The Outlook of Empire
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 9 Aug 1932, p. 197-210
Ryrie, Sir Granville, Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
Details of the speaker's journey to Canada. Some impressions of Canada. Some comparisons between Australia and Canada, between Sydney and Melbourne and Toronto and Montreal. The Future of the Empire. The speaker's dislike for the term "Commonwealth of Nations" as opposed to the British Empire. Ample signs that the British Empire is not decadent. Why the British Empire is such a great empire. The small minority of people in Australia and Canada who do not honour the flag of Great Britain. A look back at the Great War. What Australia did in preparation for the war to help the Old Country at that time. Matters affecting the Empire since the war. Giving credit to Ramsay MacDonald. Work accomplished at the Lausanne Conference. Economic optimism for Australia, and for the British Empire. A few words with regard to the Conference in Ottawa.
Date of Original
9 Aug 1932
Language of Item
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Full Text
Tuesday, August 9, 1932

LIEUT.-COLONEL GEORGE A. DREW, President, introduced the speaker.

SIR GRANVILLE RYRIE: I must thank your worthy president for introducing me in such kindly terms. He has stated, of course, that I have been High Commissioner for Australia, in London, for the last five years. 1 am still High Commissioner, although I am absent from London, as my term does not expire actually until the tenth of September next. So I am still the High Commissioner for Australia.

Now, 1 feel that it is impossible for me to make a speech on "The Empire" without referring briefly to what is taking place at Ottawa, but I would not like to go into any details with regard to Ottawa at this time. To me it appears to I)P-, as it were, sub judice. There are a lot of discussions going on, and some matters so far are only half-discussed, and it would not do for me to go into these discussions. However, I will refer to that again.

Now, I must be brief, because I have determined to take but half an hour of your time. I know you are busy men, but I must say a word with regard to our visit to Canada.

I have taken a great fancy to your country. Whether I will ever see it again or not is uncertain, but 1 have actually fallen in love with Canada. Canada is a very fine and very splendid country.

We left London on Saturday, and travelled in a very fine ship, the Duchess of York, and landed at Montreal, and saw all the sights on the way. We were greatly taken with the views of the country, and with the city of Montreal, but what attracted me most of all was your magnificent river, the St. Lawrence. It really dwarfs our rivers in Australia. I am sorry to say it, but it is so, although the Darling River in our country is navigable for some five hundred miles.

Your people have been so remarkably good to us, to my wife, my family and myself. We have met with every kindliness and consideration; every one seems to be out to help us see the sights of the country; every one seems to be out to please us in every possible way, and we are having a real, right royal time, which will be altogether too short, as we have to catch the Niagara at Vancouver. When I say Niagara, I am speaking of the ship.

Speaking of Niagara, yesterday through the good offices of your Premier (Hon. Mr. Henry) and his staff, we had a most excellent trip to the Falls of Niagara and back again. I have often heard of Niagara Falls., as compared with the falls in Southern Rhodesia--I think it is the south; either north or south; I am not quite surethe Victoria Falls, and some people have told me that the 'Victoria Falls were more beautiful and more impressive than Niagara. I have now seen both, and I say without the slightest doubt that Niagara far and away surpasses the Victoria Falls in almost every way. The Victoria Falls are higher, and that is the only way in which they attain any superiority over Niagara. It is a magnificent sight. We saw the illumination last night, and were taken about to the vantage points by the staff of the Parks Commission in Niagara.

One thing which impressed us was a conversation we heard taking place between some Americans. I understand they are going to shift Goat Island half-way across the river (Laughter), so that they will get as much water as Canada. (Laughter.) They are a little bit "sore" at Canada having ninety five per cent of the water going over the Falls while they have only five per cent. So they have determined to shift Goat Island and put it out further in the river. You will have to look out for yourselves there. I have been asked this morning why it is that although we only have six millions of population in Australia, as compared with Canada's ten millions, our two cities of Sydney and Melbourne are greater than the cities of Montreal and Toronto. In Sydney we have one and onequarter millions of people, and in Melbourne, nearly a million nine-hundred-odd thousand. In the two cities combined there are over two millions of people-nearly two and one-quarter millions.

