humble, his unfeigned goodness, and his youthful old age, taken together, made him the “Grand Old Man” of South Australia. I associate with his name numberless proofs of a friendship that became affectionate.

Proceeding to Melbourne, we landed on October 20th. My last look at the Otranto, for the time, was like that of many ocean-goers—a curious mixture of regret at leaving the ship and pleasure at arriving in port.

The Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Mr. (afterwards Sir) J. D. Hennessy, invited me to the Town Hall, where a large number of people had assembled, including the Prime Minister, Mr. Joseph Cook; the leader of the Federal Opposition, Mr. Andrew Fisher; Mr. William Elliot Johnson, the Federal Speaker; Mr. Alfred Deakin; Sir John Forrest, and many others. Nothing could exceed the warmth with which the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, and the Chief

  ― 334 ―
Secretary of Victoria, Mr. Murray, referred to my efforts as High Commissioner worthily to represent the Commonwealth in London.

Thus was begun an unbroken series of kindly demonstrations of goodwill. I am not ashamed to confess that even if my efforts were overpraised that fact did not at all diminish my gratitude.

Naturally my thoughts turned most to the people of the State and the city where I had lived for so many years, and whose backing had enabled me to rise to the position of prominence I had reached. If any man ought to be grateful to New South Wales and Sydney I ought to be.

Of course, I went to the Melbourne Cup. The wonderful way in which the whole show is regulated beats everything else of the same kind anywhere. The Epsom course in England is a primitive affair by comparison. The Victorian Racing Club Committee, whose Chairman Mr. R. G. Casey has been for years, has, in Mr. Byron Moore, a Secretary whose taste has made the central features of the display effective far beyond anything else of the kind I have seen. The Cup Dinner given at Government House is one of the chief functions of the kind in Victoria. Lady Reid and I were among the guests of the Governor-General and Lady Dudley. The banquet at the Town Hall on November 9th attracted a big gathering. The Lord Mayor made an excellent chairman. The speeches were interesting. The success of after-dinner speakers is more largely owing to the glow of the “inner man” in those who listen than to the excellence of the speeches. I ought to be a good judge in both capacities.

  ― 335 ―

We went on to my old home. A great many things had happened to me since I left Sydney about three years before. I had seen many great spectacles at the centre of things in the Old World in those three years, but the return to Sydney seemed to blot out everything but old and pleasant memories.

The Lord Mayor gave a great banquet to me, to which a very distinguished company was invited. Before the dinner there was a reception which enabled me to shake hands with a large number of old friends and supporters.

I had the pleasure of visiting several of the leading towns of New South Wales—Newcastle, Armidale, Bathurst, and Goulburn.

Newcastle is one of the great coal ports of the world. Its harbour is generally full of shipping from all parts of the world. The ships then in port were decorated with bunting when I arrived—a fine sight! My eldest brother John—whom I greatly loved—was in business there as a shipping agent for many years. His two sons, John and Mark, succeeded him. I am very proud of these two nephews of mine, also those in Melbourne, Sydney, Queensland, and Perth—all fine young men of business capacity.

I next visited Queensland, taking with me my son Douglas, who was acting as my private secretary. When in Brisbane we were the guests of the Governor and Lady MacGregor. I also visited Toowoomba and Rockhampton. When in the latter city I went out to re-visit that famous gold mine, Mount Morgan, now also a copper mine. My former impressions of the great future ahead of Queensland were confirmed.

  ― 336 ―
It was a pleasure to renew my friendship with Sir William MacGregor.

I got back to Sydney on December 15th, and stayed there until January 6th.

I gave an address in the Town Hall to young people. There were four or five thousand present. We veterans should be more ready to give beginners the benefit of our experience and advice.

Before leaving Sydney we had a gathering of my relatives there, which included my sister, Mrs. James Ewan, my nephews William and Alwyn Reid, William and Oswald Ewan, and my nieces, Mrs. Murray Will, Mrs. George Armstrong, Mrs. Cuthbert Hall, Miss Nellie and Miss Daisy Ewan; also Mrs. Manson, Dr. Murray Will, Dr. George Armstrong, and Dr. Cuthbert Hall. I went up next day to Sutton Forest to spend a week with Sir Gerald and Lady Edeline Strickland, and a very pleasant week it was.

I then went on to spend a couple of days with Sir Samuel McCaughey, M.L.C., at North Yanco, a beautiful station of which only the grounds surrounding the mansion are left to him, the Government having resumed the estate for agricultural purposes. I enjoyed my stay with my old friend—the “Uncrowned King” of pastoral enterprise—immensely.

Going on to Victoria, I went down to Queenscliffe, at the mouth of Hobson's Bay, on a visit to another great friend, Senator Fraser. This gave me a chance of boating and fishing—the former a certainty, the latter a pleasant expectation.

During my visits to Victoria I addressed meetings at Geelong, Bendigo, and Ballarat.

