For another two years we had Father with us; and he and Mother went each year to Cannes. Then, in the Spring of 1903, Father saw specialists in London and knew that he had not long to live. During his illness, which lasted several months, I used to read the papers to him, and it interested him especially to hear of Mr Chamberlain's change of policy on the question of Free Trade. Years before, in 1888, or perhaps a little later, Father had made very deep research into our economic position viz-a-viz other nations; and he had not only come to the conclusion that tarriffs were necessary; but he had formulated a practical scheme, which meant the adoption of 'protection' and the abandonment of Free Trade as it was then understood in this country. He wrote a most able pamphlet entitled:- 'A New Fiscal Policy' with the sub-title, 'A simple plan of collecting Import Duties, and revising the same, in such a manner as to foster Home Industries without injury to the Spending Power of the Workingman's Wage'.
I remember the night when he read this paper to the "Birkenhead Literary and Scientific Society", of which he was a regular attender and debater. He had practically the whole meeting against him. They were all devout Free Traders - and devout is the proper word - for they regarded the doctrines of Mr Richard Cobden as a sort of pure religion which could never be modified or gainsaid.
Father was a man of original ideas on many subjects, and he always spoke convincingly and well, albeit with modesty. I sent "A New Fiscal Policy" to Mr Chamberlain, and receipt of it was acknowledged by his Secretary, Mr J Wilson. Less than a fortnight afterwards, both Mr Joseph Chamberlain and the prime minister, Mr Arthur Balfour, made speeches in London, quoting from Father's pamphlet, and especially of the possibility of introducing a tariff which would not adversely affect the working-man's pocket. Later in the year, many months after Father's death, Mr Chamberlain introduced his historic Tariff Reform Campaign in great speeches at Glasgow and Greenock. He based his new policy almost word for word on the plan which Father had originated, adding however the great and far-reaching proposals for Imperial Preference. Indeed, at Greenock it was obvious that he had Father's pamphlet in mind for he said:-
"I have never been one of those who believe that all the wisdom of the world is domiciled in this country"The last words of Father's "New Fiscal Policy" were:-
"John Bull may be a very fine old gentleman; but he does not monopolize the wisdom of the world".
You may imagine what pleasure and consolation it gave Father in his suffering and weakness to know before he died that his own great ideas had been adopted by the foremost statesman of his age, Joseph Chamberlain. Almost the last words Father spoke to me were:-
"Insist on the value of the Home Trade!"adding that the great majority of people who discussed the question seemed entirely to ignore the existence of a home market.
Father died on the 9th July 1903 aged fifty seven years and seven months. It was a comfort and consolation to us all to know in what high esteem he had been held by all who knew him. Dr Tait, the Principal of St Aidan's College preached a beautiful sermon in which he extolled Father's honourable and virtuous life, saying that by his loss the world was a poorer place. May and I were present at the evening service in St Aidan's College Chapel; and it made me glow with pride to hear this praise for one who was only slightly known to Mr Tait and a nonconformist. The significance of that eulogium was that Father's worth transcended any differences of creed or adherence to a particular Church. It was evidence of a more universal and instructed admiration which a good life well spent may arouse in the minds of comparative strangers.
Mother, thus widowed at the early age of 47, proved herself a courageous and strong character. She went for long walks in the country, striding for miles and miles at a great pace, and came back tired but comforted and cheered to be with her sons and daughters. We continued to live at Lingdale; and in the autumn she, May and Frieda, sailed on 'Barbary' with Grandfather and Grannie MacIver and Dorothy to Buenos Aires. From there, Mother, May and Frieda went to stay at Puente del Inca, high up among the Andes, and not very far from Aconcagua, the highest mountain of that great range. There they spent many weeks, riding on mules among the snow clad peaks and taking baths in the hot springs at Puente del Inca. Mother had been suffering severely from Sciatica, and the baths went a long way to cure her.
While they were away, Tram, Arthur and I lived on at Lingdale, and Aunt Minnie Sinclair came and kept house for us. She was a very strict character in many respects, having had a great struggle to bring up her large family on very inadequate means; but she had also a very genial side to her nature and with us boys she relaxed and did her best to spoil us. She fed us on more chickens than I ever remember to have eaten before or since. In those days a chicken cost half a crown, a good bird, and when at home in Wallasey she would buy one every week and practically make it last out the week. In other words, she almost starved: but, in spite of penury, she was never without half a crown for the Collection on Sunday.