Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sepia Saturday 58 : J F W Galbraith And The Secrets Of The Mauretania


My Sepia Saturday spotlight this week falls on Mr J. F. W. Galbraith. Who, you may ask, was J. F. W. Galbraith? The answer is, I am not really sure. And neither is anyone else. 

His photograph is on a real photograph postcard that was added to my collection many years ago. There is no further information on the reverse of the card, nor is there any message, stamp or postmark (and therefore, no date). But surely in these days of instant and unlimited information it should be easy to find out everything about him? It seems not. All I could find out was that he  was a judge and a Conservative member of parliament for the East Surrey constituency between 1922 and 1935. Even though the full record of Parliamentary debates for the last two hundred years (known as Hansard) is available on-line, it appears that Mr Galbraith never uttered a word during his thirteen years in Parliament. Another vague reference suggests that he was President of the Oxford Union in Trinity Term of 1892. And the final piece of a very incomplete jigsaw puzzle is that he was listed as a passenger on the Mauretania sailing from New York to Liverpool on the 13 September 1911. I have to say that my heart did a little dance when I eventually found a Wikipedia page devoted to James Francis Wallace Galbraith but sank into despair again when I discovered that the page was blank.

Perhaps we should not begrudge JFWG his privacy. He took his secrets, his loves, his successes and his failures to his grave and then told nobody where his grave was. All he left us with is an image, a knowing look, and a half-formed smile. A teasing hint perhaps of what might lie below the surface, of what happened on board the Mauretania in September 1911.

Reading the Collected Political Speeches of J F  Galbraith will leave you with time to spare, so why not pop over to the Sepia Saturday Blog and look at the other Sepia Saturday 58 posts.


16 comments:

  1. There's a pub here in Bristol which was fitted out with some stuff from the Mauretania when she was scrapped. Not surprisingly, it's called the Mauretania pub. It also had a neon sign from the Mauretania, which was the first neon sign in Bristol.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Well, he obviously had a lot of money; traveling aboard any of the Cunard Line ships was an expensive proposition, but the Mauretania was the fastest passenger ship in the world at the time and used to run special speed runs between New York and Liverpool for the entertainment of its passengers. The amusements of the rich!

    ReplyDelete
  3. i wonder if esteemed economist john kenneth galbraith is related to jfw galbraith?

    jkg was an one of my college day 'heros' and probably instrumental in why i also majored in economics along with sociology and anthropology....

    this post has inspired me to put up a sepia photo today of folks i know nothing about - but i like the photo!

    however i can't say my post will be as interesting as yours which actually shows you do know quite a bit about him....

    ReplyDelete
  4. @ Chairman Bill - I don't suppose the sign said 'JFWG woz 'ere' by any useful chance?

    Alan, I quite like the idea that a Conservative MP could sit in Parliament for 13 years and never utter a word :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. interesting he was able to leave such an invisible trail.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I like to think that he lived a secret life full of intrigue and dalliances.

    ReplyDelete
  7. First, thank you Alan for having this wonderful, insightful, helpful, priceless Sepia Saturday! I treasure such mysteries along the way too, like this most handsome Mr. Galbraith and why hasn't someone ventured to give us more? Then you offer the Mauretania, another peak for my research mania...why is that I would rather discover things from yesterday, especially long, long ago...I guess it's all about keeping the spirit of yesterday alive in today....it is all worth knowing about and sharing! Of course I'll have to dig into this handsome man! Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  8. A neat and tidy gentleman, whoever he was...

    ReplyDelete
  9. I wish I was a skilled at this as you Alan. I have been limiting myself to photos I own and finding I am running out. I need to take a new approach. This was a great post. Of course I had never heard this name but as Karen S said I just might go researching.
    QMM

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thirteen years in Westminster and he never uttered a word???? Wow!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I'm imagining that this was a little something he handed out at meet and greets to his constituents

    Fame simply rarely lasts.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I never heard of him before today, but if in 13 years as a politician he never uttered a word, he would get my bvote today! I say bring him back from wherever he is! A quiet politician, we should be so lucky! I was going to comment abot the wealthy traveling on the Cunard line ships, but Roy already did! Amusing post!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Some present-day politicians would do well to follow suit ... both in not uttering a word and in disappearing off the face of the earth!

    Somehow, I like that the mystery hasn't been solved.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I heard a rumor about creative vomit.

    I'm still waiting to be puked on.

    ReplyDelete
  15. well, it sounds like he was a wallfolwer, never making waves, neither scandals nor comments to make him stand out. i wonder how he would have fared in these days where technology reveals everything, instantly!!...
    :D~
    HUGZ

    ReplyDelete
  16. But surely you can find him on the 1891 or 1901 UK census? He must have been a very, very private person! It's a nice photograph. (Sorry I'm so late getting around to last Saturday's sepia posts!)

    ReplyDelete