I cannot answer the question as to why that is so. The people flock into the cities; they congregate there. I think the people are seeking pleasures, and they do not think so much about undergoing the hardships of the bush, like the old campaigners did-the old explorers, the old pioneers. They will not go through the hardships; they want to he in the cities and go to the picture shows, especially the women and girls; they want to go to the picture shows--some of them every night. That is the only reason I can describe for it. It is not that we have not plenty of room in the country. There is plenty of good, arable land and good grazing land, if the people would do as their forefathers did, and scrape out a living for themselves. But they will not do that; they want the easy times of the life in the cities. That is just a little comparison between Australia, my country, and your country, Canada.

I think Canada, on the whole, is a more fertile landat all events, from what we have, seen of it. It is more suitable for agriculture. I noticed the beautiful vine yards and orchards on my way to Niagara, and I underid you make a lot of wine. I saw a number of wineries where you make your wines, and I was suprised, as you may be, to learn that there is a good market in Canada for the Australian wines. I am delighted to know that some of you prefer Australian wine to your own home brew. We have a number of fine manufacturers of wine, and we send annually over four millions of gallons of wine to London. I don't know whether you are aware of that, or not. We have an excellent market in London for our wine, which is really a port, although we cannot call it "port". I understand that Portugal is the only country where it may properly be called "port wine". There is a great sale of our wines in London. That is another difference between Australia and your great Dominion of Canada.

Now, I have been asked today to speak on "The Future of the Empire'.. Mr. President and gentlemen, that theme is so great and so extensive that it might he carried on to any extent you like. I might speak for hours upon it. but I know some one would probably draw a gun and shoot me if I attempted that. So I will say just a few words on "Empire".

There are some people today who say that the British Empire is becoming decadent, that the people are not so virile, that the days of the Empire are numbered. You will note I call it the "British Empire". I do not like the term "Commonwealth of Nations". (Applause.) I see that you call your Club "The Empire Club of Canada". It would not look well to call it "The Commonwealth of Nations' Club" (Laughter.) "British Empire" is good enough for me. (Applause.)

I say emphatically that there are ample signs that the British Empire is not decadent; the people are as virile as ever. True, there has been depression in the Empire, and in all parts of the Dominions, but we will get around the corner. In Australia we are already coming around the corner. (Applause.) The old Empire will carry on for many generations to come. (Applause.)

Now, why is it that this great Empire of ours is such a great empire? Why does the flag fly over the Dominions in all parts of the earth, over people of every colour, every race, every religion; all living under one flag? No other nation seems to be able to do that. Why is it that savage Zulus in South Africa, where once I was permitted to attend a big war dance, are so loyal to the British flag? They say it is because we have not despoiled them of their flocks and herds, and they are living at peace under the British flag.

Then there are the Basutos, that great body of mounted men. I had the privilege of attending one of their great meetings at which there were present twenty-five thousand mounted Basutos. There the Chief told me that the Basutos were loyal to the British Empire? Why? Because they had not been despoiled of their flocks and their herds, and I was told that if occasion arose where people were required to fight for King and country, the Basutos would immediately put fifty thousand mounted men in the field.

Why is this? Because of the flag. Because whereever that bit of bunting floats in the breezes it is the emblem of all that is right and just and of fair-play. That is why? The flag.

Unfortunately, we in Australia, and perhaps you in Canada, have a small minority of people who do not honour the flag, or who decry the flag. We have them in Australia. Thank God, they are mostly foreigners; very few were born in Australia, because we flatter ourselves that we are ninety-eight per cent British, and loyal to the Flag, to the King, and to the Empire. But, as I say, we have a small, noisy minority who decry the flag, and would trample it under their feet if they dared, but they do not dare. 1 presume you have something of the same sort here in Canada.

