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The fourth Duke of Abercorn: An archetypal Ulster Unionist aristocrat

By Paul Carson

Published 16/05/2014

The Duke of Abercorn at the opening of the Armagh Museum. 6/9/1962
The Duke of Abercorn at the opening of the Armagh Museum. 6/9/1962
The Duchess of Abercorn at the 21st birthday party of Londonderry Nursery School in Hawkin Street, helping some of the children cut the cake. With them is miss June Wilson, assistant at the school. 17/11/1967
The Duchess of Abercorn, patron of the NI Benevolent fund, receiving three cheques totalling £1,000 from )left to right), Sister Mary Crumlish, Staff Nurse Pauline Doherty and Student Nurse Ann Wade. 25/8/1971
The Duchess of Abercorn reads a book whilst relaxing at home.
The Duke of Abercorn congratulates Martin Doyle, who became a Doctor of Philosophy and the first student to receive a degree at the New University of Ulster, Coleraine. 16/9/1970
The Duchess of Abercorn (second left) opening a garden party at Carrington Lodge, Cherryvalley, Belfast, home of Mrs Eva Turtle (second right), is pictured at the tombola stall with Paul Cunningham (12), grandson of Mrs Turtle; miss M. Raymonde and Mrs Renee Mackintosh (right). 5/8/1965
The Duke of Abercorn, chairman of the trustees, speaking after cutting the first sod on the site of the extension to the Ulster Museum, Belfast. At the rear are Mr C. Douglas Deane, deputy director (left) and Mr W.A. Seaby, director of the Museum. 9/9/1966
At the private view of the "Pictures from Ulster Homes" exhibition at the Belfast Museum abd Art gallery are (leftto right), The earl of Rossee, The Duke and Duchess of Abercorn, and the Countess of Clanwilliam. 10/5/1961
The Duchess of Abercorn, who opened an exhibition os paintings, by amateur artists working in Ulster, at the Brooke Park gallery, pictured with Mr Andrew Riddell, president of the Londonderry Arts Society. 16/10/1970
The Duke of Abercorn, H.M.L. for Tyrone, cuts the tape to officially open the new link road and bridge at Omagh. The 350-yard road and bridge, built at a cost of £150,000, links the Belfast and Derry trunk roads, taking traffic away from the centre of the town. On the right is Mr N. Wilson, chairman of Omagh Urban Council. 12/12/1966
The Duchess of Abercorn (extreme left), smiling happily at her daughter's wedding, with (from left) Royal guests Princess Marina, Princess Alexandra and the Duke and Duchess of Kent. 12/11/1966
President of Newtownstewart (Co. Tyrone) Golf Club, The Duke of Abercorn, unveiling a plaque when he officially opened the new clubhouse. Also in the picture are (from left) John McBride, secretary, The Duchess of Abercorn and club captain, James Crockett. 12/9/1972
The Duchess of Abercorn (third from left), who was guest speaker at the annual dinner of Londonderry High School Old Girl's Association in the City Hotel, chatting with (from left)- Mrs E. R. Gordon, chairman; Mrs O. McLaughlin, outgoing president; Miss M. Cowper, headmistress; Miss A. Sterling, treasurer, and Miss E. Hunter, president. 14/3/1966
The Duke of Abercorn relaxes at home. 3/7/1959
The president of the Northern Ireland central council of the Red Cross, the Duchess of Abercorn (second right), hands over the keys of a new van for the 'Meals on Wheels' service in Derry to co-ordinator Mrs Margaret McClay. Also in the picture are Mrs Eustelle Harvey, (left), Mrs Una Willman and Mrs Susan Hill. 26/4/1975

The fourth Duke of Abercorn had the upbringing to make him an archetypal Ulster Unionist aristocrat.

There was the family seat at Baronscourt, schooling at Eton, soldiering and anti-Home Rule politics, and finally a record run of 23 years as the first Governor.

The young Marquis of Hamilton saw service in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, the Life Guards and the North Irish Horse (as a major).

He upheld his father's 'We will not have Home Rule' slogan expressed at a Unionist convention in 1892 and he entered politics in 1900 as the member for Londonderry City.

In 1913, he relinquished the seat on the death of his father, Baronscourt was turned into a kind of training camp for the UVF and there was also the Covenant to be signed.

When the 1920s and relative peace arrived, he was an obvious choice for Government.

Three times his appointment was renewed and in 1931 he turned down an invitation to become Governor-General of Canada.

A London columnist wrote at the time of the refusal: "The matter has not passed unnoticed in Court circles. I understand, and I believe steps are being taken to let the Ulster authorities know that this is one of those things which is 'Not done'." Royal displeasure or not, Abercorn remained a popular Governor, retiring in 1945.

As Lord Lieutenant of Tyrone, the Duke was the Queens representative in the county and he was also a former Tyrone High Sheriff and a member of the old county council.

He held numerous official appointments and positions but he will be remembered not least for his love of the countryside.

His particular interest was trees and the Duke was President of the Royal Forestry Society of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and also the International Dendrological Union.

He was Chancellor of the New University of Ulster and the first chairman to be appointed to the Ulster Museum.

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