Belfast Telegraph

The fourth Duke of Abercorn: An archetypal Ulster Unionist aristocrat

By Paul Carson

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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