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This history was written by Amy Oliver JACKSON, one of the daughters of Sir Thomas JACKSON (1841-1915).
Sharon Oddie Brown. May 17, 2010

 

PERSONAL HISTORY OF SIR THOMAS JACKSON Bart.' [1]

 

My Father came of an English family, one of whom went to Ireland as an officer in the Army in Queen Elizabeth's reign[2] - was given a grant of land in County Cavan - in about 1750 the then owner played ducks and drakes with his fortunes - lost everything and eventually came to the North of Ireland - got a post as schoolmaster[3]. My Father[4] was the 4th generation down from them. He was the second son of David Jackson[5] out of a family of nine[6], (born 1841). After a private education was placed in the Bank of Ireland in Belfast; seeing not much chance of promotion then he answered an advertisement for the post as clerk in the newly formed Bank of Agra. Upon arrival there he found it to be in liquidation. Hearing that a new bank was being formed in Hong Kong he went there and was employed as a clerk. There were only two other members of the staff. Manager and Sub-Manager. From then his rise was as rapid as the growth of the H & S.B.C. He was Manager in Yokohama at the age of 30 when he married Amelia Lydia Dare[7], - went back to Hong Kong as Chief Manager in 1877 or 1878. From then he was a very leading man in the Colony and was the first commercial member of the Legislature of Hong Kong. In about 1884 he left to take up the post of Manager of the London Office - but twice after that the Bank got into difficulties and he had to go back to put things right - the second time he remained as Chief Manager till about 1902. On his return to London he was given a post as Chief Director - adviser with a private office in the Bank in Gracechurch which he held until December 1915 when he died in the office sitting in his armchair reading his morning mail - He was created Knight in 1899 - Baronet in 1902.

These are the bare facts as far as I know them - the family after they went to Northern Ireland must each have married women with property as by Father's time they had regained the position of Irish County gentlemen in a smaller way[8]. Father got his brains from his Mother, who was of Hugenot origin - a staunch protestant, of the most regid [sic] order. It was from her too that he got his integrity.

 

Father was a most lovable and generous man —no one ever knew how much he gave away or how many people he helped. Years after in Overton here, I met a man[9] who we had known as a Subaltern of R.A. in Hong Kong and he said to me Your Father saved my life once. In Hong. Kong I was awfully seedy with malaria etc. and he happened to see me when I had gone to the Bank to cash in some mess accounts and said 'Young Man you should get up to Japan for some weeks leave"'. I told him it was impossible from both leave and finance side and he answered ‘I'll see your Colonel and attend to your Bank balance.’ He did both things. Now this young man was not in our inner circle of friends and yet he did it and of course none of us ever knew it. The same sort of thing happened to my sister Mrs.Marker9 years after too. Sitting next at a London dinner party to the man, I forget his name, who gave Chequers to the Government he too said he owed everything to Father who came to his rescue in the financial way.

Once I said to him when he was living at Stansted. "Why are you not as rich as many Hong Kong people are?". His answer was - "I never bought to sell, it would not have been fair, as I might well have stabbed my friends in the back as sell shares in their business, it would have been known at once and ruined them" - He was absolutely honest - he loved the Bank - his favourite joke was that the Bank was his "No.1 wife" -"Mother No.2". He told me once that he thought his secret of success was that whatever the situation he could throw off all business once he got home - could always sleep - I am sure it was true, coming up to St. John's Place for tiffin, always with some guest, he was completely gay and carefree and as he got into his chair to be carried back to the Bank one could see, as it were, he was putting on his coat of business - his face would change.

As children we had a code of honour about him - if he said "How is your pocket money getting on" it was meant to say one had none left, if we needed money we must go to Mother who would help us if we deserved it.

I have forgotten to say how when we left Hong Kong the first time Father had magnificent gifts from the Bank friends, the English community and the Chinese community - As you know a statue was put up to him in his life time and at first the old Chinese women used to put joss sticks round it in any time of trouble, they were sure he would help them as he had always been their best friend. When Father heard he roared with laughter and said "and me a staunch Ulster Protestant".

One more story - of course he could get into a rage sometimes - but it was all over in a few minutes - he never bore malice.

A rich parsee broker called Moody[10] one year had a race horse he named T.J. When Father asked him why he had called it T.J. he said "Because my friend he is a bobbery beast with a very bad temper' Father was delighted and I always heard that woe betide anyone who dared to go into his office on mail morning.

