Secret Service Theologian




Mercies new and never-failing
Brightly shine through all the past,
Watchful care and loving-kindness.
Always near from first to last,
Tender love, Divine protection,
Ever with us day and night;
Blessings more than we can number
Strew the path with golden light.

O happy home where Thou art not forgotten
When joy is overflowing, full and free
O happy home where every wounded spirit
Is brought, Physician, Comforter, to Thee.
C. J. P. SPITTA; translated by S. L. FINDLATER.

WHEN our parents married in 1873 the first home was at 7 Kensington Gore, South Kensington, almost in the shadow of the Royal Albert Hall. Four years later a move was made to 39 Linden Gardens on the north side of Hyde Park, and there they lived until my father’s death forty years on.
The family consisted of four sons and one daughter, all destined to fare forth in time from the home-land. My own arrival upon th scene was thus announced to a relative in Ireland:
'My knowledge of infants less than a month old is mostly derived from the description of the younger Dombey. And all I can say is that young Anderson entered the world neither very red, very bald, nor very ugly; but on the contrary with a most pleasing complexion, a fair head of hair (fair in both senses) and a general appearance that has gone far to reconcile me to my fate. Like Tom Sticker’s infant, he resembles his father about the back of the neck ; he takes after his mother in respect of whiskers."
In his old age,when my own younger daughter was born, he wrote to his sister in Dublin: "I am sending the following notice to the-Morning Post, "At Dunara, Helensburgh, on the 8th instant, to Sir Robert Anderson, K.C,B., another grand-daughter. Both ..doing as well as could be expected. Friends will please accept this intimation. No flowers by request." A postscript added
"A. won’t let me send the notice." - His parents with his unmarried sisters lived for many years in Knapton House, Monkstown, about six miles from Dublin.
During our childhood the summer holidays were always spent with them, our father joining us for his leave. No slight attraction was a three-acre garden wherein were all manner of fruits. From Knapton shorter visits were paid to Glenburn, an old-world cottage at the foot of the Dublin Mountains, belonging to our Uncle Sam (Sir Samuel Lee Anderson, whose wife was a Barcroft of Newry, Co. Down). This provided many country delights; and so did Howth House where our Uncle Walter Boyd (Justice of the High Court of Justice in Ireland, later Sir Walter Boyd, Bart., P.C.) and his family spent the summer months. There we never tired of grubbing in the harbour in the intervals of bathing, fishing, sailing, or tramping over Howth Head which looked down on the Bay of Dublin. (" My heart you're troublin'.")
Until his retirement in 1900 my father's daily routine was more or less as follows : after family prayers, away to the Home Office or Scotland Yard; back again just in time for dinner; much of the evening given up to the writing of his many books, except when official work had been brought home or when he had preaching or other evening engagements. Naturally therefore we did not see much of him, even when we were at home, apart from Sundays and public holidays and during vacations. During the Scotland Yard period, however, after the regular summer leave was over, he used to take a house somewhere on the outskirts of London where we could all be together. As long as it was within the far-flung boundaries of the Metropolitan Police area this was in order, and he was able to join us on the tennis court in the evenings. Occasionally at other times we had games of tennis with him at the National Club, then situated on the Thames Embankment not far from "the Yard." For many years he was on the Club committee, and in 1917 was elected an honorary member.
His official position brought certain incidental advantages to us. I remember watching the Lord Mayor's Show and other spectacles from the Home Office windows in Whitehall; whilst in the C.I.D. days reserved seats for cricket matches at Lord's or the Oval did not come amiss, nor did the opportunity of following the Boat Race in the police launch.
Of all the many processions one saw in London, Queen Victoria's funeral made the most lasting impression on me. From the top of the Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner, reserved for the police and their friends, giving a view of the whole length of Constitution Hill down to the Palace, one watched the slow approach of the great sombre cavalcade on that grey winter day. Behind the gun carriage rode the first British king even our parents had ever seen. In his biography of Edward VII, Sir Sidney Lee writes of Queen Victoria: "Her prolonged tenure of Royal place and of such Royal power as the British constitution allowed her fed the popular fancy that death would never claim her, and that her reign was unending." In those days there was no telephone in our house; an old-fashioned telegraph instrument spelled out messages from Scotland Yard on a dial, and members of the Family became fairly proficient at reading them. To this day I have a vivid recollection of taking the message on 22nd January 1901 which began: "The Queen died . . ."; and of feeling that the stable world in which one had grown up was no more.
