Willie Walsh to unveil plaque outside pub in honour of anti-booze London Mayor
AIRLINE supremo Willie Walsh will unveil a plaque outside a Londonderry pub on Thursday (April 26) in honour of self-made Malin man Sir William McArthur who ironically went on to ban wine in the Mansion House whilst Mayor of London.
Sir William was death on booze when Lord Mayor of London but his former wool export business in Londonderry city centre is now a pub.
Sir William was born at Malin, in the barony of Inishowen, Co. Donegal, on 6 July 1809. His father was a poor Scots-Irish farmer, and itinerant Wesleyan preacher.
He would later become Sheriff of London in 1867, an alderman in 1872 and Lord Mayor in 1880. Throughout his mayoralty he showed an active interest in colonial matters and in religious enterprises, setting a pious tone by forbidding wine, card playing and dancing at the Mansion House.
Now an Ulster History Circle plaque, in memory of Sir William McArthur will be unveiled at the site of his first business on Thursday.
The ceremony will be held at 11am at 23-24 The Diamond, Londonderry. Mr Willie Walsh, current President of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and CEO of International Airlines Group will unveil the plaque. Mr Walsh will be in Londonderry at the invitation of the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce.
Chris Spurr, Chairman of the Ulster History Circle said: “When William McArthur opened his first business within Derry’s walls in 1831, he little knew this enterprise would lead to him becoming a prominent businessman in London, the city’s Lord Mayor, a founder of the London Chamber of Commerce, and its first President.
“The Ulster History Circle is delighted to commemorate McArthur’s achievements with this blue plaque, and is grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Derry Chamber of Commerce for their support, to Mr Colm Cavanagh for his valuable help and advice throughout the preparations and to Mr Willie Walsh, the current President of the London Chamber, for unveiling the plaque to his distinguished predecessor.”
Gerry Burns, Member of the Heritage Lottery Fund Committee for Northern Ireland said: “We are delighted to be involved in this project to raise awareness of individuals like William McArthur who have made significant contributions to the development of our society.
“The Blue Plaques are an excellent way of linking the buildings where these people once lived or worked to their lives and achievements, enabling us all to learn more about our heritage.”
William attended school at Stranorlar in Donegal, and Newtownstewart in Tyrone, and aged 12 he was apprenticed in 1821 to Hugh Copeland, a woollen draper in Enniskillen, then moved in 1825 to Lurgan, where for £45 per annum he kept accounts and travelled for William Johnstone, a manufacturing tobacconist and spirit merchant.
In 1831, with Joseph Cather, he started a woollen export business in the Diamond in Londonderry on his own account. When Cather emigrated in 1835, the partnership was dissolved, and McArthur continued the business alone.
In 1841 he became a member of the town council, and that same year his younger brother Alexander went to Australia for his health. William sent his firm’s woollen goods to his brother, who began to operate as an import-export merchant in Sydney.
The gold rush increased demand for woollens; Alexander opened branches in various parts of Australia, and the McArthur brothers became wealthy. In 1857 William transferred the headquarters of the firm to London, and settled in Brixton Hill. By the mid-1860s the brothers had extended their activities into banking and insurance.
In July 1865 McArthur unsuccessfully contested the parliamentary seat of Pontefract in the Liberal interest. In 1868 he was elected junior member for Lambeth, and continued to represent that constituency until the dissolution in 1885.
His staunch Methodism informed his politics, and he led the movement in favour of the annexation of Fiji, where there was a strong Methodist missionary presence, meeting strenuous opposition from Gladstone, but achieving his aim in 1874 through Disraeli.
In 1878-9 he toured the world, being warmly welcomed in Australia. Apart from colonial affairs, McArthur mainly devoted his attention in the House of Commons to educational or Irish questions. In the 1885 election he stood for Newington West and was defeated. In 1886 he became a liberal unionist.
He was one of the founders of the London Chamber of Commerce in 1881, and its first President. On 17 November 1882 he was made KCMG. He was always generous towards Methodist causes, including contributing to the establishment of Methodist College in Belfast, and laying its foundation stone in 1865.
McArthur died from heart failure on the London Underground on 16 November 1887 when travelling to a City board meeting. He left a fortune of almost half a million pounds, bequeathing over £150,000 to Methodist charities. He is buried in Norwood cemetery.
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Weather for Londonderry
Thursday 20 June 2013
Temperature: 12 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: South
Temperature: 12 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: North west