Owen Cosby Philipps, Lord Kylsant

Mark Baber

The New York Times, 29 November 1926

British Baron's Purchase of White Star Line Gives Him Total of 538 Ships
Son of Clergyman, He Started Low---A Giant in Size and a Demon for Work

Copyright, 1926, by The New York Times Company
Special Cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES
LONDON, Nov. 28---Baron Kylsant's purchase of the White Star Line for about
$34,000,000 from the International Mercantile Marine, by which he made
secure his position as the world's greatest shipping operator, is a topic of
great interest here. But the big deal did not surprise his friends.

Sir Owen Cosby Philipps became Baron Kylsant in 1923. A better title for him
might have been Lord of the Seven Seas. For years he has been the greatest
shipper of a nation of shippers, financially and physically. When this big
Welshman presents his six feet seven inches of well proportioned bulk in the
streets those who pass turn to stare at him.

Born with a tremendous capacity for work, business shrewdness and a desire
for power, he has risen from a subordinate position with a Glasgow shipping
company to the control of 538 ships, trading in all parts of the world. What
this means may be seen from the fact that his great rival, P. A. S.
Franklin, President of the International Merchantile [sic] Marine, never
controlled more than 130 ships.

Surpasses Ancient Companies

Two other ancient shipping dynasties, the Peninsular & Oriental and the
Cunard lines, he long ago surpassed in the amount of tonnage. The Peninsular
& Oriental was once said to have held "the gorgeous East in fee." Lord
Kylsant's ships now challenge that supremacy. By adding the White Star Line
to the Royal Mail Line he now challenges the supremacy of the Cunard Line in
the North Atlantic.

Lord Kylsant is typical of the men whom America must defeat to take the
world's shipping from Britain. It has been said that when Britain loses her
sea sense she is finished. The storm and stress of the World War caused her
to lose her naval supremacy. It did not cause her to lose her leadership in
the cargo-carrying trade. In that business she has gone ahead, and as long
as Britain produces men like Lord Kylsant she probably will continue
mistress of the merchant seas.

Baron Kylsant does not come from a family of seamen. He was born in 1863,
the third son of a clergyman. His father was the Rev. Canon Sir James
Erasmus Philipps, Prebendary of Salisbury Cathedral. Lord Kylsant was
educated at Newton College in South Devon.

Three Brothers In Parliament

After getting a start in shipping---he acquired his first steamer in
1889---Baron Kylsant, then Owen Cosby Philipps, became interested in
politics. After one or two false starts he was elected
to Parliament as a Liberal. A younger brother was a member for an adjoining
constituency and another sat for Southampton. All three being enormous, they
used to interrupt the House of Commons when they entered together.

One of these brothers now is Viscount St. David and the other has inherited
the family knighthood. Lord Kylsant was knighted in 1916.

The Philipps family traces its ancestry back to Maximus, King of Britain and
Emperor of Rome. The present holder of the Philipps baronetcy is the
thirteenth of his line. One of Baron Kylsant's ancestors was Sir Aaron Ap
Rhys, who went with Richard I to the Holy Land. For centuries almost every
head of the family has sat in Parliament. Baron Kylsant is a yachtsman and
master of the Carmarthenshire foxhounds.

In 1902 Baron Kylsant married Mai Morris, daughter of the late Thomas
Morris. They have three daughters.

In the same year he became Chairman of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company,
which he energized and rejuvenated. Since then his interests have grown
steadily and enormously. Lord Kylsant's first great shipping deal was the
purchase for £1,500,000 of the Pacific Steam Navigation Company. To this he
added the Glen Line and proceeded to build modern ships to put in the Far
East trade. Next he acquired the Shire Line.

Continued to Buy Lines

In the South American trade Lord Kylsant's chief rival then was the Lamport
& Holt Line, which he acquired in 1912. By his purchase of the Forwood Line
Lord Kylsant captured part of the Mediterranean and North African trade,
which he extended through his acquisition of the Shaw, Savill and Albion
Line, one of the White Star Line's subsidiaries. After purchasing the
Forwood Line Lord Kylsant gained control of the Union Castle Line's fleet of
fifty vessels, the owners of which had long controlled the fortunes of South

The Elder Dempster Line came next, and through it Lord Kylsant has helped to
transform West Africa, once known as "the white man's grave" into a health
resort. Lord Kylsant also is a director in many companies allied to the
shipping business, such as marine insurance, wharf and shipbuilding
companies. He is Chairman of the great Belfast Shipbuilding
Company---Harland & Wolff.


Mark Baber

MAB Note: "Saturday" was 5 June.

The Times, 7 June 1937


Lord Kylsant, who died in his sleep on Saturday night, at Coomb, his
Carmarthenshire seat, at the age of 74, was for a long period an outstanding
figure in British shipping. He accomplished much, and it was largely because
he attempted too much that his later years were clouded. During the past
year his health had been failing, and for the last month he had been
confined to his bed.

The Right Hon. Owen Cosby, first Baron Kylsant, of Carmarthen and of Amroth,
was born on March 25, 1863, the third son of the late Canon Sir James
Erasmus Philipps, twelfth baronet, and the Hon. Lady Philipps, sister of the
fifth Baron Wynford. His eldest brother, the thirteenth holder of the
baronetcy, is Viscount St. Davids, who for some time was a member of
Parliament. His second brother is Major-General Sir Ivor Philipps, and his
two younger brothers are Mr. Bertram Erasmus Philipps and Sir Laurence
Philipps, Bt. All are tall men.