I firmly believe that the Empire is as solid as a rock. :If it were not so, it would be a poor look-out for humanity and for the peace of the world.

Now, let us look back a few years. Perhaps 1 should not mention this, but your President referred to the time of the war. You remember at the time of the war Britain was thought to he very poorly armed, and poorly equipped for war. The Dominions were thought to be on the verge of breaking away from the Old Country. It was said, by the Germans especially, that Australia was ready to break away, and cut the painter at a moment's notice. Germany did not expect there would be any Australians in the war at all.

Well, what were the actual facts? You will pardon me for dwelling shortly with this, but briefly I will tell you of some of the things Australia did during those terrible times. At the opening of the war, when it was known by Australia that troops were wanted to go and fight for the old country and the flag, there was a great rush to join the colors. People from the bush and in the faraway corners of the country rode, some of them five hundred miles, to the nearest recruiting station. They came from all parts of Australia; expert axe-men, kangaroojumpers, timber cutters, people who had never seen the sea; they flocked by thousands into the recruiting stations. They knew that Britain wanted troops; they knew there was a quarrel on, but they did not know what the quarrel was about, and they cared not; if the King and country wanted soldiers, they were prepared to come and fight, and history will tell you how these Australian men fought, and how they died for the flag and for their country. (Applause.)

I had the honour of commanding a brigade from Sydney, and they were as fine a lot of fellows as ever shouldered rifles. In that brigade there were men of every social grade in life, men of every position, even mere boys, and they did such splendid service, and were so loyal to me, and displayed such courage and endurance, that I had the honour of being given some decorations at the hands of His Majesty the King. (Applause.) I give the credit for that to the boys who did the hardest part of the work, and who occupied the most dangerous positions.

I will not dwell longer on the war. Of course, we went to Gallipoli, and may I tell you one short story of an occurrence in Gallipoli--a true story. When we were at Gallipoli, the enemy made a forced attack on our lines; they came in droves, in hordes, by thousands. Our trenches were full of men, all Australians. The Turks advanced, crying, as was their wont, "Allah, Allah, Allah !"

A big Australian, standing over the parapet, loading his rifle, heard them coming, shouting their "Allah", and he yelled, "Yes, you can bloody well bring him along, too." (Laughter.) That was the spirit; they feared nobody. (Laughter.) It will not do for me to take up your time referring to these things. I would not have done so, had your president not mentioned it first.

I have tried to jot down a few notes this morning, of what I wanted to say this noon, but 1 had to see the pressmen and photograph", and all sorts of people, and I did not get very much time, and I have not much idea of what I am going to say to you, but it might he interesting for you to hear what Australia did in preparation for the war to help the Old Country at that time.

Australia sent four hundred thousand men over-seas. I do not know whether you were aware there were such a number. We know that Canada sent a large number over, but we had a longer distance to send them across. We clothed that four hundred thousand with wool of our own growth, manufactured in our own woollen factories. We armed them with rifles made in our own factory at Lithgow, N.S.W., and transported them in our own ships. We maintained them in the field at a cost of five hundred million pounds, upon which we have been paying interest to the old country. That is what Australia did as her share during the war. (Applause.) We left behind us in what we would call "foreign lands", sixty-six thousand of the flower of our population, which is a great loss. For a small country, with a population of six millions. to lose sixty-six thousand virile young men is very hard. in any country. However, the sacrifice was made in a common cause; it was made for King, for Empire and for Flag, and if the time Were to come again-and we hope and pray it will not; we hope this Conference will result in doing away with war; we hope the Disarmament Conference, although it does not look very bright at the present time, will achieve something in the nature of ensuring peace-but if it should not, and we should be called again to defend the flag, or any part of the Empire, the men of Australia will do as they did before,, flock to the colors by the thousands and he prepared to fight as they fought before, and be prepared to die for King, for Empire and for Flag. (Applause.)

