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22

Early in 1871 Gregory was sworn of the Irish privy council,

and later that year he was appointed, governor of Ceylon. In

January 1872 he sailed for that colony, in which he remained

for over five years. In this position Gregory exhibited high

administrative qualities, and his tenure of the governorship

was one of considerable success and popularity. He spent

more money on transport and irrigation works than any other

governor, doing much to stimulate the cultivation of coffee and

tea, and to improve the harbours of the island. His efforts at

social reform and attempts to end the commercial

monoculture of coffee were more circumspect and of limited

success. He also took a great interest in the culture and

antiquities of Ceylon, and established a museum at Colombo.

In 1875 he received the Prince of Wales in Colombo and was

knighted. Increasingly bored by administrative routine, irritated

by the criticisms made of him by the plantation interest, and

having clashed with the Conservative colonial secretary over

the privileges of the Anglican church in the colony, Gregory

decided to resign in 1876. After a visit to Australia in January

1877, he returned to Ireland.

Thenceforward Gregory took no active part in public affairs,

though his interest in them remained keen. As an Irish landlord

he was deeply alarmed by the land war, and he vehemently

criticized Gladstone’s Land Act of 1881. In 1882 he had a sharp

confrontation with his tenants over rent levels, and relations

were subsequently strained on the Coole estate. He was

strongly opposed to the home-rule movement, and in 1881 he

printed privately a ‘confidential letter’, attacking what he took to

be the separatist aims of Parnell and his followers. From 1886

Gregory considered himself a Liberal Unionist, ready to support

coercion against agrarian agitation, but looking increasingly to

tenant purchase as the solution to the land question.

Gregory had a strong interest in the Middle East; he visited

Egypt and north Africa in 1855-6, and published an account of

his travels privately in 1859. In 1882 he advocated the cause of

Arabi Pasha, the Egyptian nationalist leader, in letters to The

Times. Subsequently to his retirement from the Ceylon

government he paid three visits to that island. He contributed

to The Racing Life of Lord George Bentinck by John Kent and

Francis Lawley (1892) and in 1889 he published an article on

Daniel O’Connell in the Nineteenth Century.

Gregory was twice married: first, on 11 January 1872, to

Elizabeth, daughter of Sir William Clay and widow of James

Temple Bowdoin, a lady of considerable private fortune, who

died in 1873; second, on 4 March 1880, to Isabella Augusta

(1852-1932), youngest daughter of Dudley Persse of

Roxborough, co. Galway. She survived him with one son,

William Robert Gregory, and both published Gregory’s

posthumous autobiography and turned Coole Park into the

centre of the Irish literary renaissance. After 1890 Gregory’s

health gradually failed, and he died at his London home,

3 St George’s Place, on 6 March 1892. A reduction,

taken from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

£3000-5000

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