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Andrew Clarke

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1870. Extension Works at Portsmouth Dockyard.
1873. Proposal by Andrew Clarke.

Lieut-General Sir Andrew Clarke (1824-1902)


1902 Obituary [1]

SIR ANDREW CLARKE, G.C.M.G., CB., C.I.E., Lieutenant-General R.E. retired, died at his residence, 31 Portland Place, on the 29th March, 1902, after a long period of physical weakness and ill-health, which did not, however, prevent his discharging his important and manifold duties as Agent-General for the Colony of Victoria to the last. He died, as he wished to die, in harness, a strenuous worker to the end, and few of his contemporaries could show such a record of public service, spread over a period of nearly 60 years. As he was proud of recalling, he was the last survivor of the framers of the first Constitution of Victoria in 1856, and he lived to see the foundation of the Australian Commonwealth and to entertain the hope that he might be chosen as its first Imperial Commissioner in the capital of the Empire.

Born on the 27th July, 1824, at Southsea, Andrew Clarke was the son of Colonel Andrew Clarke, R.E., of Belmont, county Donegal, the first Governor of Western Australia. He had thus an inherited interest in the great island-continent with which so much of his career was connected.

Educated at the Ring’s School, Canterbury, and at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, he obtained a commission as second lieutenant in the Royal Engineers in 1844, and served for a short time in Ireland during the famine.

He then received an appointment on his father’s staff at Perth, but on his way out was induced to remain with Sir William Denison, Governor of Van Diemen’s Land, or Tasmania, first as A.D.C., and afterwards as private secretary. His career thus began in Tasmania, and it is curious to note that he acted on several occasions as Agent-General of that colony.

In 1848 he proceeded to New Zealand to take part in the Maori war, and for some years he served on the staff of Sir George Grey. An appointment as Surveyor-General attracted him to Victoria, where he found greater scope for hie abilities; and in addition to his professional duties he took a prominent part in framing the Constitution of Victoria, a work of which he was especially proud because it was adopted by the home Government without a single alteration. When it came into force he was returned as member for Melbourne in the Legislative Assembly, and he held the office of Minister of Public Lands in the first responsible Administration of Victoria.

After two years in office this Ministry resigned, in 1857, and Captain Clarke, declining an invitation to form an administration of his own, returned to England with twelve years’ colonial experience, which in those days was extremely rare.

In 1863 he was sent on a special mission to the West Coast of Africa in connection with some of the earlier troubles in Ashanti, but beyond a narrow escape from the only attack of fever he ever experienced in tropical climates, there was nothing important connected with this mission, which concluded the first part of his colonial career.

In 1864 he was appointed Director of Works for the Navy, a post he held for nine years. In that period the naval arsenals at Chatham, Portsmouth and Plymouth were so altered, improved and strengthened as to form practically new works. Similar fortified bases were constructed at Malta, Cork and Bermuda, where the floating dock was one of the engineering wonders of the day. His further suggestions with regard to Colombo, Singapore and other Imperial defences were not put into effect until he held the post of Inspector-General of Fortifications, nine years later.

In 1873 he was appointed Governor of the Straits Settlements, where he did admirable work. He carefully studied the policy of Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore, and he set himself the task of completing it by bringing the Malay States under the protection of Great Britain.

In 1874 he proceeded to Perak, and by a succession of firm and well-conceived measures induced the Malay chiefs to sign the treaty of Pangkor, which bound them to accept British Residents. At the same time he induced the Chinese miners, whose faction fights had caused much trouble, to disarm. The results of these measures were that in the following twenty years the population more than trebled, the land revenue increased six hundred times, the imports and exports forty times, and the total revenue more than twentyfold. For beneficial administrative work unostentatiously performed there has never, perhaps, been a more striking example than was given by Sir Andrew Clarke in the Straits Settlements in 1874-75.

After nearly two years’ pro-Consulship at Singapore, Sir Andrew returned to departmental work, this time in the large field of India, where for more than five years he was Minister of Public Works. His two most remarkable achievements in that capacity wore perhaps the reduction of railway rates, which first enabled the Punjab to export its wheat, and the provision of cantonments with a supply of pure water, at an outlay of three millions sterling, as the first step towards battling with typhoid.

On his return to England, in 1881, he was in rather an anomalous position. He had held high offices, but his military rank was only that of Lieutenant-Colonel in the corps of Royal Engineers, and of full Colonel in the Army. No colonial posts were available, and he expressed a desire to return to professional duty. He was accordingly appointed Commandant at Chatham.

From Chatham he passed, in 1882, to Pall Mall, as Inspector-General of Fortifications, a post which he held for four years. In a memorandum, dated June, 1886, he surveyed the work of that period, which included Imperial defences at all the principal naval stations, and home defences in the Tyne and Clyde. This part of his work may be considered the complement of that accomplished as Director of Naval Works nine years earlier. The organization of the Royal Engineers for submarine mine defences, the training of Engineer officers in the workshops of Elswick, and a number of minor technical matters constituted the record of his official work in this responsible position, the last he held in the service of the State.

Having closed his official career in 1886, when he attained the rank of Lieutenant-General, Sir Andrew Clarke sought Parliamentary honours, contesting Chatham in that year, and again in 1893, as a supporter of Mr. Gladstone. He was unsuccessful on both occasions. He possessed in a rare degree those qualities of coolness and courage which are demanded from rulers over dependencies, where a cloud no bigger than a man’s hand may in an hour become a hurricane threatening destruction. His work at Singapore placed him in the front rank of British pro-consuls.

Both as a technical and as a strategical engineer he did remarkable work. In his old age the Colony with which he had been associated in early manhood offered him the post of its Agent-General in the capital of the Empire. Ho was at all times an energetic representative of its interests, and a wise counsellor.

Early in 1902 Sir Andrew Clarke was gazetted Commandant of his old corps, the Royal Engineers, which restored him to the Active List. It will also be recollected that he presented the address of welcome from the colonial representatives in London to the Prince and Princess of Wales on their return from their Imperial tour.

Sir Andrew was a leading Freemason and was Grand Master of Victoria from 1853 to 1858. He was made a K.C.M.G. in 1873, a C.I.E. in 1877, and a G.C.M.G. in 1885. He married one of the two daughters of Mr. Charles McKillop, of Bath, by whom he leaves an only daughter. Lady Clarke died seven years ago.

Sir Andrew Clarke was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 4thg April, 1865, and an Honorary Member on the 1st December, 1896, on the ground that during his long and distinguished career as an officer of the corps of Royal Engineers he had advanced the art of military engineering. In 1880 he presented a brief “Note on the Handahar Railway.” l



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