Now for matters affecting the Empire since the war. That is a question upon which I hesitate to dwell at any length, as it is a political question. I, as High Commissioner, have always had to be pretty careful of what I say on politics, because I am not supposed to deal with controversial matters, and once or twice 1 "got the cane" for saying what I thought, because I am credited with generally speaking my mind. But my term is rapidly coming to a close, so I will take the chance of saying a few things. (Laughter.)

I will say this with regard to the good old Britisher. Wherever he is; he may be slow, and perhaps inclined to be stodgy, or lazy or something, or he may not take much interest or notice in what is happening, but when something arises vitally affecting the Empire he at once sits up and takes notice, and he- will invariably adopt the right course. This happened with regard to the last general elections in England. The people came to realize that there was something vital at stake, and they rightly acted and turned out the wreckers who were in. They may not have been guilty of wrecking deliberately, but they were wrecking the country, there is no doubt about that. They were turned out neck and crop at the general elections in, England, and a National Government put in its place, and it is the finest government England has ever had for many many a year. (Applause.) I want to give those men who came from the Labour Party, like MacDonald and Thomas and Snowden, and others, every credit in life, because they burned their bridges behind them; they took a chance in doing the right thing, in spite of the fact that they were forever cast out of their party, which they had nurtured from the time of its birth. They took the chance and threw it over and came over to the side they thought was right, and they have done magnificent work since, I give MacDonald every credit. I was not always a great advocate of Ramsay MacDonald, because I remembered things in his early political days. But I went to Lausanne, and attended the Conference, and there I saw the magnificent work which MacDonald and the other Ministers did. Sir John, Simon, Sir Samuel Howe, Churchill-they all did magnificent work at the Lausanne Conference, and it was well that they did,, because had Lausanne failed, I think it would have been a great tragedy; there would have been chaos in the financial world-and it very nearly failed. On several occasions we thought it was "all up". We thought it had burst and there would be consternation and chaos in the financial world, and, as 1 have said publicly in London since, whatever MacDonald may have been in his youth or early political career. I forgive him all for the attitude he took at Lausanne. He played there a part which was invaluable in bringing matters to a satisfactory conclusion. He was sick, he was tired, he was weary, his eyes were had, but he stuck to it night and day. They were up all night, some nights, until the dawn of the morning, battling with these people', getting them to come to some arrangement.

Of course, the great snags were Von Papen, on the one hand, and Herriot, on the other. They would become enraged with each other, and Von Papen would return to Berlin, and say, "It is finished", and Herriot would return to France, and say "That ends it", and then MacDonald would bring them together again, and they would come back, and he would lock them in a room for practically the whole night, and let them argue it out. It was a difficult problem to deal with. Von Papen knew if he. went back to Berlin and let them know that he had

agreed to give away too much, he would be chucked out of politics almost immediately. Herriot knew if he went back to Paris and told his political people there that he

had not asked for enough, he would suffer the same fate, and so it was a mixture of politics and I don't know what else; at all events. politics was the ruling factor in the whole business. Of course, it should not have been, but you cannot get away from those things. You have politics mixed up with everything. (Laughter.) I repeat that I give MacDonald great credit for the part he played, and at the conclusion of the Conference, tired and weary though he was, he made the most eloquent speech I have ever listened to in my life, and 1 welcome this opportunity to pay a tribute to a man who was an old Labour man, but who has played such a splendid part in this new government. (Applause.)

In Australia, I was delighted to know that we followed suit. We had a party of wreckers in the Federal Parliament. We had Mr. Theodore, with his fiduciary-something I cannot say it; I could say it early in the morning (Laughter) -fiduciary issue of notes. Well, I think that is merely a high-sounding term. They turn out the notes with a machine by simply turning the handle. That was his idea to save the country by this fiduciary issue. He was backed up by Scullen, who was the Labour Prime Minister. You know, I can say these things now because he is out neck and crop, the same as they turned the Labour Party out in England. We have identically the same government they have in London. I can say these things here, because I know you are a loyal part of the Empire, as loyal as are we in our sentiments in, Australia. As I say, we have: a government in Australia which coinrides exactly with the Commonwealth government in London; that is, an old Labour man at the head of affairs. Mr. Lyons, who was the Premier of Tasmania; Mr. Fenton, who was a Labour Minister, and others, who came over and joined in a Nationalist Party composed of members of the three parties, which is identical with the joining of the three parties in, London. We formed our Nationalist Government, and are getting along splendidly.

