Obituary from the Birkenhead and Cheshire Advertiser
September 4th 1907
Equally with Liverpool does Birkenhead today mourn the loss of one of its most prominent citizens, Mr. David MacIver, M.P. for the Kirkdale Division of Liverpool, and who passed away on Sunday evening after an illness extending over some weeks, but from which it was at one time hoped he might recover. By his death both towns are the poorer, whilst the political life of the country has lost one of those fine men who, whilst holding the strongest convictions and fearlessly speaking their opinions at the same time, command as deep respect from political opponents as from political friends. Indeed, those who knew him personally - and somehow almost everybody who came in contact with Mr. Maclver felt that the friendship had a very personal element in it - entertained feelings for him that amounted quite to affection, for firmness and gentleness were so wondrously mingled in his character that he drew men towards himself and held them by no ordinary influence.
As a public man we all knew Mr. David MacIver chiefly through his active connection with Parliamentary politics, and he commenced his career in the House of Commons over thirty years ago, entering that institution as member for Birkenhead in 1874, after the death of Mr. John Laird, the first member for the borough. Mr. MacIver was opposed by Mr. Samuel Stitt, who was a very strong champion of the Liberal cause, gaining nearly 1,000 more votes than his Liberal predecessor as candidate, Mr. James Samuelson; but the borough thoroughly affirmed its adherence to Conservatism, returning Mr. MacIver by 3,421 votes to 2,474, a majority of 947. That local affairs entered largely into the election speeches of that day we find from the files of the "Birkenhead Advertiser", but even then religious education was a problem that needed more than passing notice. Thanks to Mr. Baxter, we have been able to examine a copy - gold lettered - of Mr. MacIver's thanks to the electors, and which reads:
"To the electors of the Borough of Birkenhead,
"Gentlemen, - I thank you most sincerely for the great honour you have conferred on me in returning me to the House of Commons as your representative.
"In sending me to Parliament to support a Conservative Administration, you have proved, beyond doubt, that the constituency of this Borough maintains the position it has hitherto held in the ranks of the Conservative Party.
"It shall be my earnest endeavour to promote the best interests of all classes of the community, and I trust by a faithful and conscientious discharge of the duties devolving upon me as your Representative, to justify the confidence you have reposed in me. I am, gentlemen, yours faithfully, DAVID MACIVER
"Close of the poll.
25th November, 1874"
How well and faithfully those duties were discharged is now a matter of history.At the General Election in 1880 there was again a contest for the representation of Birkenhead, Mr. MacIver being opposed by Mr. Arthur J. Williams, a well-known barrister, who afterwards became member for the Southern Division of Glamorganshire. In the fight for Birkenhead, Mr. Williams proved a very popular candidate, and succeeded in reducing the Conservative majority to under 400, Mr. Maclver receiving 4,025 votes, and his opponent 3,658. He continued to sit in the House of Commons as member for Birkenhead until 1885, when, owing to indifferent health, he intimated to his party that he did not intend to seek re-election, and on the dissolution of Parliament at the end of that year he was succeeded by the late Lieutenant General Sir Edward Bruce Hamley, who defeated the Liberal candidate, Mr. W. R. Kennedy, Q.C., now Lord Justice Kennedy, by over eleven hundred votes. Mr. Maclver was afterwards frequently approached to again take up a Parliamentary career, but he steadfastly declined until 1898, when, on the death of Sir George Baden-Powell, he was returned unopposed for the Kirkdale Division of Liverpool. At the general election in 1900 the re-election of Mr. MacIver was challenged by Mr. R. R. Cherry, K.C., now the Liberal representative of the Exchange Division. His popularity with his constituents was shown by the fact that he was returned by an overwhelming majority, polling 4,333 votes as against 1,738 recorded for Mr. Cherry. Opposition was again offered to Mr. MacIver at the general election in 1906 by the Labour party, who nominated Mr. J. Conley, a spirited contest resulting in the defeat of the latter by nearly six hundred votes.