A memory of a very different kind is of the annual performances by the Metropolitan Police Minstrels in aid of the Police Orphanage. To us youngsters they were amongst the highlights of the year; I doubt whether any professional coons could have excelled them. We were keenly interested in the individual artistes, as we were also in the constables who were on duty day and night outside our home. A special favourite amongst the Minstrels was named Stroud, many of whose quips passed into the family vocabulary.
All his life my father was fond of exercise. He often walked down to his office across Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, then through St. James's Park to Whitehall; about three miles with only a fraction of it in the streets. He was proud of being a Londoner and of the amenities of the capital in respect of its public parks. A favourite story was of an incident occurring on one of these walks. "One morning on my way to Scotland Yard," he relates, "I picked up a brooch. As it was a prominent object lying in the middle of the path, I took for granted it had been dropped by one or other of two nurse-maids walking ahead of me, the only human beings in sight. The trinket was an '0. U. Duck' brooch, the vowels being intertwined in a cipher with a little gilt duck underneath. The first of the girls told me at once she did not wear a brooch. When I overtook the other and asked had she dropped one, she replied: 'I think so, 'sir; what kind is it?' Had I produced it she would certainly have claimed it; but with a stolid face and in a leaden tone I said, '0. U. Duck.' '0y, you go along,' she exclaimed with a toss of her head, as she jerked herself away. On arriving at my office I gave the brooch and the story to my Superintendent, and within twenty minutes the trinket was in the Lost Property Department and the story in every branch of the Commissioner's Office."
Rotten Row in those days was a great meeting-place for society folk riding or walking. One of my brothers and I were with my father when he met and introduced us to Lord Rosebery, (5th Earl of Rosebery, Prime Minister 1894-5) who, I remember, spoke of the insomnia which was such a trial to him. One of my father's books, by the way, which would seem to have been sent somewhat apologetically brought this characteristic note : "My dear Anderson, On the contrary, I shall read every word, and thank you heartily for it. Yours sincerely, R."
My brother Edmund says the mention of Rotten Row reminds him of a day when he was walking there with my father, and the Duchess of Somerset (wife of the 15th Duke), passing on horse-back close to the rails, greeted him and remarked that it was a fine day. My father cordially agreed, but before she was out of ear-shot asked my brother what she had said. He replied more or less sotto voce, but it was no good ; "Speak up ; I can't hear." So the information had to be given to the world. "Well," said my father, " I knew whatever she said would probably be true, so I assented!" That they had thoughts in common about matters of deeper import than the weather is shown by these words from her:
"Thank you very much for the book The Honour of His Name. I like it much and the teaching it contains. You are right; no words should fail to express the high tribute we should prefer in hymns (or sermons) to the Divine Master.
When my father was appointed to Scotland Yard a horse and police groom were placed at his disposal, and he then usually rode to the office; his diaries refer to those whom he met. Sir Edward Bradford (the Chief Commissioner) was often his companion. Other names occurring now and again are those of Colonel Adams, Frank Bevan, Lord Dynevor, Lord Eustace Cecil, George and Edmund Hanbury, G. J. Shaw le Feuvre, Sir Joseph Pease, Abel Smith, Ernest Tritton, Lord Spencer (Viceroy of Ireland 1869-74) (" Talked of LongJohn O'Connor etc."), also John McNeill, the famous preacher and evangelist. One entry is: "Rode with Miss P. with whom I had an earnest talk."