But there was another fly in the ointment, another snag. There was another man whom you have heard of, a man called Lang, in New South Wales. Lang was a political bush-ranger. I know that chap well, because I was in Parliament with him, and a worse bushranger never lived in politics--speaking politically. Finally, his turn came to go before the people, and there again the good old British spirit came to the top. They put their thinking caps on; they had been told enough lies before to do them for a generation, and had believed them, and had put Lang and his wreckers in power, and made a dreadful mess of everything in New South Wales, the Chief State in the Commonwealth. They came before the people and got the thrashing of their lives, and that was a great advantage. We have great hopes now that we are around the corner; that Australia will he booming again. I don't know whether she will ever boom quite so much as she did the last few years before the depression set in, but we hope there will be a steady trade.

But I must not keep on in this strain, because I want to say one word with regard to Ottawa. I do not know that 1 would be right in dwelling on matters which are under discussion, but as regards our man, Mr. Bruce--whom most of you probably know, at least by nameI consider him to be a very excellent delegate. (Applause.) I think he will be just to the Dominion of Australia. I noticed in the press that Bruce has asked too much. I know that Bruce has not gone to Ottawa in a bargaining sense; he does not seek bargaining; he wants to arrive at some decision beneficial to the old country, as well as to the Dominion, but at the same time, he, like you business men, is not asking for the minimum. (Laughter.) If you are selling a thing, you do not ask for the minimum at once. I know what it is, in trying to sell a mob of sheep. If a buyer comes along, and says, "What do you want", you will say, "0h, I will take twelve 'bob' for them---cash". You say, "I would not take any less", and you say it clearly and distinctly, but at the same time you are prepared to take ten, "bob" (laughter), until he finally comes down, and you end up by figuring, "Oh, well, we will split the difference" and you make it eleven 'bob', and you agree on that price.

I think that is what Bruce has done, and I do not think he is to be blamed too much for it. If he had stated the absolute minimum which satisfied Australia, he would have had no chance to come down. (Laughter.)

I do think that something practical will evolve from Ottawa. I think the atmosphere there is splendid. I think your Prime Minister, Mr. Bennett, will play a big part in bringing matters to a satisfactory issue. I think he is a very fine man indeed, and I compliment Canada upon having him as its Prime Minister.

I also compliment Canada upon its High Commissioner in London, my confrere, Mr. Ferguson---a very fine fellow, indeed. I am also very fond of Mrs. Ferguson, who is a very fine woman, and on the whole I think that Canada is being well served.

I do not think there is very much more I can say to you. I have rambled over my allotted half-hour. I did not mean to infringe on your time, and I close by saying that I thank you for listening to, me for so long. 1 want to thank all the people in this fine city of Toronto for the great courtesy they have shown to my wife, my family and myself. They have done everything possible, providing us with cars, and running us about, and giving us every facility for seeing the sights of your beautiful city. I take it as a great compliment that you have done so, because I am a stranger to you. 1 thank your Prime Minister (Hon. Mr. Henry) and his staff for their personal presence and making possible our view of your beautiful Niagara under such splendid conditions, and I say again that I believe that Canada and Australia will both play a great part in bringing this old Empire through these hard times.

The only fly in the ointment is the Emerald Isle. (Laughter.) It would be a bit dangerous for me to say too much about that. (Laughter.) At the same time, if I had anything to do with it, I would say, "Well, lads, you cannot have it both ways; you cannot be in the Empire for some things and out of it for others. (Hear, hear.) You cannot be in the Empire for trade considerations and outside the Empire for political and national .reasons; you will have to take it or leave it; one way or the other; you are in or out." (Prolonged applause.) That is all I have to say about that question.. (Laughter.) If I were to let my tongue run loose on Ireland, Lord knows what I might sky. lam afraid I would have somebody treading on the tail of my coat.

