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Sackville Arthur Cecil

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1899 Obituary [1]

LORD SACKVILLE ARTHUR CECIL. It is not often that the sources of information for an obituary notice afford lessons of so generally a useful kind as those to be found in the life of the late Lord Sackville Cecil. It is more so because the exceptional circumstances of his birth were the smallest factor in the success of that part of his career which affords the most useful lesson to our young engineers. Those advantages of parentage, natural aptitude, and training which were of service to Sackville Cecil (allied to half the old aristocracy of the kingdom) may be found in these kingdoms in every sphere of educated life.

His father, the second Marquess of Salisbury, was a man who allowed no considerations of personal ease or amusement to stand in the way of duty. As an engineer and mechanic he personally directed the works on his own estates, and with foremen of his own training rebuilt those parts of Hatfield that had been destroyed by. fire.

His mother, since known as Mary Countess of Derby (second daughter of the fifth Earl de la Warr), has been distinguished for rare personal ability, and for exceptional instinct in being able to appreciate worth in every rank of life, and in using that instinct as a guide to influence the careers of many.

His father gave him at Wellington and Cambridge the school and university training of the son of an English gentleman, with intervals of private tuition, and - himself a student of education, and a statesman whose labours influenced the growth and progress of education in the nineteenth century - in addition gave that training supervision.

During part of the time when he and his brothers were living with a tutor in the old half-ruined manor house at Cranbourne, their father systematically mapped out their course of study, and, much after the fashion of colonial life, made them provide their comforts and luxuries by their own personal labour and exertion.

Under such early associations, during which he spent more of his time amongst his father's workmen than in the recreation field, his destiny to become an engineer was inevitable.

In the shops of the Great Eastern Railway Company, and on the footboards of their locomotives during the reign of one of the kings of railway management - the late Samuel Swarbrick - he continued his practical education as a mechanical engineer. The training so begun was continued in the carriage department of the Great Northern Railway's works at Doncaster. As chief electrician under Sir Charles Bright, in connection with the laying of the submarine cable between Marseilles and Boma, at the mouth of the Congo, he commenced his practical career as a telegraph engineer.

The writer first made his acquaintance when engaged in 1872-3 on the telegraph arbitrations between the Post Office and the railway companies, and can recall the ingenious system of abridged writing by which Lord Sackville enabled Mr. Swarbrick, who was almost quite deaf, to follow and understand the procedure. The former sat beside, and a little in front of the latter, writing on a tablet, and by glancing at the signs in use between them, which were put down with ease and rapidity, the latter was kept nearly as well informed of what was going on as if his sense of hearing had been perfect.

As an Assistant General and Traffic Railway Manager, between 1878 and 1880, he was at all hours to be seen at the busiest places on the platforms quietly watching and silently systematising and guiding, and no one would have guessed the position, official or social, of the wearer of the unbuttoned tweed jacket and turned down collars, with the grave, earnest face and occasional quiet smile, who rarely interfered but had his eye on everything.

He had entire charge of the complicated arrangements for the transfer of the City terminus of the Great Eastern Railway from Bethnal Green to Liverpool Street, a task which required powers of generalship and organisation, and a physique capable of continuing at work for thirty-six hours at a stretch, such as are not often met with. In Germany his characteristics would have infallibly led him up te the highest ranks of the general staff of the army, which result implies the rarest combination of distinguished qualities.

As General Manager he for five years devoted his railway experience to the Metropolitan District Railway Company, where he was said to be an "odd and peculiar man" and "very popular."

Since 1885 he gravitated back to his first attachment, namely, the applications of electricity, especially to submarine telegraphy, and at the time of his death he was a Director of the Eastern, the Brazilian Submarine, the Pacific and European Telegraph Companies, and of the Globe Telegraph and Trust Company, as well as Chairman of the Exchange Telegraph Company. He was a man with an immense capacity for work, keen intelligence, great conscientious rectitude, and of the simplest habits of life. He left a considerable fortune, almost entirely the result of his own labour.

He died of pneumonia at his residence, Oast House, Hayes Common, on the 29th of January, 1898, at the age of 50, and, after having been cremated at Woking, was buried near the church of St. Audrey, which had been erected by himself.

He was elected a Member of this Institution in 1872.

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