 

Copy of speech by Sir Henry May, Governor of Hong Kong at the Meeting of the Legislative Council December 1915.

Gentlemen, We meet today under the shadow cast by the death of one who is now numbered among the great, upon the Institution he served so nobly, upon the Colony of which he was the greatest citizen it has ever possessed, and upon the hearts of the many friend in every station of life, who had the privilege of his acquaintance.

Sir Thomas Jackson with the brilliant abilities by which the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank was raised from small beginnings to the splendid position it now occupies in the Financial World, combined with a kindness of heart which to all who came in contact with him -

He was unofficial adviser to successive Governors of this Colony and in his generosity he dispensed his counsel to all who cared to ask for it. In my younger days I have more than once had recourse, and not in vain, to that fountain of wisdom.- He was in truth a man of a crystal mind, pure and innocent of guile, as that of a little child, and a heart of pure gold. His friendship was indeed a priceless gift from Heaven for those who were honoured by it -

 

I beg to move the following resolution -

This Council desires to place on record its deep sorrow at the death of Sir Thomas Jackson a former member of the Legislature, its deep appreciation of the magnificent services of the deceased to the Colony and to British Trade and its heartfelt sympathy with his widow and family in their bereavement.

 

I forgot to say that my Mother was of great assistance in this way that she never came between my Father and his business, or pried into anything, that she undertook the immense hospitality he indulged in and that she took complete control of her large family even to choosing schools and paying all expenses. She had carte blanche on Father's account and he trusted her, completely.

 

Copy of Resolution passed by the London Committee of The H & S.B.C.
December 23, 1915.

It is with the deepest regret that the Committee have to record the death on December 21st. of Sir Thomas Jackson. His name will ever be associated with the history of the Bank and his late colleagues realise how great is the loss, which has been sustained by the Management. As Chief Manager Sir Thomas Jackson laid the foundations of the Bank's success and the best years of his life were spent in building securely upon them. When he relinquished that position he left to his successors the fruits of his labours, but also an inspiring tradition of courage, steadfastness and loyalty, In the later years during which he has held the Chairmanship of the London Committee, his great abilities and unrivalled Far Eastern experience have been placed ungrudgingly at the disposal of his colleagues. Their admiration of his powers was at all times accompanied by a warm appreciation of the nobility of his character and while deploring the deprivation of his wise council, they feel personally bereft of a true, generous and great hearted friend. The Committee desire that a copy of this Minute be sent to Lady Jackson together with an expression of deep sympathy with her and her family in their bereavement.

 

Letter from the Chairman of the China Association.

It was with feelings of the deepest regret that the General Committee and Members of the China Association heard of the sudden death of Sir Thomas Jackson, whom many of us have known for the greater part of our lives as a close friend, and whom all of us have regarded with the greatest esteem and respect. In a Position of great influence and responsibility throughout nearly two generations his name has stood the severest test of all - the test of time - and at the close of a long and active career he has left behind him a reputation which any man may envy - wise and prudent in counsel, able and strong in administration, decisive in action, fair minded and large hearted, he has perhaps as large a share as any man of our time in developing the welfare and Progress of the Far East; where his name has long been a household word. His genial nature and kindness endeared him, not only to his old friends but to a succession of younger generations, all of whom will have him in affectionate remembrance -

 

Extract from "The Foreigner in China". by O. M. Green.[11]

The Bank (and these two words always mean The Hongkong & Shanghai Bank) was fortunate in its Managers. In the early seventies it struck some lean years and the merchants had to come to the rescue. But in 1876 the late Sir Thomas Jackson was appointed Chief Manager in Hong Kong and from that time the fortunes of the Bank rose, until it became the dominating financial instrument in the Far East. "T.J." combined financial genius, personal charm, generosity and sterling integrity to a degree that made his memory one of the best beloved, and respected of all foreigners who ever went to the Far East.For nine years he never left the Colony or took a single day's holiday and it is no exaggeration to say that he made the Bank.

 

Extract from Market letter from H & S.B.C. London December 24, 1915.

 

My dear Stabb[12] -

I cannot begin this letter, without a reference to the irreparable loss which we have all sustained by the death of Sir Thomas Jackson. At noon on Tuesday he was talking with his usual vivacity in my room from which he 'passed to his own. There he appears to have fallen asleep in his chair and to have passed away peacefully without waking.