However, Mr. President and gentlemen, I do thank you most sincerely for the very kind way in which you have listened to me. 1 don't know whether you would like to hear one story

SEVERAL VOICES: Go on; go on.

SIR GRANVILLE RYRIE: This is a story they tell about the Melbourne Cup, one of the greatest races of the world. It seems that an old farmer from Victoria took his wife to Melbourne to see the Melbourne Cup run, and in the morning it was fairly chilly and the farmer dressed in a thick suit. When he and his old woman. got in and sat down, the sun was shining, and it began to get a bit warm, so he took his coat off and hung it on the back of the seat. The old lady looked around, and gave him a lecture for taking off his coat in front of so many people. He said, "Well, I am too hot, and it will stay off". Shortly after, he took off his waistcoat, and the old lady gave him another lecture,, and said "Why do you do that with all these people around?", and she, said, "What will you be doing next?". Shortly after he took off his collar and tie. She said, "I am so ashamed of you, I don't know what to do; 1 am not going to look at you again", and she turned her back on him. just then the Melbourne Cup started, and somebody sitting next to her, yelled "They're off"--and the old woman fainted. (Prolonged laughter.)

I thank you, Mr. President and gentlemen, from the bottom of my heart for this magnificent tribute you have paid to me.

A VOICE: Tell us another story. (Laughter.)

SIR GRANVILLE RYRIE: Well, I will tell you another of a different sort. There was a Duchess-rather a flighty Duchess-and a nervous professor, and they sat together at a big banquet. The professor upset the salt, and it being a Friday, and he being somewhat superstitious, he took a pinch of the salt and threw it over his left shoulder. Some of the salt went down the back of the Duchess (laughter), and she turned to him and said "No, no, Professor; you can't catch me that way." (Laughter.)

If you can stand one more short one

SEVERAL VOICES: Go on, Sir Granville.

SIR GRANVILLE RYRIE: This will show you the adaptibility and knowledge and wit of our Australian boys in the bush. Some of them were playing cards, in my home town, and after they had played for a time, one of them got up and threw his cards face downward upon the table, and said, "That will do me; I am playing no more"; one of the other said, "What is the matter?", and he said, "What's the matter? the game is crooked; that's what's the matter". The other said, "Why, what do you mean", and he said, "Why, Bill never played the hand 1 dealt him." (Prolonged laughter.)

Bill got very drunk, and was taken to the hospital, and one of his friends said', "Poor old Bill, is in the hospital with D. T's; I went down to see him, and he is in a bad way; he has the "horrors". A little later, another said, "How is old Bill?", and the friend said, "He is stone blind; I said, 'How do you feel?', and he said, 'Not too good'. I said, 'Do you see any snakes around you?, and he said, 'No, I cannot see any', and there they were crawling all over his bed". (Laugher.)

I thank you, gentlemen, sincerely. (Prolonged applause.)

A vote of thanks was tendered the speaker by the president.

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The Outlook of Empire

Details of the speaker's journey to Canada. Some impressions of Canada. Some comparisons between Australia and Canada, between Sydney and Melbourne and Toronto and Montreal. The Future of the Empire. The speaker's dislike for the term "Commonwealth of Nations" as opposed to the British Empire. Ample signs that the British Empire is not decadent. Why the British Empire is such a great empire. The small minority of people in Australia and Canada who do not honour the flag of Great Britain. A look back at the Great War. What Australia did in preparation for the war to help the Old Country at that time. Matters affecting the Empire since the war. Giving credit to Ramsay MacDonald. Work accomplished at the Lausanne Conference. Economic optimism for Australia, and for the British Empire. A few words with regard to the Conference in Ottawa.