Basil Brooke, 1st Viscount Brookeborough

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The Right Honourable
The Viscount Brookeborough
Bt, KG, CBE, MC, PC
Brookeborough1.jpg
Prime Minister of Northern Ireland
In office
1 May 1943 – 26 March 1963
Preceded by John Miller Andrews
Succeeded by Terence O'Neill
Member of the Northern Ireland Parliament
for Lisnaskea
In office
1929–1968
Preceded by New constituency
Succeeded by John Brooke
Personal details
Born (1888-06-09)9 June 1888
Brookeborough, United Kingdom
Died 18 August 1973(1973-08-18) (aged 85)
Brookeborough, United Kingdom
Political party Ulster Unionist Party
Spouse(s) Cynthia Brooke
(m.1919-d.1970)

Sarah Eileen Bell Calvert
Children 3
Alma mater Royal Military College, Sandhurst
Religion Anglican
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service 1908–1920
Rank Captain
Unit Royal Fusiliers
10th Hussars
Battles/wars World War One
Awards Military Cross
Croix de Guerre

The Rt Hon. Basil Stanlake Brooke, 1st Viscount Brookeborough, Bt, KG, CBE, MC, PC (9 June 1888 – 18 August 1973), was an Ulster Unionist politician who became the third Prime Minister of Northern Ireland in May 1943, holding office until March 1963.

Lord Brookeborough (as Sir Basil Brooke, Bt, MP) had previously held several ministerial positions in the Government of Northern Ireland, and has been described as "perhaps the last Unionist leader to command respect, loyalty and affection across the social and political spectrum of the movement".[1] He has also been described as one of the most hardline anti-Catholic leaders of the Ulster Unionist Party (the UUP).[2]

Early life[edit]

Basil Stanlake Brooke was born on 9 June 1888 at Colebrooke Park, his family's neo-Classical ancestral seat on (what was then) the several-thousand acre Colebrooke Estate, just outside Brookeborough, a village near Lisnaskea in County Fermanagh, Ireland.[3] He was the eldest son of Sir Arthur Douglas Brooke, 4th Baronet, whom he succeeded as 5th Baronet on the latter's death in 1907.[4] He was a nephew of Field Marshal The 1st Viscount Alanbrooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff during World War II, who was only five years his senior. Lord Brookeborough's sister, Sheelah, married Sir Henry Mulholland Speaker of the Stormont House of Commons and son of Lord Dunleath. He was educated for five years at St. George's School in Pau, France, and then at Winchester College (1901–05).[4]

Military career[edit]

After graduating from the Royal Military College, Sandhurst,[4] the young Sir Basil Brooke, 5th Bt, was commissioned into the Royal Fusiliers on 26 September 1908 as a Second Lieutenant.[5] He transferred to the 10th Hussars in 1911. He was awarded the Military Cross and Croix de Guerre with palm for his service during World War I. In 1920, having reached the rank of Captain, he left the British Army to farm the Colebrooke Estate, his family's country estate at Brookeborough in west Ulster.

Political career[edit]

Brooke had a very long political career. When he resigned the Premiership of Northern Ireland in March 1963, he was Northern Ireland's longest serving Prime Minister, having held office for two months short of 20 years.[6] He had also established a United Kingdom record by holding government office continuously for 33 years.[6]

In 1921 Captain Brooke was elected to the Senate of Northern Ireland, but he resigned the following year to become Commandant of the Ulster Special Constabulary (USC) in their fight against the IRA. He was created a CBE in 1921.[6]

In 1929 he was elected to the House of Commons of Northern Ireland as Ulster Unionist Party MP for the Lisnaskea division of County Fermanagh. In the words of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, "his thin, wiry frame, with the inevitable cigarette in hand, and clipped, anglicised accent were to be a feature of Stormont for the next forty years."

Cabinet Minister[edit]

Brooke became Minister of Agriculture in 1933. By virtue of this appointment, he also acquired the rank of Privy Councillor of Northern Ireland.[6] He was thus known, from 1933 until his elevation to the Peerage in 1952, as Captain The Rt. Hon Sir Basil Brooke, 5th Bt, CBE, MC, PC (NI), MP. From 1941 to 1943 he was Minister of Commerce.

Capt. Brooke addressed an Orange Institution rally at Newtownbutler on 12 July 1933, where he said:

Many in this audience employ Catholics, but I have not one about my place. Catholics are out to destroy Ulster...If we in Ulster allow Roman Catholics to work on our farms we are traitors to Ulster...I would appeal to loyalists, therefore, wherever possible, to employ good Protestant lads and lassies.[7][8]

As Prime Minister[edit]

In 1943 he succeeded John M. Andrews as Prime Minister.