One whom he greatly enjoyed meeting in the Row, and with whom he had many a talk, was Lord Wolseley (Viscount Wolseley, Commander-in-Chief of the Army in succession to H.R.H. the Duke of Cambridge, 1895-1900). A note from the latter refers to them: "I have only just returned from a yachting cruise, but now hope to meet you often on horse-back again during our rides in the Park." My father's diaries often speak of their meeting; one entry is : "Lord W. hailed me to announce the relief of Ladysmith last night." In this connection a note in the 1902 diary is of interest: "Had a noteworthy talk with Sir R. Harrison of Fortificatiçns 1898-1903] about Lord W.'s work at the Department. Two years ago, when panic seized War Office and Government, he alone kept his head. We were very near a European war, and Lord W. would have taken the command at Aldershot." Another diary entry is: "Lord W. gave me his Decline and Fall of Napoleon." I believe this subject was often the topic of their talks. When my father had sent Lord Wolseley a very different kind of book, the reply was:
"My DEAR SIR ROBERT,-Thank you many times for your great kindness in sending me a copy of your book Pseudo-Criticism. I hope to study it, and I am sure to obtain from its pages- as I have so often done in conversation- many most useful lessons. I hope you enjoy your retirement as much as I do.
"Always believe me to be,
"Yours most sincerely,
Sir Robert had a quaint way of expressing himself which often intrigued the public. During the Anglo-Boer war enteric fever was a serious menace, and it was stated that the men could not be restrained from drinking any water they came across. In a letter to a London paper he asserted that thirst was a matter of habit, and that he himself had not been thirsty for a quarter of a century! Many provincial journals quoted this as a curiosity. Incidentally, having campaigned in Central Africa, I have more sympathy with the "Tommies."
He was a law unto himself as regards clothes apart from uniform or evening dress. Until folk like the Labour members introduced less formality, frock coats were de rigueur at Royal Garden Parties. My father disliked the garment and I think never possessed one; he did not in the least mind being the only man in the assemblage without it. I remember, by the way, my mother's scornful account of presumably distinguished guests at one of these functions stampeding for the refreshment marquees the moment they were free to do so. An experience related in a racy letter from Mrs. Sholto Douglas really must come in here. My father had been her escort to a Royal Drawing Room, and she wrote afterwards
"I shall be always grateful; it was a really kind action; and if you had any idea how enthusiastically I love our Great Relation {H.M. Queen Victoria], and how I longed to see her, you would be glad you had helped me to accomplish this. I felt lone and lorn when your silver coat-tails had turned and left me behind." She then describes the roomful of people with whom she found herself:
"Certainly they had never learnt 'Court behaviour,' for when the moment came there was such a rush as I shall never forget. I was hustled and banged, and for three terrible minutes I wished I had been a rough and that I had on no finery that would spoil in a free fight, and no reputation to lose by ' unladylike behaviour.'
"However, having squeezed the two poor long-suffering soldier-men flat as pulp against the doorways in our mad career, we emerged on the other side panting but solemn, everybody having steadfastly held her place against all comers, and we fell into decorous line. . . . I have not gone through it all for many years, and my condition was lonely and unsupported, but I fixed an eye on the one person in the world I most wanted to see, and descended as near to her level as my stiff knee would allow. The whole Row behaved with great kindness and friendliness, and the Duke of Connaught at the end made so many remarks about Arthur {Her brother, Maj. Gen. A.H.Paget. Their father was Gen. Lord Alfred Paget] that it is a wonder the next terrified female coming on behind didn't tumble over my tail and cause a sensation."
My father often thoroughly enjoyed such "functions." His diary for 1908 has this about a Garden Party at Windsor when my mother was with him: "We had a delightful day. Met heaps of friends and acquaintances. Had a shake hands with the Queen [Alexandra] and the Duke of Connaught." He did not find any difficulty in passing from them to the deeper interests of his life and vice versa; the diary for 9th July 1891 records: "Garden Party at Marlborough House for the Queen [Victoria] and the German Emperor"; and the next day: "Dined at Lord Kinnaird’s. Bible Reading at Miss Kinnaird’s; Titus iii. Bland, Mahony etc. Back to K.’s to dress, and then to State Ball." The variety of his engagements is illustrated by these diary entries on a day in 1911 "3 p.m. Lady Jane Taylor’s meeting re Socialist Sunday Schools. The Duchess of Somerset in the Chair. I was the first speaker. . . . 6 p.m. Dined at Whitefriars’ Club, Anderton’s Hotel. Anthony Hope Hawkins was Prior. Irving, the actor, the guest; he spoke, then Sir Henry Matthews, then me! " The diaries have occasional references to interesting things he heard. In January 1903 I find this: "Dined with Adams. General Moncrieff of Scots Guards told me how he was ordered with 180 men to Osborne in 1869 to protect the Queen because of a letter warning of a plot to kidnap her!"
