Perth Stuff > People > Aberdeen

aberdeenGeorge Hamilton-Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen

Aberdeen Street Perth is named for Lord Aberdeen, Foreign Secretary 1828-1830 and 1841-1846, Prime Minister 1852-1855. He was created Viscount Gordon of Aberdeen 1 June 1814.

PERTH NAMES. Aberdeen of Aberdeen street. By Cygnet.

ABERDEEN of Aberdeen-street was that Earl of Aberdeen who was Foreign Secretary in the Duke of Wellington's Cabinet when Western Australia was founded and later Secretary for the Colonies when Surveyor General Roe was surveying and pegging out the streets of Perth. His name first appeared in Aberdeen-road, East Perth, where it can be seen on the first street map of Perth issued in 1838; but a later survey by Roe of this part of the town wiped out that thoroughfare, and his name was transferred to the present Aberdeen-street running off Beaufort-street. Aberdeen was a strange mixture of a man. Queen Victoria loved him for his elegant manners. The House of Lords loathed him for his constant sneers. The House of Commons condemned him for a fool. The people of England drove him from office as a muddler.

George Hamilton-Gordon, fourth Earl of Aberdeen, was born in 1784. He had a picturesque ancestry for he claimed descent from Bertrand de Guerdon (or Gordon) the gentleman who slew King Richard the First, Coeur de Lion, in "proof" whereof the crest of the Aberdeens shows two arms about to shoot an arrow from a bow. But a much nearer ancestor, and one even more entitled to fame, was the first Earl of Aberdeen who although a lawyer - and, of course, a Scotsman, and from Aberdeen of all places! refused to take any payment from his clients, rich or poor, and gave his ser vices free on the grounds that he already had enough money of his own! Aberdeen of Aberdeen-street played a conspicuous part in many great world happenings. In 1813 before he was 30 he was dispatched by the British Government to Vienna and succeeded the next day in prevailing on the Emperor of Austria to declare war on his son-in law, the Emperor Napoleon. It was the prelude to Napoleon's fall, and Aberdeen had the unique privilege of being present as a spectator at all the momentous battles which followed. It was to his tent that Moreau, the traitor French general, was brought to die after his leg had been shot away by one of Napoleon's guns. It was Aberdeen, too, at a later date who persuaded Murat, King of Naples, to desert his brother-in-law, Napoleon, and to take the field against him.

AS a young man Aberdeen had travel led the continent widely, spending much time in Greece and incidentally bringing on himself the anger of Byron who already considered himself Public Hero No. 1 as far as Greece was con cerned in its struggles against Turkey. Byron lampooned his rival in a well known passage in one of his poems, alluding to him as "Athenian Aberdeen"; but there was enough of glory for both of them since Byron gave that ancient land his life, and it fell to Aberdeen, as Foreign Secretary in the Duke of Wellington's Cabinet in 1829, to declare the independence of Greece. Aberdeen followed Sir Robert Peel in politics and served under him as Sec retary for the Colonies in 1834-1835, and again as Foreign Secretary in 1841-1846. In the latter office he distinguished himself by averting war first with the United States over Canada, and then with Spain and France over the "Spanish Marriages" as the impasse was called, the hands of the two Spanish Princesses and heirs to the Spanish throne being sought after and fought after by all the politicians of Europe, but particu larly those of France and Austria. In the first half of the last century Cabinets in England came and went much in the same way as they come and go in France today, and, provided one managed to be included even as a junior member in a Cabinet or two, the day would surely come when one would be Prime Minister. So it came about that when the Earl of Derby, who had formed a Cabinet which was hailed as a permanent fixture for the next twenty years or so, found himself out of office in a few months the Queen sent for the Earl of Aberdeen. He was 70 years of age, but she had always had a soft spot in her heart for him, "Our excellent Aberdeen" she called him, and when he formed a Cabinet she was delighted. "To have my faithful friend Aberdeen, as Prime Minister is a great happiness and comfort. She congratulated herself and himself on forming "so brilllant and strong a Cabinet." But the Queen soon found that its very brilliance and strength were its weakest points. It was another of those Cabinets of "all the talents" where every member was so talented that he completely ignored his colleague - and even the Prime Minis ter - and did just as he liked.

The result was that the Crimean War, although it was drifted into, managed to come at last something In the nature of a thunderbolt. It not only caught the army unprepared, it caught the Prime Minister unprepared and undecided, so much so that the nation saw him in the House of Lords advocating peace while his colleagues were shouting war in the House of Com mons. What followed was one of the worst chapters in the world's history of bungling and muddle until finally Aberdeen and his Ministry of All the Talents were flung from office; not, however, before thousands of British soldiers had been done to death by starvation, disease and cold, apart from those thousands of others whose death lay at the doors of rascally contrac tors and grossly incompetent generals.

ABERDEEN was a complex creature made up of competency and in competency, culture and snobbery. Courteous and gentlemanly in his relations with the Queen, there is not a diary or book of memoirs of his day which does not condemn him for his sneering and boorish attitude towards his peers. His worst fault, however, was his indecision which, almost at every meeting, gave his Cabinet colleagues "the jitters." For all that, Gladstone pronounced on him a fulsome panegyric when the Crimean War bungle brought about his fall, and declared that posterity would recognise his public virtues.

Besides Aberdeen-street in Perth, there is an Earl-street in Albany. There was also a Gordon-street in close proximity, but this has now been merged into Gray-street.

References and Links

Cygnet [Cyril Bryan], 'Aberdeen of Aberdeen street', West Australian 17 December 1938: 7.


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