Very early in his Parliamentary career, Mr. MacIver commenced to advocate a reform in our fiscal system, and in the coming struggle for victory, which we feel has been only temporarily delayed, the cause will miss the aid of one of its most powerful and consistent advocates. Whilst member for Birkenhead, Mr. MacIver frequently spoke of the advantage that would accrue to our trade by a revision of the tariff laws and since of recent years the subject of Protection has been brought prominently into politics he has been one of its strongest advocates, and especially during his last election campaign he lost no opportunity of impressing upon his constituents the necessity of a change in our fiscal relations with foreign countries. Both in and out of Parliament he never failed to urge his conviction that measures should be taken to safeguard our trade against the attacks of the foreigner. Whilst generally supporting Mr. Chamberlain's proposals, he never swerved in loyalty to Mr. Balfour.
As a shipowner he has carefully studied this industry in relation to our fiscal system, and during the last general election he argued this side of the much-debated question very cogently and convincingly. Speaking at a meeting in support of Mr. Joseph Hoult, on December 20, 1905, he replied to statements in a Liberal circular which stated:— "Whatever might be the result in other industries, it was unquestionable that through Free Trade the shipping industry of the country had enormously benefitted". Mr. Maclver pointed out that so far from being "unquestionable", many of the leading shipowners were of a directly contrary opinion, and he gave a list of shipowners who were strong supporters of Mr. Chamberlain's policy. These, who were engaged in the general trade, were of opinion that the policy of Tariff Reform would help our manufacturers, and enable them to ship more. They saw in Tariff Reform a policy which would tend to restore markets now passing away, and which would improve the export trade, and give them more to carry.
Mr. MacIver's sturdy Protestant principles increased his popularity with a large section of his constituents. As is well known, the Protestant Electoral Federation have carried on an active campaign in Kirkdale during the last three or four years, and at the general election it was hinted that a nominee of that body might be brought forward. Mr. MacIver's attitude on the question of Church Discipline, however, was proved to be sound, and it will be remembered that in reference to the Church Discipline Bill, he was successful in the ballot on two occasions. On that occasion, the Protestant electors gave him their undivided support, and as before mentioned, he easily vanquished his Labour opponent, Mr. J. Conley.
Mr. MacIver held strong views in regard to merchant shipping legislation, and some years ago he published pamphlets on the subject.
The deceased gentleman was a member of the Liverpool Conservative Club, the Kirkdale Conservative Association, and of the Birkenhead Workingmen's Conservative Association, of which he was the first president. For some time past he had also occupied the position of president of the Birkenhead Conservative Association, and despite the many calls of necessity made upon his time by his Liverpool constituents, he contrived to spend no little time and energy in connection with the political affairs of our own town. And he was wonderfully popular in that position; indeed, we cannot forget the storm of applause that greeted his uprising to speak more than ten years ago on the occasion of the founding of the Birkenhead Constitutional Club; when he re-appeared upon a political platform here after a long absence and most enthusiastically was he welcomed.
Mr. Maclver made his last appearance on a political platform at Crewe on the 27th July, when he presided over a meeting of the Council of the Cheshire Division of the National Union of Conservative Associations. On that occasion he delivered an address dealing with the Socialist victories at Jarrow and in the Colne Valley, and remarked that it was idle to close their eyes to the fact that there were enormously increasing investments abroad, and that further Socialistic legislation in this country would tend to still further send capital abroad. They were all in sympathy with Christian Socialism, which meant by good works and commonsense to help those who were less able to help themselves; but the Socialism preached by Mr. Pete Curran and Mr. Grayson was only a higher development of the simple art of picking pockets.