My recollections of the great Moody and Sankey evangelistic campaigns are not very clear. I remember being at one of their crowded meetings when Mr. Sankey’s singing made a greater impression on me than the address. My people were specially attracted by the preaching of the Rev. George F. Pentecost, who with Mr. George C. Stebbins as his singing half-section formed another team, as one would say to-day. Dr. Pentecost was a great Bible student, and his Gospel addresses were full of doctrinal teaching. This appealed to my people as much as his remarkable personality, and both evangelists became great friends of ours. Mr. Stebbins, who was the composer of many popular hymn tunes, wrote one for my father’s Safe in Jehovah’s Keeping. Dr. Pentecost afterwards occupied the pulpit of Marylebone Presbyterian Church for some time, and we often went to hear him; although he usually preached for an hour I never found it too long. I remember one occasion when, speaking on the words "Being rooted and grounded in love," he paused and, looking down on some of the worthy elders of the kirk sitting near the pulpit, remarked:
"Some of you are rooted and grounded in Presbyterianism."
We youngsters were interested in all the varied guests visiting our home. In addition to ordinary relations and friends some came for the sake of a talk on Biblical themes. One of these, the Rev. J. J. B. Coles, a retired clergyman, would drop in unexpectedly to any meal. Once when this happened to be breakfast he was so absorbed in his talk that he was quite oblivious of the need for getting on to the day’s work. Turning to my father he asked if he had been thinking lately about the Vision of the Vials in the Book of Revelation (or some such topic). Like a flash my father replied: "I’ll tell you if you eat your fish" ; and this brought him down to earth with a bump. Mr. Coles never failed to be interesting and original. Answering a letter from him on some question of interpretation my father wrote: "I’d rather have your heresies than the orthodoxies of most men; for even when you are really heretical you suggest thought, and that I always value!"
Another frequent caller was Professor Hechler, who had been chaplain to the British Embassy in Vienna, and had there come into contact with the Emperors of Austria and Germany and other potentates and diplomats. I clearly recollect his telling us how he had met Theodor Hertzl in the early days of the Zionist movement, and had asked him whether he was seeking to fulfil the Old Testament prophecies of the restoration of Israel to Palestine. Having pointed out that it was useless for anyone to try to fulfil prophecy, Dr. Hechier was amazed to learn that Hertzl was not in the least interested in the prophecies, nor indeed in the spiritual and religious aspect of Judaism. I learned later that this was confirmed by Rabbi J. L. Landau, of the United Hebrew Congregations in Johannesburg, who told also that Hertzl at that time did not believe in the possibility of Hebrew becoming again a living language, but that his attitude changed in many respects afterwards.
One of the most popular visitors at all times was our family physician, Dr. A. R. Hamilton Bland. When we were kids he always made time for fun with us, so that being ill was no misfortune. Mr. Earle Bland, his brother, used to play the same role during the holidays in Ireland to our great content. Another doctor who paid non-professional visits at unorthodox hours was Dr. T. Gilbart-Smith; a familiar sound at the locked and bolted hall door about midnight would announce his arrival with the latest yarns and jokes. My father’s own sense of humour, by the way, sometimes surprised those who imagined him always serious and sedate. His friend Mr. Fegan said that he had a delight truly Irish in dropping a bombshell in any gathering, and the more staid the company the more he enjoyed startling them. An occasional diary entry gives an amusing flash. This of a meeting for men at which he was the speaker: "A girl with a music-hall shake and scream sang a solo." And this about a lecture at Newcastle:
"A middle-aged and aggressive spinster was enthusiastic; had heard Gladstone, Bright, etc., but never such an address as mine!" Mr. Fegan’s own sense of humour may be judged from this incident mentioned in the Quarterly Record of his Homes. On his way back from a football match once he called for his mother, who had been at a prayer meeting. An old gentleman opening the door to young Fegan, who was wearing a button-hole, said kindly:
"I always think when I see a young man with a flower in his buttonhole that he has not done with the earth—he is earthy." Fegan thought for a moment and replied, "Well, sir, I always think the same when I see an old man eating a potato!"