  ― 337 ―

Although I was such a champion of the interests of my own State, I always used to find Victorian audiences cordial and generous. Australians, too, keenly appreciate banter, even when at their own expense. May I interpolate an instance of this? Addressing a meeting of miners in Tasmania, I was met with a fearful outburst of noise the moment my first word was uttered. In a lull I said I was anxious to make a humble apology. This they were willing to receive, and they became quiet. I then said, “I only called you ‘gentlemen.’ ” That slender attempt at a joke so tickled their fancy that I had a quiet time for the rest of the evening.

Before leaving Melbourne I wrote to the Minister for External Affairs, the Hon. P. McM. Glynn, asking whether he could tell me what the intentions of the Government were in reference to a renewal of my term of service as High Commissioner. That term would expire in January, 1915, a little short of a year from my time of writing. I was naturally anxious to know, with a view to my future plan of life. A few days afterwards the Minister informed me that there was no difference of opinion in the Cabinet as to my reappointment, but that there was a difference as to the new term, whether it should be for the full period of five years or for three years. I replied that I preferred five, but would accept three. The Minister assured me that the new appointment would be made in a few months. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I did not ask for a written reply to my letter, or that the verbal reply should then and there be placed on record. I was dealing with a Cabinet of friends, and

  ― 338 ―
was so satisfied that I did not afterwards mention the matter to the Prime Minister or any of his colleagues.

I visited Tasmania, arriving at Launceston on February 10th. On this occasion my wife accompanied me, as that beautiful island is the place of her birth, and she was anxious to visit her relatives. I will never forget the active footsteps of her father, Mr. John Bromby, then eighty-three years of age.

At Launceston I told them that I was greatly attached to Tasmania, not only because of her beauty, fertility, and climate, but also because she had given to me one of the best wives in the world.

In Hobart I enjoyed the hospitality of Sir Ellison and Lady Macartney. The Mayor invited me to a pleasant luncheon gathering, and I addressed a crowded meeting in the Town Hall, which Sir Ellison and Lady Macartney honoured with their presence. It was a great pleasure to meet them. Lady Macartney is a sister of that never-to-be-forgotten martyr of Antarctic exploration, Scott.

On my return to Melbourne I addressed a large gathering of the students of the training college for teachers affiliated to the Melbourne University. My very good friend Sir Alexander Peacock, now the Premier, then the Minister for Education, presided.

I know of no more pleasant or valuable chance of doing good within the reach of a public man than that of addressing young people—above all, that of addressing young people who are in training for the work of teaching, which is one of the noblest, although school teaching is still the “Cinderella” of the professions.

  ― 339 ―

The people of Victoria are in the front rank of Antipodean energy and intelligence, and the young Victorians I addressed were a singularly interesting crowd, reminding me of that—to me memorable—occasion when I addressed a similar gathering of teachers in the Great Hall of the University of Sydney, which Anthony Trollope favourably compared with that of Oxford.

In the address I delivered I pointed out that a man or woman might become the cleverest scholar in the world and yet be the worst possible teacher, even for an infant school. I urged them to place first in the order of their ambitions not personal ends, but a love of the children they would be privileged to teach. Thoroughness and intentness were the biggest factors of success—you could see them in struggles for a tin pot or parties for a dance. “I do not say in the latter case that the ladies looked like competitors, but they did look their best.” To encourage those who did not shine in examinations I reminded them of the fact that brilliant success in such cases might mean a brilliant memory in an inferior mind; that in the real battles of life outside memory must fall into its proper place, “the humble and obedient servant of higher faculties, condemned to fetch and carry, forbidden to reason.”

Sir Alexander Peacock, estimable in many ways, is unrivalled in one. His laugh is probably the most wonderful in the world. He cannot subdue it, or regulate it, or stop it. It begins with reverberations as sharp and independent as the discharge of a battery of field guns; it continues with rises and falls of overwhelming

  ― 340 ―
and contagious jocularity. Just as you think that something fearful must happen, it stops as suddenly as it began. When Sir Alexander was making an important speech at the Federal Convention, I thought I would try to discover whether he could control his risible faculties under those conditions, and I made a somewhat comical interjection. In a flash the Convention was amazed at the transition from earnest sedate reasoning to a tempest of obviously uncontrollable laughter.

On February 19th I left Melbourne to visit Mount Gambier in South Australia to open the Caledonian Hall. To do that I had a railway journey lasting about fourteen hours, and seventy-five miles of motoring on bad roads. The fourteen hours were the hottest I ever had, and there were several changes from one train to another. I opened the hall, and stayed from Saturday until Monday with Mr. George Riddock—“one of the best”—at Koorme station. On Sunday I felt so unwell that I had to cancel all my engagements. I did so with very great regret.

Sir Samuel Way received me at the railway station in Adelaide, bringing Dr. Lendon with him. Dr. Lendon ordered me at once into hospital, where I remained until March 6th, when we started on our homeward journey in the same good ship, the Otranto.

