THEIR NINE CHILDREN:
Kathleen McCullagh JACKSON, born 1872, married Albert Maitland Tabor.
My starting point for this story was a clipping of an obituary, published
in an unnamed paper (possibly The Newry Reporter) and saved by my grandmother,
Jeannie BROWN (Her husband –Thompson
BROWN - was one of Sir Thomas’ many nephews). This obituary
claims that Sir Thomas was “educated at Morgan School by private
tuition” (whatever that means). At the time of his attendance this
school was housed at Castleknock – a suburb about 8 miles out of
Dublin. The former building was totally ruined about 25 years ago and
there is hardly any trace of it now. The school itself has since amalgamated
with The King’s Hospital School.
Although Sir Thomas spent most of his childhood at the family home at Urker, just outside the southern Armagh town of Crossmaglen, he was in fact born in Carrigallen, Co. Leitrim where his parents were residing at the time (SOURCE: Mary Cumiskey, Sir Thomas JACKSON Journal of the Creggan Local History Society).
Urker Lodge, Thomas JACKSON’s childhood home, had been owned by the JACKSONs since at least the time of his grandmother, who is first on record as owning the property in 1828 (Tithe Composition Book, Creggan Parish). By the time Sir Thomas was born, his widowed grandmother still owned 59 acres at Urker, a reasonably substantial farm for the times. It must have taken some skill and perseverance for her to hang on to it. There are records that at the end of a long lease in December 1846 (two years after the birth of her grandson, Thomas), she was dispossessed of this farm. Public feeling, it seems, was on their side. They had been on the land for at least four generations since Sir Thomas’s great-great-grandparents George JACKSON & Margaret O'LAUGHLIN had settled there sometime between 1737 and 1745. Somehow, his grandmother managed to hang on to the farm, or some semblance of it. By 1864, Thomas’ father David is shown to be the owner of lands in both Urker and Liscalgat. Family letters from subsequent years show land ownership and entitlement to be a sticky wicket and it is certain that Thomas would have grown up steeped in the climate of talk of all this.
By the time that Sir Thomas was six years old, his grandmother had handed the running of the farm over to his father and the family had moved back to Urker Lodge. The JACKSON family roots in this area were clearly deep and through various intermarriages, the family was well connected, particularly in the Presbyterian community. One of his uncles, Rev. Daniel Gunn BROWNE – a larger than life figure in the area - baptized him and his brothers and sisters in the nearby First Newtownhamilton Presbyterian Church. (A memorial window in his memory, however, is in the Creggan Anglican Church).NOTE: Plan to photograph this and more when I visit in September.
Mary Cumiskey points out the dangers in constructing biographies by believing every document we find. An anecdote from the Edward Richardson papers maintains:
This story is all very well, but our man JACKSON actually made his banking start in Belfast.
Two extensive histories of the HSBC are invaluable for understanding the contributions and life of Sir Thomas. The most extensive is a four volume history by Frank H.H. King, The History of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. Highly recommended. The second is a more anecdotal history Wayfoong, by Maurice Collis. The latter book was first commissioned by the management of HSBC in 1961 in order to be ready to commemorate the hundredth anniversary in March 1965. For the casual reader, it is the more accessible of the two books but by its very nature it covers less territory than the first.
Since the publication of these two books, the HSBC has had the vision to undertake much more organization of its historical records and archives. The staff at these archives have been extremely helpful and I look forward to researching there in person (albeit briefly) in the foreseeable future.
In his book, King described Sir Thomas’ father as “four generations from a landholder who around 1750 had lost all (and) was a teacher in the local school.” His mother was described as “an educated woman of Huguenot ancestry”. These bare facts are true as far as they go but their story and the story of their ancestors encompasses a good many more twists and turns than that. In the next few months, the family pages and histories posted on this site will flesh out a good deal more of this rich family saga.
When it comes to JACKSON himself, what we do know of his early professional years is that at age 19 (in 1860), he began his banking career with the Belfast Branch of the Bank of Ireland. Four years later, he accepted a three-year position in the Far East as a clerk with the Agra and Masterman’s Bank. It must have been a heady time for a 23 year old who had lived most of his life in small-town rural Ireland (Crossmaglen, Co. Armagh) and who had been raised in a very close knit – perhaps even suffocating - Presbyterian farming family.
