Bonds of Commonwealth Life
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 1 Feb 1923, p. 26-32

Fry, Very Rev. Dean, Speaker
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Wisdom learned by the British Empire from the mistaken policy of earlier days. The liberty of the Dominions. The ties of Commonwealth. The Crown as the symbol of the United Empire. The unique nature of the Commonwealth. The willing obligation of affection and tradition voluntarily accepted and faithfully fulfilled all round. Our common inheritance of literature, language, and law all as bonds that unite us. All these bonds the inheritance of great historical traditions, one being the English life embodied in stone. Some words on the speaker's cathedral, and on architecture. The history of the cathedral. Current financial problems. Monies needed to effect repairs.
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1 Feb 1923
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PRESIDENT WILKINSON introduced the speaker, who was received with applause.


Mr. President and Fellow Canadians,--I say fellow Canadians because for twenty years I have owned a ranch in North Alberta, and it is a ranch which has actually paid me. (Applause) I did not buy it as a speculation, but in order to establish a home for any fellows who were under me when I was head master, who should settle in this great Dominion, in order to test their capacities and the sincerity of their desires by going out and living there for a while and working there. It may interest you to know that two of those fellows, at all events, had not been long in this country before they were called by their conscience and love of the Motherland to go back and serve her in a moment of danger to the Empire, and they returned, one as a volunteer in the ranks and another as a lieutenant in the Strathcona Horse, and they are now at Calgary, one a Lieutenant-Colonel and D.S.O., and the other a Lieutenant-Colonel and V.C. (Applause) Nothing but the snow and my age prevent me from accepting their eager invitation to go and see them. That is


Very Reverend T. C. Fry, D.D., is Dean of Lincoln Cathedral, England. He is a graduate of Cambridge University and Foundation Scholar of his College. He was master of the "Beg House" at Cheltenham College, and later head master at Birkhamstead School. In 1910, with the recommendation of Mr. Asquith, he was chosen Dean of Lincoln.


why I said "fellow Canadians." Before I finish I will tell you why I wish to ingratiate myself with you. (Laughter)

I would like first to say a word or two on my text. The War of American Independence taught the ruling classes of England the lesson that colonies must -be left to govern themselves. That is why a wiser policy was instituted in time to make the British Empire into a great Commonwealth of Nations, and to accept the nationhood of Canada, while bound by a heart-bond which exists between the Empire and your Commonwealth. This is the wisdom learned from the mistaken policy of earlier days. This sense of liberty which is so strong amongst yourselves was never stronger than when you sing "God save the King" as you did just now so heartily, or when you welcomed the Prince of Wales, who is as much your Prince as ours (applause) and whose reception in Canada will never be forgotten in England. That sense of liberty is so strong because we old folks in England are the residuum, (laughter) and you inhabitants of our colonies when you left the Motherland were really the pioneers, the cream of the home population. I don't mean that some cream is not left, even amongst Deans, (laughter) but I do mean that the cream of the population of an old country is always its adventurous part, and so the nations born of her have to be younger and more adventurous than she. She puts her back to the wall and fights, but nevertheless they remain the more adventurous. That is why it has been learned to be so dangerous to tamper with their liberty. I know that no one lives in the Old Country who has the slightest intention of doing anything but taking off the hat to Canada. (Applause)

Now, who are the ties of Commonwealth, the great Commonwealth of nations that make up what we sometimes call the British Empire, and which I love to think of as a combination of free Commonwealths? I think one of the first ties is the Crown as the symbol of the United Empire. (Applause) I have the singular privilege of a personal friendship with the King. I was very ill once at his home in the country, and anything like the kindness shown me till my recovery cannot be thought of. No man works harder or does his duty more completely, or accepts his position and its responsibilities more conscientiously than His Majesty the King. (Applause) I had the pleasure, during that time when I could not leave my room of talking with the Queen. She talked naturally, as a lady would who had a visitor, on the subjects that most interested me. They happened to be subjects of education, especially the education of those whose chances have been less than mine, also on housing and all such matters of social reform as interest progressives in England. She not only talked of them, to please me perhaps, but she knew all about them; she knew as much as I did, and I had nothing whatever to teach her about them. Nothing impressed me more strongly than this. When I happened to mention to her the name of a lady in Social work in the Home Office, who could always tell her the last thing to be known on the needs of women, and women's work, she went over to a table and jotted down the name and address of that lady, and within a fortnight she had seen her and talked with her. That is enough to convince us of the interest she takes, a world-wide interest, so far as the Commonwealth goes, I am quite certain, in all questions of that kind.

Do we always realize that this union or Commonwealth in one great Empire is a perfectly unique thing? There has never been anything like it in the world's history. It rests absolutely not on formal law but on willing obligations of affection and tradition voluntarily accepted and faithfully fulfilled all round. That is an attempt to bind men together, of one ultimate race, as a rule, with one great inheritance of literature, one language, one basis of law, the common law of England, which gives us more liberty than the Code Napoleon, good as it is. All these bonds unite us in a unique attempt to span the world with bodies of men who refuse to have their liberties interfered with, yet are ready to die for the Motherland and their conception of unity. (Applause)

All these bonds, in my humble opinion, are the inheritance of great historical traditions. One of these traditions is in English life embodied in stone. You see how I approach my point. (Laughter) I am trustee of a unique building, which is not merely unique because it is a church, for there are many churches, and many groups of men with somewhat varying creeds in perhaps we may say non-essentials, but united as Christians, but with different styles of architecture in prevailing use. The building of which I am trustee, however, is the most perfect specimen of native early English genius which exists in England. Of course another Dean will tell you that his own cathedral is superior. Don't believe him. (Laughter) There is a difference of artistic appreciation even among deans. If you take my word for it, there is no cathedral that will come up with the cathedral that stands at the top of a steep hill in the ancient city of Lincoln. (Hear, hear)