Graham Walker writes (p. 149)"...Brookeborough's achievements over twenty years were substantial: the Unionist Party maintained essential unity, the anti-partitionist project was thwarted, and a potentially difficult post-war relationship with Britain under Labour was managed to the long-term benefit of Northern Ireland's full participation in the welfare state and new educational opportunities..."

In 1952 Sir Basil, whilst Prime Minister, was raised to the peerage as Viscount Brookeborough, the title taken from the village named after the Brookes. Although a peer he retained his seat in the House of Commons at Stormont and remained PM for another decade.

As Northern Ireland's economy began to de-industrialise in the mid-1950s, leading to high unemployment amongst the Protestant working classes, Brookeborough faced increasing disenchantment amongst Unionist Party backbenchers for what was regarded as his indifferent and ineffectual approach to mounting economic problems. As this disenchantment grew, British civil servants and some members of the Unionist Party combined to exert discreet and ultimately effective pressure on Brookeborough to resign to make way for Captain Terence O'Neill, who was Minister of Finance.[9]

In 1963, his health having worsened, he resigned (at the age of 75) as Prime Minister. But he remained a member of the House of Commons of Northern Ireland until the 1969 general election, becoming the Father of the House in 1965. During his last years in the Parliament of Northern Ireland he publicly opposed the liberal policies of his successor as PM, Terence O'Neill, who actively sought to improve relationships with the Republic of Ireland, and who attempted to address some of the grievances of Catholics and grant many of the demands of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA).

Brookeborough was noted for his casual style towards his ministerial duties. Terence O'Neill later wrote of him: "he was good company and a good raconteur, and those who met him imagined that he was relaxing away from his desk. However they did not realise that there was no desk."[6]

Later life and death[edit]

In his retirement Lord Brookeborough developed commercial interests; as chairman of Carreras (Northern Ireland), a director of Devenish Trade, and president of the Northern Ireland Institute of Directors. He was also made an honorary LLD of The Queen's University of Belfast.

From 1970 to 1973, years in which the Stormont institution came under its greatest strain and eventually crumbled, Brookeborough made only occasional forays into political life.[6] In 1972 he appeared next to Bill Craig, M.P., on the balcony of Parliament Buildings at Stormont, a diminutive figure beside the leader of the Vanguard movement who was rallying right-wing Unionists against the Government. He opposed the Westminster White Paper on the future of Northern Ireland and caused some embarrassment to his son, Captain John Brooke, the Unionist Chief Whip and an ally of Brian Faulkner, by speaking against the Faulkner ministry's proposals.[6]

In 1971, following Lady Brookeborough's death in 1970, Lord Brookeborough married Sarah Eileen Bell (Mrs Cecil Calvert).[citation needed] He was 83.

Lord Brookeborough died at his home, Colebrooke Park, on the Colebrooke Estate, on 18 August 1973. His remains were cremated at Roselawn Cemetery, East Belfast, three days later, and, in deference to his wishes, his ashes were scattered on the demesne surrounding his beloved Colebrooke Park. In its obituary, The Times remarked that “Brookeborough was a man of courage, conviction and great charm. But his political sense was seriously found wanting by the intransigence with which he excluded the Roman Catholic minority from responsibility and participation.” The obituary continued remarking that Brookeborough was “[a] staunch representative of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy and an unyielding believer in the Protestant Ascendancy...The sectarian strife now tearing at the fabric of Northern Ireland's society is in part attributable to the immobility imposed in his long period of political leadership.”[6]

Brookeborough’s estate was valued at £406,591.83: probate, 5 December 1975, CGPLA NIre. • £42,793 in England and Wales: probate, 7 November 1973, CGPLA Eng. & Wales.[6] [10] His only surviving son, Captain The Rt. Hon. John W. Brooke, P.C. (N.I.), M.P., succeeded to the viscountcy.[6]

Personal life and family[edit]

He married, firstly, Cynthia Mary (1897–1970), second daughter and co-heir of Captain Charles Warden Surgison, of Cuckfield Park, Sussex. They were married on 3 June 1919 at St George's, Hanover Square. Their families were already close due to Miss Surgison's sister being married to Sir Basil's cousin.[4] Following their marriage the Brookes went to live at Colebrooke Park. They had three sons, two of whom were killed in action during the Second World War.[6]