When JACKSON made his first trip to Hong Kong, travellers from Britain had three choices – all of which involved hopes for good weather. The first route took at least 55 days and involved travelling on the P & O line. Since the Suez canal was not yet open, passengers sailed first to Alexandria, then took a train to Suez, and then another liner from there. The second choice was Alfred Holt’s line of steamers. They had steam ships that took at least 66 days to sail all around the Cape. The third alternative was to travel by the Pacific Mail Steamship Co. This route from Liverpool or Southampton to Hong Kong via Panama took about 54 days. No matter how travellers got to Hong Kong from Great Britain, it took an additional five days travel to get to Shanghai. These trips were not without their dangers.When he was signed with the Agra & Masterman's bank, he was given funds to travel to Hong Kong on the overland route. This involved going overland from Port Said to Suez [Thanks to Robin Kinloch for that information].
JACKSON’s first choice of bank employment perhaps wasn’t so propitious. The Agra & Masterman Bank folded within three years of his arrival. It did at least mean that he had his foot in the door. His second choice, the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank was unique. It was the first bank operating in the Far East to be founded and headquartered in the territory that it served (initially in Hong Kong). At the time, other banks offering services in the Far East had been founded with their headquarters in cities such as London. Their profits and dividends had generously flowed out to wherever their home office was. Not uncommon, then or today. In time, this outflow of capital from such regions became a liability to the very operations that were supposedly being served.
It is perhaps helpful to think of banking in the mid-1800s as a new and rapidly evolving system much as the Internet is in the late 20th century. It was volatile and creative and the bottom lines were marked with scads of winners and losers. Like the Internet, the banking systems were developing means to move both information and money around and like the Internet, once the systems were put in place even though they seemed self-evident, they were previously inconceivable to all but geeks and visionaries. Sir Thomas JACKSON was one of the latter.
Understanding how commercial money was handled in the Far East up until the early 1800s makes sense of many of the wars and military manoeuvres of the time. Up until then, trade had been mostly facilitated by agency houses which were more like trading and financing departments operating within the corporations which they served. They had their limits. The tea trade would be a good example.
In the late 1700s, 15 million pounds of tea was exported from China to England. In the early years of tea trade, the various English importing companies paid for it by selling silver. This worked rather well when few people drank tea, but became increasingly problematic as tea caught on. The trouble with this method was that the importing company had to buy the silver in the first place before they could buy the tea. This put British traders at a trading disadvantage. Intolerable. Eventually, being part of the British Empire, they hit on a much more effective commodity for them to trade: Opium.
Since, the British East India Company was well established as a trading company in India and it exerted political control over much of India, then the British (at arms length) could grow the opium in India, sell it for silver and then trade the silver for the tea. Not that all good ideas are this simple and this one was no exception. The problem was that England did not have the same level of effective political control over China that it did over India. It was also the case that China had laws that not only banned the importation of opium, but also that these laws were beginning to be effectively enforced, at least with respect to trade with the British. This meant that the British methods of transportation and selling, obviously illegal, had to operate covertly, under a system of bribes and coercion, not an unknown practice – but costly.
Then, the worst fears of the tea importers materialized. In the mid-1800s, the Chinese Emperor stiffened up his enforcement and destroyed massive amounts of British opium. The British behaved as empires always do when their will is thwarted - they brought in the military. The warships arrived in Hong Kong in June of 1840 (a year before the birth of Sir Thomas JACKSON) and the British sent a letter to the Emperor demanding not only Free Trade (this has an eerily modern ring to it) but also compensation for the British opium that had been destroyed by the Emperor’s agent, Lin Tse Hsu.
When the desired response wasn’t forthcoming, the British attacked the forts at Canton in 1841. Once the British forces prevailed, as they had the maritime and military technological edge, the Chinese were forced to cede the Island of Hong Kong so the British could henceforth both settle and trade without interference.
After even more military muscle on the part of the British, the Treaty of Nanking was signed in August 1842. This gave the British nearly everything they had been pressing for during the past 150 years. The ports were now open to them; foreigners were now free to buy and sell in an open market (without having to go through Chinese agents and officials); and tariffs and other duties had become both fixed and transparent. The British military had won all that the commercial wings of its Empire had demanded and the stage was now set for the future successes of the Hongkong Shanghai Bank.