It was for him an enviable death, to pass with his natural force indeed abated by age, but with his faculties undimmed, in the bank he loved so well, surrounded by those among whom he was accustomed to go out and in as a father. His was a commanding personality, so that men remarked him wherever he went and spoke of him after he was gone, but it was a personality tempered by a playful and tender disposition which engaged the affections of all with whom he came in contact. It was remarkable to see the ease and readiness with which a man of his temperament, for his mental force was intense, could enter into the feelings of others, especially the unfortunate. He was lavish in his generosity and his sympathy was boundless. He had a multitude of retainers on his bounty who will recall most pleasurably and now that he is gone, most wistfully

 

"His little nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love".

 

This is not the place to talk of his services to the Bank, with the rise of which he was identified, or of the great personal reputation which he built up for himself in the East. Great and many as were the public services he rendered, his most enduring monument, to my mind, is the standard of commercial morality which he set throughout the Far East. Nothing that was not generous, nothing mean, underhand, or tricky, could abide in his presence and he leaves to those who follow him a noble and inspiring example of unselfish devotion to duty....14

 

He was affectionately known throughout the Far East by his initials "T.J." As the result of a bet with Prince Henry of Prussia[13] in 1899 he received a postcard from Europe addressed -

"T.J." China.

Every one of any importance had letters of introduction to him and came to our house, as well as any friend or mere acquaintance.

 

When we (Mother and children) first went to Hong Kong we lived in the rooms above The Office and I remember it well with large rooms and deep verandahs. When some fifteen years later a larger bank was built it was called "Jackson's Folly" as being far too big: When he built the first house on the Peak he was called a fool as we were all to be blown away by the first typhoon!

 

 

 



[1] This was written by Amy Oliver JACKSON, daughter of Sir Thomas JACKSON.

[2] Another version in our family history is that they came over with Cromwell's army. A third version is they came over to Ireland  and then went back to England and came back again.

[3] This would have been George JACKSON (1718-1782)

[4] Sir Thomas JACKSON (1841-1915)

[5] This would have been David JACKSON (1814-1899)

[6] Family of ten actually — the youngest son, George, died in infancy.

[7] Amelia Lydia DARE came from a well known Shanghai family. She was twenty years old when they married (he was thirty). His mother was an OLIVER and came from a family with significant farm leases and mills; his grandmother was a McCULLAGH of whom little is known; his great-grandmother was the redoubtable Margaret BRADFORD who in a fit of temper threw the worthless leases of her husband's father into a fire. Her family had extensive leases in Co. Meath.

[8] Their financial life was actually quite precarious.

[9] Arthur Hamilton Lee, 1st Viscount Lee of Fareham (1868-1947) was a British soldier, diplomat, politician and administrator who served in both Canada and the USA. His wife Ruth was the daughter of a New York banker. Their "country home", better known as "Chequers" was given in trust by his and his wife to serve as the official residence and retreat of British Prime Ministers. Initially, they had it on a long lease, but Ruth Lee and her sister purchased it in 1912 after the death of its ancestral owner (Henry Delavel Astley) and later gave it to Arthur Lee. For a while during WWI, the house was used first as a hospital and then as a convelescent home for wounded soldiers, then in 1917 the Lees (who were childless) gave the estate to the country with the "Chequers Estate Act. It was intended as a retreat house for Prime Ministers as a place to relax from the taxing duties of political life. The Lees themselves left the estate after dinner on January 8th, 1921 with Lady Lee in tears at having to leave it behind. Regrettably, relations between themselves and Lloyd George (who had brokered the deal) had soured. They left, amongst many other treasures, a stained glass window which they had commissioned, with the inscription:

This house of peace and ancient memories was given to England as a thank-offering for her deliverance in the greatwar of 1914-1918 as a place of rest and recreation for her Prime Ministers for ever.

[10] Hormusjee Naorojee Mody a highly successful Parsee broker with Chater and Mody, otherwise known as “the Napoleon of the Rialto”.

[11] Owen Mortimer. The Foreigner in China .London: Hutchison, 1942

[12] Sir Newton J. STABB.(d. 1931) son-in-law of A.M. TOWNSEND. He was the chief manager in London from 1891-1931.

[13] The only brother of the Kaiser, Prince Henry (1862-1929)

 

 

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