Lady Brookeborough died in 1970 and the following year, aged 83, Lord Brookeborough married Sarah Eileen Bell Calvert, daughter of Henry Healey, of Belfast, and widow of Mr. Cecil Armstrong Calvert, FRCS, director of neurosurgery at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast. Sarah Eileen, Viscountess Brookeborough, died in 1989.[11]

In his private life, Lord Brookeborough was a man of the simplest and most modest tastes and habits. His greatest recreation was farming, and he won many awards. But he also liked shooting, fishing, and golf.[6]

Children[edit]

By his first wife Lord Brookeborough had the following children:

Awards and decorations[edit]

He was awarded the Military Cross[12] for "Distinguished Service in the Field" on 3 June 1916.[13] He was awarded the Croix de Guerre[14]

Having been appointed CBE in 1921, Brooke was, on 1 July 1952, raised to the House of Lords as Viscount Brookeborough, of Colebrooke, County Fermanagh. He was appointed a Knight of the Garter in 1965. He held the office of Vice-Admiral of Ulster between 1961 and 1973. He held the office of Lord Lieutenant of County Fermanagh and was Custos Rotulorum of County Fermanagh between 1963 and 1969.

Award Ribbon Post-nominal letters
Order of the British Empire Order BritEmp rib.png CBE
Military Cross Military cross BAR.svg
Croix de Guerre Croix de Guerre 1914-1918 ribbon.svg
Order of the Garter Order of the Garter UK ribbon.png KG

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Walker, G, A history of the Ulster Unionist Party (Manchester 2004) p 150
  2. ^ Anti-Catholicism in Northern Ireland, 1600-1998 The Mote and the Beam by John D. Brewer with Gareth I. Higgins (1998) ISBN 0-333-74635-X (Paperback)
  3. ^ Barton, Brian, Brookeborough: The Making of a Prime Minister, 1988, p. 15
  4. ^ a b c d Lundy, Darryl. "thepeerage.com". The Peerage. [unreliable source]
  5. ^ The London Gazette: no. 28180. p. 6940. 25 September 1908. Retrieved 2011-01-19.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l The Times, 20 August 1973
  7. ^ Ryan, Alan (1999). The Reader's Companion to Ireland. Harvest Books. p. 226. ISBN 978-0-15-600559-3. 
  8. ^ Coogan, Tim Pat (2004). Ireland in the Twentieth Century. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 299–300. ISBN 978-1-4039-6397-0. 
  9. ^ MacDonald, Michael, Children of Wrath, Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 1986, p. 71
  10. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  11. ^ Lundy, Darryl. "thepeerage.com". The Peerage. [unreliable source]
  12. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 29608. pp. 5570–5571. 2 June 1916. Retrieved 2011-01-19.
  13. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 29608. p. 5563. 2 June 1916. Retrieved 2011-01-19.
  14. ^ The London Gazette: no. 30945. pp. 3213–11944. 8 October 1918. Retrieved 2011-01-19.

Further reading[edit]

  • Brian Barton, Brookeborough: the making of a Prime Minister, The Institute of Irish Studies, Queen's University, Belfast, 1988.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Henry Mulholland
Assistant Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Finance
1929–1933
Succeeded by
Sir Wilson Hungerford
Preceded by
Edward Mervyn Archdale
Minister of Agriculture
1933–1941
Succeeded by
Lord Glentoran
Preceded by
John Milne Barbour
Minister of Commerce
1941–1943
Succeeded by
Himself
as Minister of Commerce and Production
Preceded by
Himself
as Minister of Commerce
Minister of Commerce and Production
1943–1945
Succeeded by
Roland Thomas Nugent
Preceded by
John Miller Andrews
Prime Minister of Northern Ireland
1943–1963
Succeeded by
Terence O'Neill
Parliament of Northern Ireland
New constituency Member of Parliament for Lisnaskea
1929–1968
Succeeded by
John Brooke
Party political offices
Preceded by
Henry Mulholland
Unionist Assistant Whip
1929–1933
Succeeded by
Sir Wilson Hungerford
Preceded by
John Miller Andrews
Leader of the Unionist Party
1946–1963
Succeeded by
Terence O'Neill
Honorary titles
Preceded by
The Earl of Enniskillen
Lord Lieutenant of Fermanagh
1963–1969
Vacant
Title next held by
Thomas Patrick David Scott
Preceded by
Cahir Healy
Father of the House
1965–1968
Succeeded by
Sir Norman Stronge
Baronetage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Arthur Brooke
Brooke Baronets
1907–1973
Succeeded by
John Brooke
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Viscount Brookeborough
1952–1973
Succeeded by
John Brooke