The Right Hon Alexander Montgomery Carlisle, who died yesterday in London at the age of 71, was a Belfast shipbuilder and engineer of distinction, who rose to be general manager and chairman of Messrs Harland & Wolff. He was a man of strong convictions, and on one memorable occasion addressed the House of Lords from the steps of the Throne. Last November he took a chill while visiting Doorn to see the ex-Kaiser, and was confined to the house for a time, but over-rated his strength and went out too soon. He had known the ex-Kaiser before the war, and was his guest at a famous supper party after the Kiel Regatta.
Born at Ballymena, County Antrim, on July 8, 1854, the eldest son of Mr John Carlisle, he was sent to the Royal Academical Institution, Belfast, of which his father was headmaster. At the age of 16 he was apprenticed to Messrs Harland & Wolff, and during the next 40 years held successively the positions of chief draughtsman, under manager, shipyard manager, and finally general manager of the whole business, and chairman of the board of directors. It was a period of great development in the yards, during which many famous liners were built, and in this work Mr Carlisle took his full share. He designed the White Star liners, including the Titanic.
In 1879 his sister, Margaret Montgomery Carlisle, married Mr William Pirrie (afterwards the late Lord Pirrie), who had become a partner in Harland & Wolff in 1874. Mr Carlisle retired from the general managership and chairmanship in 1910, but remained as adviser and consultant. He was a member of the Departmental Committee on Accidents in Factories and Workshops, 1908, and of the Merchant Shipping Advisory Committee on Life-saving Appliances, 1911.
Politically Mr Carlisle, who was sworn of the Irish Privy Council in 1907, might be described as an Independent Unionist, and it was in that character that he contested West Belfast at the General Election of 1906, but he only polled 153 votes out of a total poll of 8,400. The incident in the House of Lords occurred on August 9, 1920. On the motion for the second reading of the Restoration of Order in Ireland Bill, Mr Carlisle, standing on the steps of the Throne, to which he had access as a Privy Councillor, uttered the words:— “My lords, if you pass this Bill you may kill England, not Ireland.” On the following day Lord Lincolnshire, as Lord Great Chamberlain, drew their lordships’ attention to this “disorderly interruption” as “a grave offence against the dignity and decorum of the House,” and it was arranged that Lord Curzon, as Leader of the House, should write to Mr Carlisle and give him an opportunity of explaining or apologizing. In his reply to Lord Curzon’s letter, Mr Carlisle wrote:-“Their lordships were about to pass a measure which had for its object the wanton destruction of the constitutional liberties of my countrymen. Under such conditions as these the petty restraints of procedure may justly give place to the righteous indignation, not merely of an honest patriot, but of all true lovers of freedom. It was not my interruption that was the most serious affront to the dignity of their lordships’ House. The most serious affront to the dignity of that historic House was, and is, that the descendants of those who won at Runnymede the Charter of all British liberties should have proved themselves unworthy of their sires.” In consequence of this reply the privilege of admission to the Steps of the Throne was withdrawn from Mr Carlisle. When Lord Lincolnshire notified him of this, he answered:—” The fact that I have performed what I felt to be an imperative duty enables me to accept their lordships’ resolution with fortitude.”
Mr Carlisle was a member of the Royal Thames Yacht Club. He married Edith, daughter of Mr J.B.Wooster of San Francisco, and had one son and two daughters.