As mentioned earlier, British trade in China before these military interventions had been handled by “agency houses” which were really nothing more than the banking departments of the large merchant firms which operated in the region. In the 1840's and 1850's with Hong Kong now under British control, these agency houses could happily set up their businesses secure in the knowledge that they wouldn’t have to face either legal or military interference from the Chinese. Interestingly, now that their nest had been made more comfortable, their next threat was from their own people in the form of British “joint stock banks”. The Agra and Masterman Bank, where Sir Thomas first worked in the region, was one such example. These kinds of banks, which were based either in India or else in London - with Indian trade being the mainstay of their business – were keen to ensure that the business which had traditionally belonged to the agency houses would now accrue to them. Good plan.
Had these “joint stock banks” succeeded, it would have meant that all the banks operating in Hong Kong would have been treated in the same way that branch plants are treated everywhere. Good for the stockholders in London and crummy for the support of local business enterprises in Hongkong. Left unchecked, it would have resulted in the decapitalization of the region. The business community of Hong Kong was clear on this score and they didn’t like it one bit. They wanted their own bank, not one like the Bank of China which was registered in London and which had made only a quarter of the controlling shares available to local residents. They wanted a bank where the benefits would clearly flow to their own community and where control would be both local and effective. In short, they wanted something like what the HSBC would become from the day of its inception.
Sir Thomas JACKSON recalled the specifics of how all this came about in a speech that he gave at the banquet after the annual meeting of the Hongkong Shanghai Bank in 1908:
One year after the formation of the HSBC and two years after the start of JACKSON’s contract as a clerk with the Agra and Masterman’s Bank, a bear raid on Agra’s shares caused a suspension of its business. Not being the kind of person who was any good at twiddling his thumbs with nothing to do, JACKSON requested to be released from his contract and began work the very next day with the HSBC, August 6, 1866. His timing was fortuitous, his judgement impeccable.
Within a year, he had been promoted from agent at Hankow to Accountant at Shanghai - a position which carried significant managerial responsibilities. His abilities must have been exceptional as there were at least two others who were senior to him and who would surely have expected to be in the running for the job. (p 242, King) JACKSON’s new salary was close to 60% higher than what it had been at the Agra and Masterman’s Bank. Clearly a good move.
By 1870, he was appointed to the post of Manager of the Yokohama office. This branch had just opened four years earlier, in 1866, the year JACKSON had first arrived in the region. At this time, the British community in Yokohama was still very small. Fifty British residents were recorded as living there in 1861 and the British population would have included about 400 non-military people at most by the time that JACKSON arrived.
In 1872, halfway through his tenure at Yokohama, JACKSON was offered the job as manager of the Shanghai Branch. This was a plum. This job was the second most important posting in the HSBC and Sir Thomas would have had intimate knowledge of this branch from having served there as an accountant from 1866-70. Even so, he turned the offer down, feeling that the successful operation of the Yokohama branch still required his presence.
Again, this was fortuitous. There was a lot of action going on in Yokohama and a lot of it involved trading in silver, a skill that would stand JACKSON in good stead in the years to come. This was also the same year that the HSBC had opened an agency at Osaka to facilitate bullion operations with Japanese merchants in connection with the Mint which had been set up there. In his time there, JACKSON formed lasting bonds with the important people there and performed well in his relations with the Mint, the HSBC, the Japanese government and the merchants. (NOTE: Sir Thomas’s brother, David JACKSON, arrived in Hong Kong six years after Sir Thomas, but even though he was well enough regarded to be later honoured by the Emperor, it wasn’t until 1893 that he became manager of the Yokohama Branch)
Sir Thomas served as the Yokohama manager for four years, until 1874. Fortunately for him, even though the population was small (we’re talking less than a thousand people), the opportunities for romance were not (and may have contributed to his decision not to relocate to Shanghai!). On September 19th, 1871, one year after moving to Yokohama, Sir Thomas married Amelia Lydia Dare, resident in Yokohama and the daughter of George Julius Dare of Dorset, a Captain in the British navy. (NOTE: Seven years later, her brother - A.H. Dare - would be the last “junior” to be recruited from the East, rather than from London. He served at Yokohama in 1878 as a junior and then as sub-manager until 1893 when he retired due to ill health and was pensioned off.)
