I do not think for a moment that he was a very great man, but I can think of few Cabinet ministers during the last thirty years who were anything like so well-fitted to render the nation real and lasting service. Lord Rhondda had genius, and though a boyish egoist in his private life he was earnestly and most eagerly anxious to sacrifice all he possessed for the good of the State. That he came so late and for so brief a period to power I regard, if not as a national misfortune, at any rate as a striking condemnation of our methods of government.
LORD INVERFORTH 1ST BARON OF SOUTHGATE (ANDREW WEIR)
Born, 1865. Head
of firm of Andrew Weir and Co. shipowners of
Glasgow, Surveyor General of Supplies, 1917-19; Minister of
[Illustration: LORD INVERFORTH]
"Gratitude is a fruit
of great cultivation; you do not find it
among gross people."—DR. JOHNSON.
We are keeping up Voltaire’s idea of our English character. Instead of only admirals, however, we are now hanging all sorts and descriptions of our public servants, but whether to encourage the others or to pay off a grudge, who shall determine?
Lord Inverforth takes his hanging very well. One might go so far as to say that he is not merely unaware of the noose round his neck but so perverse as to think he is still alive. His sense of humour is as good to him as a philosophic temperament.
I like his sense of humour. It manifests itself very quietly and with a flash of unexpectedness. One day at luncheon he was speaking of Lord Leverhulme, whose acquaintance he had made only a week or two before. Someone at the table said, “What I like about Leverhulme is his simplicity. In spite of all his tremendous undertakings he preserves the heart of a boy.” With a twinkle in his eyes, and in a soft inquiring voice, “Have you ever tried to buy glycerine from him?” asked Lord Inverforth.
This story has a sequel. I mentioned it to Lord Leverhulme. “One day two Englishmen,” he replied at once, “were passing the Ministry of Munitions. They saw Lord Inverforth going in. One who did not recognize him said, ‘Anyone can tell that man; he’s a Scotsman.’ To which the other, who did recognize him, replied, ’Yes, but you couldn’t tell that Scotsman anything else.’ You might repeat that story to Lord Inverforth the next time you meet him.”
I did, and the Minister of Munitions accepted the compliment with a good grace.