Fifty Years of Railway Life in England, Scotland and Ireland eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 279 pages of information about Fifty Years of Railway Life in England, Scotland and Ireland.

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

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Fifty Years of Railway Life in England, Scotland and Ireland from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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