Turning to the more personal side, it is not too much to say that almost everybody knew Mr. David Maclver, his picturesque personality and winning smile making a lasting impression upon all who met him. He belonged to a family that for the past century has been identified with the trade and commerce of this port and his father, the late Charles Maclver, was a force amongst the merchant princes of Liverpool and a citizen whose memory is still warmly cherished. He and his brother, David, established in the forties the firm of C and D. MacIver, one of the oldest shipping lines, and they also founded a business house which was the headquarters of a prosperous steam trade between Liverpool and Glasgow and, in conjunction with the late Sir Samuel Cunard, Bart., and Sir George Burns, Bart., they established the Cunard line.
Mr. David Maclver was the eldest of Charles' seven sons, three of whom survive. Born in 1840, Mr. David MacIver was educated at the Royal Institution School, Colquitt-street. The sphere of work for which he was destined was that of shipping, and soon after leaving school he was in the office of his father, where he acquired a wide business knowledge and a very close insight into shipping matters generally. He benefitted considerably under the will of his uncle, David Maclver, and it was then that his father made him a partner in the concern. In 1863 he married a daughter of the late Mr. Robert Rankin, Chairman of the Dock Board, and it was a great bereavement to him and the family when three years later this lady was removed by death. However, in 1873, he married a daughter of the late Mr. A.T. Squarey, the Dock Board's solicitor. Mr. Maclver continued in his father's business until 1874, when the partnership was dissolved. He had been contemplating launching out on his own account, and moreover was possessed of considerable capital. It was not long before he carried out his intentions, and so established the firm of David Maclver and Co., shipowners, whose offices are in Brunswick-street, Liverpool, with a branch office in London. He had a fine fleet of steamships, built at Birkenhead, and these have for many years been engaged in the River Plate trade, which is one of the most extensive and prosperous of Liverpool's shipping branches, employing, as it does, a very large number of men.
For some time past Mr. Maclver had resided in Manor Hill, Birkenhead, and his constant attention to Birkenhead's interests was shown by the fact that almost the last meeting he attended was in connection with the choice of a Conservative candidate for the town, a matter upon the success of which he took the keenest interest.
For a number of years Mr. MacIver was a member of the Liverpool Town Council, having been elected without opposition as a representative of Castle-street Ward in 1873. He continued to sit for this ward until 1880, when he was appointed to the aldermanic bench, from which he retired in 1886. He had also been a Liverpool magistrate since 1873. In the volunteer movement he took a great interest, and for several years he was an officer in the 11th Lancashire Artillery Volunteers, retiring with the rank of Major. One of his favourite pastimes was yachting, and at one period he was rear commodore of the Royal Mersey Yacht Club. Mr. MacIver was a director of the Great Western Railway Company, chairman of the Bala and Festiniog Railway Co., and a director of the Fishguard and Rosslare Railways and Harbour Co. He was also formerly chairman of the Liverpool Steamship Owners' Association and President of the American Chamber of commerce. He was also identified with several other commercial undertakings.
Apart from politics, he was a most philanthropic man, but in a quite unostentatious way. Like his noble fellow-townsman, Edmund Taylor, his charitable actions were for the most part so quietly performed that no one save the people directly concerned were aware of what was being done, but both in Birkenhead and Liverpool many a humble home will truly mourn the loss of one who in time of sickness and distress was ever ready to open both his generous heart and his purse.
The illness that has taken him from us lasted scarcely more than a fortnight, and the bulletins that have been issued daily since August 14th, when his serious condition was announced, have more than once given hope that he might recover, particularly about a week ago. Unfortunately, however, he had a relapse, which found him weak through hemorrhage, and the loss of strength in combating his illness in its earlier stages, and though eminent physicians, including Sir James Barr, were in attendance, he passed peacefully away at half past eight on Sunday evening.
And so has come to an end, whilst still in full possession of its energies and usefulness, a long and honourable life, many hours of which have been spent for the benefit of others.
Yesterday, the mortal remains were removed from Ambleside to Bromborough, where the interment will take place this afternoon at three o'clock.