My father was always fond of children and enjoyed playing with them. But, especially as he grew older and his deafness increased, he found the school-boy type rather beyond his range. In our Cambridge days my brothers Alan and Edmund and I were actively associated with boys’ camps, whilst Graham was doctor in a Training Ship, and always got on well with boys in the navy. My father remarked once that he failed to understand how we could be his sons, because to him the boy was the natural enemy!
In connection with these camps - run by ‘varsity men for public-school boys in the holidays - we had occasional "squashes" for boys living within reach of our home; these were in the nature of reunions for those who had been at the camps. To make room for a hundred or more in our drawing-room the furniture had to be shifted and cane seats brought in. For this and other preparations all available hands were needed, a scratch meal being fitted in somehow. My father would retire gracefully to his study, where he would have his dinner in peace before settling down to the evening’s work. His diary for 1908 has a note of one of these occasions : " Over 100 came, a crowded room-full. The Chaplain-General [Taylor Smith] bossed the show. He came at 6 and dined with me at 7. He gave a very earnest and solemn address at the meeting after supper." The gatherings followed the camp routine; a sing-song followed by supper (in lieu of cocoa and biscuits), and then evening prayers. Amongst other speakers were Admiral Sir James Startin, A.M., and Mr. Arthur Mercer. Sometimes my father would only put in an appearance at the close of the evening, telling the boys that if they had enjoyed themselves he hoped they would show it in the usual manner - by coming again. A very interesting account of the Universities Camps for Public Schools, known to-day as the ‘Varsities and Public Schools Camps, was written by Tom Inskip, of King’s College, Cambridge, now Viscount Caldecote. For some years the late Robert Medill acted as Brigade-Adjutant (i.e. organiser), the Brigade-Commandant being Colonel Charles Russell.
Amongst the recollections of still earlier days some of the happiest are associated with Sunday afternoon children’s services. We were fortunate in having as leaders of these at different times three men who made a great appeal on the human side quite apart from their spiritual power. The first was the Rev. W. R. Mowil, curate of All Souls Church, Langham Place, and later Vicar of Brixton. I can see him now demonstrating the breast stroke after the meeting, his massive frame poised precariously on a drawing-room piano stool. Another was Dr. A. T. Schofield, one of the most interesting personalities and speakers imaginable. Both were special friends of our family, as was Mr. A. C. P. Coote, afterwards Sir Algernon Coote, Bart., H.M.L., of Ballyfin, Ireland, who greatly influenced us at the all-important ‘teen age.
"Religion" was never a thing apart in our home nor a solemn matter to be reserved for Sundays and special occasions. It was "all of a piece" with the rest of life and seemed entirely natural. The element of compulsion was altogether absent, even on Sundays, when it was never a case of "Must we go?" but rather of "May we not go?" (to church or meeting). And it was a real pleasure to accompany my father when he was preaching or speaking. We were, by the way, definitely not unthinking hero-worshippers; if heredity counts for anything we could hardly help being critical. But it was impossible not to be impressed by the way in which he seemed able to deal with almost every problem brought to him, every question on which light was sought. His friend Colonel Richard Adams said of him afterwards : "I knew your father for more than thirty years; and I can say that he was one of the ablest men I ever knew. In any case where the facts were all before him he seemed almost intuitively to arrive at a correct conclusion." One of my unfading memories is of his reverence for the Scriptures. A visible token of this was dislike of seeing anything, even a hymn-book, placed on top of a Bible. He was intensely reserved and did not easily show his deepest feelings. One therefore specially values words like these from Lady Kinnaird (Alma Kinnaird, née Agnew), who wrote to my mother on hearing of his death: "His anxiety was always for you these past months, and his last letter to me in Scotland a few weeks ago ends with, ‘If our Lord were on earth I would cross to its farthest bounds to ask Him to heal my Agnes.’"