Sir Thomas’ bride, Amelia Lydia Dare had roots in the area that had been put down long before he arrived on the scene. Her father was a well-known “character” in Singapore. He had been a navigating officer in the navy, had married at the Cape and had many business interests on the side (as such “masters” in the Navy often did). His maternal grandfather, Mr. Julius, had helped him build a vessel of his own and he afterwards built others for his expanding business interests. At one time he was conducting trade with China on three vessels fully owned by himself. His wife, Sarah Strieve Parke, clearly no shrinking violet, would often be left with the children as he headed off on his long voyages to conduct his business. On one such instance in 1841, he passed through Singapore on his way from Bombay and left his wife on shore. A full account of The Pirates & Mrs. Dare of Singapore is gleaned from An Anecdotal History of Old Times in Singapore and is worth the retelling if only to give a bit of a sense of the family that Sir Thomas married into and the risks faced by the expatriate community at the time.
Clearly, Thomas JACKSON had chosen a wife, the second youngest of nine children, who knew full well the risks and pleasures and customs of living in this part of the world. Her father, George Julius Dare, had first sailed from Calcutta to China in 1823 (p 604 Anecdotal History of Old Times in Singapore) and stayed active there for more than a quarter century.
From her father’s experience, Lydia would also have known what it was like to have a family business collapse after a breach of trust. In the year preceding his death and while on leave in England, her father had left his ship chandler and commission agent business in the hands of a trusted employee who siphoned its resources into his own pockets and drove it into bankruptcy. Even though Sir Thomas would never meet Dare Sr., who died a year later in 1856 in England at age 50, his contacts and those of his three remaining sons would have been part of the network of connections that enriched his success.
In spite of George Sr.’s death in England in 1855, the rest of the Dare family stayed resident in the Far East. The eldest son, George Dare, is recorded in the aftermath of Krakatoa (August 1883) as paddling his canoe out into the harbour and bringing back pieces of pumice stone “as big as a hat”. In the 1850s he and Julius were active in amateur theatre in Singapore. Regrettably, Julius died suddenly of cholera in 1879 in Yokohama and his mother, Sarah Strieve Dare, died five days later.
By 1876 JACKSON was recognized as a hot young thing at the HSBC. He was made Acting Manager on the basis of his abilities (and in spite of his young age) and then in 1877 was made Chief Manager (the one year “probation” likely to ensure that he would prove out). He was thirty-five years old, had only ten years service in the HSBC but was a born financier. He was known both for his charm and for his sincere concern for the people who worked under him.
In a letter written a decade later by Charles ADDIS to his father Sir Charles ADDIS, we have a glimpse into how he was regarded by his staff:
Again, JACKSON’s timing in 1876 was impeccable. He took over the reins just after the bank had endured several losses (in the wake of a serious depression in both China and England), the failure of a major client and the questionable speculation by the Manager of the London Office in Spanish bonds and South American railways. When he took over, the net profits were less than half a million dollars. Some 26 years later, they were nearly three million. Even more important though was the rise in deposits in this time frame, from eleven million dollars to one hundred million.
One of JACKSON’s first initiatives was to open a new branch in Singapore in 1877. Singapore was his father-in-law’s old stomping grounds and still home to several family members and friends. The prospects for this new branch looked good. The Suez Canal had been opened in 1869 making the Straights of Malacca the main thoroughfare for steam vessels sailing to China. Business was booming.
JACKSON’s second major coup was the relationship he nurtured with Jardine, Matheson and Company. Before JACKSON’s tenure, there had been a historical rift between the HSBC and Jardine Matheson and Company, probably because HSBC had succeeded in winning business away from them. JACKSON welcomed principals from Jardine Matheson and Company to serve on the HSBC’s Board of Directors. This was the seed of a most profitable relationship. By the end of the century, when the British & Chinese Corporation that financed railway development in China was formed, Jardine Matheson had secured the business of provisioning and construction of the railway while HSBC supplied the financing. The end result was so successful that HSBC was then able to finance the building of a new head office at what would become the most prime real estate in Hong Kong.
Part of what fuelled the rise in the HSBC’s fortune was JACKSON’s skill as a silver specialist and trader. China had been on the silver standard for its currency at a time when the value of silver was plummeting. One of JACKSON’s stated goals was to keep the bank “on an even keel” which he did by keeping large silver deposits when almost no else dared to, using them to make loans at a premium (because there was no competition) and thereby being able to accept all the contracts and advance loans which other companies couldn’t handle because they didn’t have adequate reserves to cover them. In fact, he was so good at this, he became known as “Lucky JACKSON”.
