The year 1911 was darkened for me by the shadow of death. During its course I lost my wife, who succumbed to an illness which had lasted for several years, an illness accompanied with much pain and suffering borne with great courage and endurance.
I had long cherished the hope that when, in the course of time, I sought to retire from the active duties of railway management, I might, perhaps, be promoted to a seat on the Board of the Company. Presumptuous though the thought may have been, I had the justification that it was not discouraged by some of my Directors, to whom, in the intimacy of after dinner talk, I sometimes broached the subject. But I little imagined the change would come as soon as it did. I had fancied that my managerial activities would continue until I attained the usual age for retirement—three score years and five. On this I had more or less reckoned, but
“There’s a divinity
that shapes our ends
Rough hew them how we will,”
and it came to pass that at sixty-one I exchanged my busy life for a life of comparative ease. And this is how it came about. A vacancy on the Board of Directors unexpectedly occurred in October, 1912, while I was in Paris on my way home from a holiday in Switzerland and Italy. I there received a letter informing me that the Board would offer me the vacant seat if it really was my wish to retire so soon. Not a moment did I hesitate. Such an opportunity might never come again; so like a prudent man, I “grasped the skirts of happy chance,” and the 5th day of November, 1912, saw me duly installed as a Director of the Company which I had served as Manager for close upon twenty-two years. It was an early age, perhaps, to retire from that active life to which I had been accustomed, but as Doctor Johnson says, “No man is obliged to do as much as he can do. A man is to have a part of his life to himself.” I made the plunge and have never since regretted it. It has given me more leisure for pursuits I love, and time has never hung heavy on my hands. On the contrary, I have found the days and hours all too short. Coincident with this change came a piece of good fortune of which I could not have availed myself had not this alteration in my circumstances taken place. Whilst in Paris I heard that Mr. Lewis Harcourt (now Viscount Harcourt), then Colonial Secretary, had expressed a wish to see me as I passed through London, and on the 28th of October, I had an interview with him at his office in the House of Commons. There was a vacancy, he informed me, on the recently appointed Dominions’ Royal Commission, occasioned by the resignation of Sir Charles Owens, late General Manager of the London and South-Western Railway, and a railway man was wanted to fill his place. I had been mentioned to him; would I accept the position? It involved, he