In later years, as indicated in the closing chapter of this book, he was often depressed by a sense of loneliness and by his deafness. Probably those who have no experience of this affliction and the accompanying head-noises have little conception of what sufferers have to bear, and how much they need.sustaining grace. A letter quoted in Chapter VI from the Archbishop of Sydney gives a hint of this. Recalling memories of Dover, Dr. Mowll says : "I remember as I walked with him once down to the sea-front after a meeting his shouting to me, ‘But for the grace of God I would not be fit for a bear to live with !
His diaries at one stage frequently refer to disturbed nights, with attacks of "blue devils," when he even had to go downstairs and read. He may have been suffering in this way when he wrote to his friend Duncan Davidson:
"Mv DEAR D.D., Your words of cheer about my effort are encouraging. I cherish no thought of evil toward you in regard to my visit to Inchmarlo, but only thoughts of gratitude for kindness that made a duty visit to Aberdeen a very enjoyable outing. But I have not forgiven myself for my outbursts. I was jumpy all that week through being over-wrought." After a spell of bad nights in 1908 there is this note : "I had an epoch-making experience in prayer and got very near to God. He heard me. I have asked that the years that remain to me may be bright with His blessing. The cloud passed off, and I had freedom from the depression. . . . Had the best night yet."
"Goodness and Mercy." These words recur again and again in the diaries throughout his life. on 1st January 1904 there is this entry: "Arthur in Cape Town, Alan in Amoy, Graham at Haslar, Edmund in Birmingham, Agneta here. All well. ‘Goodness and Mercy.’" Another diary note in 1895 reveals some of his thoughts about us: "I spoke [at Talbot Tabernacle] on Hebrews xi. 15, ‘They might have had opportunity to have returned,’ i.e. turned back; specially thinking of my own boys." With never-failing remembrance, right on to the close of his earthly life, the absent members were mentioned individually at family prayers. And the petitions came straight from the heart. In a letter to my mother after his death, Mr. Duncan Davidson said:
"I was privileged by his speaking to me of his tender feelings and love to you and his family. He had a rarely tender heart. I always felt I could come to him for instruction and strength and close fellowship, and I thank God for him."
He was indeed, as is often the case with outwardly reserved folk, very dependent on sympathy and responsive to it. In his younger days there existed between his brother Samuel and himself a rare friendship. For many years scarcely a day passed without their exchanging letters between London and Dublin. After my uncle’s death in 1886 right on to his own passing more than thirty years later he felt the loss of that companionship and fellowship.
My father seems hardly ever to have destroyed a letter; and after his death, when a five-storey house was being exchanged for a moderate-sized flat, the family were confronted with a problem indeed. I got back to London from South Africa early in 1919 to find the available members wrestling with it; the quotations given in this memoir are taken from only a few of the letters which were preserved. They may be sufficient to support the opinion expressed in early years by Mrs. Piazzi Smith, wife of the astronomer with whom he came into touch officially in Edinburgh.
Writing about his book The Gospel and its Ministry, Mrs. Smith said: "From our first acquaintance with you we felt there was something in you different from the ordinary run of men."

(From Chapter Eight)
MARRIAGE - in 1873
FROM the age of thirty-two until his death at seventy-seven my father had the inestimable blessing of the companionship and selfless devotion of the one whose memory is very precious to many besides her own kith and kin.
Agnes Alexandrina Moore was the elder daughter of Ponsonby Arthur Moore, whose father, a clergyman of the Church of Ireland, was a grandson of the fifth Earl of Drogheda. On the death of his cousin, the third and last Marquess, the earldom passed to my mother’s only brother, Ponsonby William Moore. She was then raised to the rank of an earl’s daughter as if her father had succeeded to the title.
(It has not been thought necessary to reproduce here all the details in the biography of Sir Robert's wife's family. So a chapter has been omitted. Webmaster)
Chapter Nine

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