JACKSON’s luck, however, was always tempered by judgment. In these boom times, he didn’t dramatically increase the overhead of operation or the numbers of agencies and branches between Burma and Japan, as a less prudent person might have been tempted to. He ran a tight ship. At a time when the costs of management at competing London and Indian banks were in the range of 50-60%of profit, the HSBC kept their overhead down to 42%.
In the decades that followed, the Chinese government became more and more reliant on the HSBC to assist them with loans that enabled them to defend their borders against incursions by the Russians and Japanese. At the close of the century, China’s dependence on the HSBC was a key factor in the their administration redrawing the map of Hong Kong to expand its territory from 32 to 398 1/4 square miles (thereby including the lands around Kowloon) with a 99-year lease on these lands being granted to the British Crown.
JACKSON’s final achievement was to put the Hong Kong currency on a sounder footing by reviving the idea of using the British dollar as the standard currency of trade. As a result, the British dollar became the most trusted currency throughout the region at the time.
Throughout decades of revolutions, military incursions and political instabilities of nearly every sort imaginable, JACKSON continued to succeed in his goal of keeping the Bank “on an even keel”. At his last annual meeting of the Bank in Hong Kong, he received a thunderous ovation for doing more than any other manager had done and who also, when times were bad, had come out of retirement to rescue them one more time. A man who had raised the Bank to the proud position it now occupied.
When JACKSON retired in May of 1902, he was granted an honorarium of £100.000.00 and was made Chairman of the London Committee at a salary of £1,500.00 per annum. For comparison’s sake, this amount was equivalent to what would be given at the time to a Governor of an Indian Province. [NOTE: In today’s pounds, this would mean £6,269,863.00 for the honorarium and £94,047.95 per annum. In contemporary Canadian dollars, the amounts would be $14,229,454.00 and $213,441.82 – and this at a time long before our current levels of executive compensation were in place.]
On the 24th of February 1906, a bronze statue of JACKSON facing the Bank was unveiled in Statue Square. It is still the only statue in “Statue Square”. On his retirement, one of the many fine speeches to send him off was the following tribute from the Chinese merchants of Hong Kong:
JACKSON was knighted on July 8th, 1899 and three years later received the additional honour of Baronet (August 4, 1902) Even though Sir Thomas chose to retire at Stansted House, Essex, (where he bought and resided on an estate of a hundred acres) he didn’t forget his roots and visited Urker frequently where he was well known for his generosity, several accounts which survive. (SOURCE: Edward Richardson papers quoted by Mary Comiskey):
Cumiskey also shares a story transcribed from one of Michael J. Murphy's manuscripts (Ms. 976) in the Department of Irish Folklore, University College, Dublin,of a recording he made of Mary Daly:
This woman in May Daly’s description would have been “Ming” - the children’s nurse.
During the later years of Sir Thomas' life, Mary GRIFFIN - his sister Mrs. Griffin, lived in Urker Lodge, under the financial care of Sir Thomas who also employed a companion for her, a Miss O'Hare. (NOTE: This “Mrs. Griffin” was the widow of Frederick Richard GRIFFIN. Her first husband was William MENARY and their child Mary married James “Jemmie” WRIGHT who bought Urker Lodge in 1935 and whose descendent Major WRIGHT lives nearby in Gilford Castle.)
At Crossmaglen, other than Urker Lodge and the family graveyard, Sir Thomas JACKSON is still remembered in a memorial window at Creggan Church and in a display of the Creggan Local History Society that includes amongst other things, “The JACKSON Bell”. The story of this bell begins in 1865 when the local landlord, Thomas Ball, installed a fake clock on the Marketplace which he had built in 1863 –just around the time that JACKSON first left for work in the Far East. This dummy clock became an object of much derision, mocked in local ballads:
Forty years after its installation, Sir Thomas returned to his native
town and on May 1st, 1903 replaced this inoperative clock with a fine
mechanism, reputedly of solid gold and silver. Sadly, on July 1974, the
Marketplace was hit with explosives and it and the clock were demolished
- another sad relic of the times of “The Troubles”. On September
1989, the bell of the clock was restored and is now on display at the
Visitor’s Centre at Creggan Church - a historical display committed
to healing the rifts between classes and faiths which have so dogged the
history of Ireland, a purpose that were Sir Thomas still amongst us, he
would likely have approved (and even funded!)
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