Wednesday, 19 June 2013
Home from Hume
Lord Dunglass was a young parliamentary private secretary when he accompanied Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain to Munich on his mission to avert war in 1938. The piece of paper Chamberlain waved to crowds on his return proclaimed that Hitler had no more territorial ambitions in Europe. Alas, it did no more than buy another year’s preparations for the war which, even then, was inevitable. It gave a year’s grace, time to build government so-called “shadow” factories in which Rolls-Royce would build Merlin aero engines, and Vickers-Supermarine Spitfires.
Dunglass’s title was a courtesy one. He was not entitled yet to sit in the House of Lords, but was able to stand for the Commons. The family had a long record of public service; his great grandfather was under-secretary at the Foreign Office in Wellington’s 1828-1830 government and Dunglass seemed destined for something the same until his parliamentary career was unexpectedly interrupted. When he volunteered for army service at the outbreak of war a medical examination revealed spinal tuberculosis. This consigned him to two years’ treatment, a lot of it spent in a plaster cast. His return to the Commons as MP for Lanark, and later Perth and Kinross, led to distinctions that included acting as Foreign Secretary during the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962.
Renouncing his family Earldom, Dunglass become plain Sir Alec Douglas-Home and in December 1963, following Harold Macmillan’s resignation, succeeded him as prime minister. Taunted by Labour leader Harold Wilson for being an aristocrat and the 14th Earl of Home, Douglas-Home dismissed the inverted snobbery with “I suppose Mr Wilson, when you come to think of it, is the 14th Mr Wilson.” Describing Wilson as “a slick salesman of synthetic science”, Douglas-Home derided Labour as, “the only relic of class consciousness in Britain”. His opponents retreated, saying that, “The Labour Party is not interested in the fact that the new Prime Minister inherited a fourteenth Earldom – he cannot help his antecedents any more than the rest of us.”
Alexander "Alec" Frederick Douglas-Home, Baron Home of the Hirsel (2 July 1903 – 9 October 1995) died at the family seat near Coldstream in the Scottish borders, not far from Chirnside, near Berwick-on-Tweed. It was here that the Scottish philosopher, historian economist and essayist David Hume (1711-1776) had grown up.
Hume was important in the period known as the Scottish Enlightenment. His father Joseph Home, an Edinburgh lawyer was a scion of the same Home and Douglas-Home dynasties that held six Baronetcies dating back to 1638. In 1734 David altered the spelling of his name and from the family home of Ninewells, Chirnside between 1754 and 1762 embarked on a writing career that included a 6-volume History of England, “From the Invasion of Julius Caesar to the Revolution in 1688”. A wide-ranging work inspired by Voltaire, it covered more than kings, parliaments and battles and included a study of literature and science, noting the work of Francis Bacon, Robert Boyle and Isaac Newton. It contended that England had achieved “the most entire system of liberty that was ever known amongst mankind.”
At heart a Royalist, David Hume thought revolutions quite unnecessary, which led to his History being regarded as essentially Tory, emphasising religious differences more than constitutional issues. He was anti-Presbyterian, anti-Puritan, anti-Whig, and his portrait feature on the gable of the Hume Arms in Torksey is probably a cameo profile from an engraving in one of his major works.
Enter John Cust (1779-1853), 2nd Baron and (from 1815) 1st Earl Brownlow. In 1810 he married Sophia, daughter and co-heir of the second Sir Abraham Hume. This brought Cust not only Torksey and South Kyme, where there is the other Hume Arms, but also under the will of her uncle the 7th Earl of Bridgewater, a lot of the Ellesmere estate in Shropshire, the Ashridge estate in Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire, and properties in County Durham and the North Riding of Yorkshire.
Here he graduated from farm tractors to his father’s Sunbeam Mark III, started racing in his friend Ian Scott Watson’s Porsche and Lotus, before joining Team Lotus in Formula 1. One of the greatest drivers of all time, Clark set records in his eight year career that have only recently been broken by virtue of the proliferation of grands prix.
Amazon ebook Jim Clark, Tribute to a Champion