It is unique in another way. It is not only our most beautiful specimen of early English, but it is the most beautiful specimen of the next style of architecture, the decorative style which developed from the early English; and in the extension of the choir of Lincoln Ruskin found the equivalent of two other cathedrals put together in one. Why he did not say three he best knows, but he said two, at all events, and that is enough for me. (Laughter) It gives us, unfortunately to some extent, as you will see in a moment, the Norman in the western front and at the western doors; early English from altar to that last bay of Norman; it gives us that beautiful decorated angel choir; it gives us even three or four little chapels of perpendicular style; it gives us a Chapter House in which Edward I, the greatest of our Kings, held two of his first Parliaments, sitting in a chair that is still there, and in which your humble servant has the honour of sitting when Edward I is not there. (Laughter) , In the Chapter House, the Templars of the Eastern Counties were tied, and of course condemned because they were very wealthy people, whose wealth was convenient for Kings; in which the last Council of the Pilgrimage of Grace under Henry VIII was held. You could not desire more wonderful historic memories than those.

But, unfortunately, the Lincoln Cathedral has fallen upon some evil days. In 1845 the old Norman Cathedral that stood on the site, built in the days of William I, and consecrated by Rufus, was shattered by an earthquake, which damaged the western tower. Just before the war began we discovered immense cracks developing in the towers, which we were obliged to leave alone because our regular staff of workmen either went to. fight or to make munitions. When the war was over we were penniless, as you know, and could not proceed with the work because the income tax, for one thing, forbade it. We had spent 2,000 pounds a year simply to keep the fabric going; and those of you who know about bricks and ancient stone and ancient mortar will know what an immense lot of work is demanded in the maintenance of a huge old building. After the war we found ourselves with a good deal of old house property on our hands needing maintenance as well, and we found ourselves very heavily overdrawn, and we could not do anything for a while. At the beginning of last year we called in our architect, Sir Charles Nicholson, and the famous engineer, Sir Francis Fowkes, who saved Winchester Cathedral, and is well known the world over. They thoroughly examined the danger of the superficial cracks to see if they entered the interior of the towers. They found they did. I need not worry you with details, but the architect and engineer estimated that it would cost 50,000 pounds to put the Cathedral altogether in repair, which sum was satisfactory to us in view of the fact that Winchester repairs had cost 100,000 pounds, and that 100,000 pounds were being asked for St. Paul's. Our leading donors were called together, who had assisted in the work for years, and they contributed what they could, running over a series of five years, and notwithstanding the great strain on the larger contributors on account of the heavy taxes, I had raised by October $100,000, and in my absence now they have raised some $12,000 by the machinery set going before I left.

I have been so kindly listened to by the Americans, what I venture to call the true Americans of America, the men whose love of England and hatred of a good deal of politics could hardly be expressed in words, (laughter) whose sense of loyalty to the old memories, and generosity could not be exceeded. That is what set me on coming into Canada. Nothing but urgent necessity and the striken character of our Lincolnshire town trade, which is a foreign trade, would have driven me to exile myself, so to speak, from home, leaving behind me my wife who has never been separated from me at Christmas for forty-six years; but I felt that if I had accomplished anything under the Stars and Stripes I would surely be welcomed if I came over to Canada and the Union Jack. (Applause) I should have been sorry to have returned to England and at least not laid my case before the Canadians, for I feel sure their heart is in the right place, and they will be able to judge, as were the Americans, whether I speak sincerely and deserve any help at all.

It will greatly help the burden that lies upon my people if I can take back with me even one-fifth of the sum estimated from the United States and- Canada. There are 3,000 unemployed men walking the streets of Lincoln, most of them married with families, yet they send me word that they are coming together with their pence to help the Cathedral. The men of Lincolnshire are equally finding it hard. I am only going to Toronto and Ottawa, because I must return to my duties, and must visit New York and Providence, where opportunities are awaiting me or being made for me.

The openings for my appeal are not confined to Churchmen. I am pleading for a great historic movement in which all Englishmen are interested, wherever they reside, and in which every living man must take an interest if he is a man of taste and cultivation, and has a sense of tradition.

Now, Gentlemen, I sincerely thank you, and .I promise you that when I go back to England I shall do all that lies in my power when I have opportunity for public speaking, to hang upon any peg the great cause of the unity of the English-speaking nations, (hear, hear) who alone in my humble opinion can face the future with any confidence, and can solve the problems of the world. (Loud applause)

REVEREND CANON CODY, in expressing the Club's thanks to Dean Fry for his address, gave a sketch of the beautiful Lincoln Cathedral as he had seen it. He had visited every cathedral in England, practically every one in France, and most of those in Germany and Italy, and after Westminster Abbey he would place glorious Lincoln Cathedral, for beauty of situation and general impressiveness as well as beauty of outline. Lincoln Cathedral he considered one of the most glorious of all the shrines of our common Anglo-Saxon christianity.

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Bonds of Commonwealth Life

Wisdom learned by the British Empire from the mistaken policy of earlier days. The liberty of the Dominions. The ties of Commonwealth. The Crown as the symbol of the United Empire. The unique nature of the Commonwealth. The willing obligation of affection and tradition voluntarily accepted and faithfully fulfilled all round. Our common inheritance of literature, language, and law all as bonds that unite us. All these bonds the inheritance of great historical traditions, one being the English life embodied in stone. Some words on the speaker's cathedral, and on architecture. The history of the cathedral. Current financial problems. Monies needed to effect repairs.