During my illness Sir Samuel and Lady Way— both, alas! now dead—showed me most kind personal attention. Sir Langdon Bonython, proprietor of the Observer, Mr. W. J. Sowden, the editor of the Register, both newspapers of a high order, Mr. Justice Gordon, Sir John Downer, Sir Josiah Symon, a distinguished

  ― 341 ―
colleague in my Federal Administration, Sir Douglas Mawson, Lord Richard Nevill, and others also brightened my stay in hospital.

Sir Samuel, who was Chancellor of the Adelaide University, informed me of the intention of the Senate to confer on me the honorary degree of LL.D., which I most gratefully accepted.

No one, I suppose, knows better than I do the strength and weakness of Australian development. Wonderful affection for the “Old Country,” which it can idealise vividly in spite of its immense distance, is blended with an equally enthusiastic belief in the progress, resources, and future greatness of Australia. Under any other form of relationship these two pre-dispositions might have been modified profoundly; but, happily, British statesmanship has been able, during the last fifty years, to keep step with Colonial initiative and daring, and self-appreciation.

Magnificently solid and rapid as the spread of settlement in Australia has been, enormous difficulties remain to be faced. The settled areas are splendid; but as you go farther inland towards the centre, an appalling trinity of desert, drought, and distance confronts you: no rivers, no mountain ranges, no rain worth mentioning. To redeem that vast area—even to invade and occupy its fringes—seems at present to lie beyond human powers. Almost everywhere the soil is full of fertile energy; water from above, below, or abroad is the one vital problem. Even mineral discoveries, if not of enormous quantity and richness, could not give life to a really large movement of population.

  ― 342 ―

Fortunately the present area of habitable land is vast enough for an immense development of national greatness.

The darkest shadow on the radiant picture of Australian progress is the current of population which has set in for the capital cities of the coast, away from the country industries. The development of industries on the coast line in cities where wages are higher, hours of labour are shorter, and comforts are greater, is bound to operate in that way, unless it is checked by a tendency to prefer an open-air life which leads to life in the interior. It is supremely important to encourage that tendency—the opposite tendency will always fight its own way.

One of the most interesting studies is the effect of Australian conditions of life on the British type of man and woman. It is far too soon to generalise, but it seems clear already that there will be more than one type of the Anglo-Australian in the future. The difference between the bushman and the townsman in the central States suggests that already. As for the type that can, or will, occupy the tropical regions—an area of more than one million square miles—that seems to be a remote speculation.

Another beautiful voyage via Colombo was ended by our arrival in the Thames on April 12th.

A few days before I reached England the Daily Telegraph devoted a leader to me, headed “A Great Imperialist.” I was intensely gratified by this tribute. The fact that it praised my public services far beyond their merits did not at all lessen the pleasure it gave me.

  ― 343 ―

Soon after my return from Australia, at a luncheon given me by the Royal Colonial Institute I contrasted the wonderful kindness I received in London as High Commissioner for Australia with the lot of the ordinary Australian visitor. Clubs—except the British Empire Club—were closed against him. For such a man London seemed to me to be the loneliest city in the world. There was a film over the English character which had the effect of a freezing chamber for Colonial enthusiasm. In the Colonies people shake hands freely and often; in England that rarely happens, except, perhaps, at a funeral. I mentioned a case that often occurred to me in my long railway journeys. I could not travel long with any man from a Dominion without an interchange of civilities. I have travelled often with an Englishman for hundreds of miles without a gleam of sociability. On one occasion, after 300 miles of silence between myself and the only other occupant of a compartment, I thought I would risk a remark. I said, “Are you an Englishman?” A gruff “Yes” was the reply. I apologised.

But beneath the film there are in the English character reserves of kindly feeling and downright good nature which quickly respond to any real call that is made upon them.

In May, 1914, there passed away one who stood easily first among the great nobles of Britain in his devotion to the Dominions—the Duke of Argyll. I have no doubt that the Duke helped the other High Commissioners as frequently and as readily as he helped me. Her Royal Highness the Princess Louise

  ― 344 ―
is happily still prominent in the same long list of public-spirited services.

Perhaps one of the most striking differences one meets in England is that which exists between the ways of those who have spent some time in the Dominions and those who have not. Those who have visited “the Colonies” never seem to lose their interest in Colonial affairs. I know of no exceptions, but I allude specially to the Governors-General, Governors, Admirals, Generals, and the ladies of their families. They showed when at their posts a keen interest in their surroundings; and they prove the sincerity and the strength of that interest by their good deeds after they return to the Mother Country.

The dinner in June, 1914, of the Australasian Chambers, over which I presided, was honoured with the presence of Prince Alexander of Teck, Mr. Page, the American Ambassador, and Lord Bryce.

Prince Alexander had just been named as the Governor-General of Canada, in succession to the Duke of Connaught. Those three distinguished guests made excellent speeches.