The early activities of Owen Philipps had marked him as a man of energy and
enterprise, and when, in 1902, the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company was being
reorganized, he was appointed chairman. The immediate duty of the new
chairman was to re-establish the position of the company. This he succeeded
in doing.

Meanwhile Owen Philipps had already started on the policy of securing a
controlling interest in other important shipping lines. The Pacific Steam
Navigation Company was acquired. The transaction involved an expenditure
of £1,500,000, which seemed large at the time, but was small in comparison
with some of the "deals" that were carried through later. Some fine vessels
were built for the Pacific Steam Navigation Company and the enterprise of
the new chairman became apparent, as it had been demonstrated in the
reorganization of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company. There was some sound
justification for the agreement which was concluded, since the two companies
served the South American Republics, although on the East and West Coast of
the South American Continent respectively. Likewise, there was real reason
for the controlling interests that were subsequently acquired in the Lamport
and Holt Company and the Nelson Line. Lamport and Holt, which was purchased
in 1912, was a chief British competitor in the cargo trade with Argentina
and Brazil, and the Nelson Line was identified with the trade in chilled
meat from Argentina to this country and with the carriage of passengers at
rates below those quoted for the first-class in the larger liners of the
Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, while the MacIver Line and the enterprise
of Nicholas Mihanovich, which were also taken over, were engaged in the
South American trade.


There was not the same obvious explanation of some of the other acquisitions
which were made. These were brought about by the deaths of men who had built
up the lines and had stamped the businesses with their own personalities.
One of the most important of these purchases was that of the controlling
interest of the Elder, Dempster Company, after the death of the late Sir
Alfred Jones, a man of immense activity, who had concentrated on the
development of trade with West Africa. Other notable developments were the
acquisition of the Glen Line, whose vessels trade between Great Britain and
the Far East, and later the purchase of the goodwill of the Shire Line,
which is also engaged in Far Eastern trades. German lines had been active in
these routes, and it was known that Sir Owen Philipps (he was created
K.C.M.G. in 1909 and promoted to G.C.M.G. in 1918) had in mind the better
representation of British shipping there, for the development of British
shipping services was always a consideration with him. Another most
important purchase was that, in 1912, of the Union-Castle Mail Steamship
Company, which had been developed by the genius of the late Sir Donald
Currie, who had paid careful regard to the conservation of resources, so
that after his death the shares were sold for much more than the price at
which they had stood during his lifetime. In 1919 Sir Owen took over the
shipping business of Bullard, King and Co., which had also been long
associated with the South African trade. It will be seen that the
acquisition of controlling interests in lines serving West and South Africa
and the Far East had no direct connexion with the South American route, on
which Sir Owen Philipps had previously concentrated his attention. Another
development was the formation of Coast Lines, Limited, representing a
consolidation of companies engaged in services around the United Kingdom. Of
this consolidation he became chairman, while the acquisition of the Moss and
Hutchison businesses gave an interest in the Continental and Mediterranean

A £7,000,000 DEAL

A similar departure occurred in 1927, with the acquisition of the entire
share capital of the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company, whose fleet was known
as the White Star Line. In 1902 the shares of this company had passed into
American hands and there was little doubt that Lord Kylsant, as he then was
(having been raised to the peerage in 1923), was impressed by the idea of
bringing back to this country the control of the famous British line. Others
were known to have considered the re- purchase of the Oceanic Company, but
it was understood that on examination of the position they dropped the idea.
Lord Kylsant bought the company for about £7,000,000. At that time he was
thinking in very large figures. The financing of the transaction was
complicated. The public was invited to subscribe for Preference shares and
the various shipping companies of which Lord Kylsant was head were called
upon to subscribe for Ordinary shares. These subscriptions proved very bad
investments for them and for years were weights around them, which made
demands on earnings that otherwise would have been available for
replenishing their fleets. Lord Kylsant subsequently purchased the fleet of
the Commonwealth Line from the Australian Government and acquired the late
Sir John Ellerman's interest in Shaw Savill and Albion, thus ensuring the
control of the latter line. At one time the shipping controlled by the Royal
Mail, White Star, and associated enterprises amounted to about 2,800,000
tons gross.

In recent years accountants and others have been engaged in disentangling
the complicated finances of the shipping companies which formed at one time
the "Royal Mail Group" and in giving them a fresh start as separate

These new companies, assisted much by an improvement in the shipping
industry and directed by experienced and energetic shipping leaders, have
started well on new careers of usefulness. They form important sections of
the British Mercantile Marine.

With the death of the late Lord Pirrie in 1924 the future of Harland and
Wolff, of Belfast, was raised. The business of this great shipbuilding
company owed much to the work of Lord Pirrie, whose friendship with the head
of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company and associated lines was close. The
group had built many of its vessels with Harland and Wolff, being among the
pioneers of Diesel motor-ships, and when Lord Pirrie died Lord Kylsant
assumed control of this great concern, which owned steel works and
collieries as adjuncts to its shipbuilding yards. This added important
interests to the many already controlled by Lord Kylsant, and business men
who knew something already of the heavy demands made on his time wondered
how it was possible for any individual to shoulder such vast
responsibilities, as in shipping alone he was interested in almost every
trade in the world. A large scheme of capital reorganization and reduction
was approved by the shareholders last week. There were other companies,
including the London Maritime Investment Company, which had financial
associations with the group of companies controlled by Lord Kylsant, and the
London and Thames Haven Oil Wharves, Limited, one of the most successful of
the enterprises of which Lord Kylsant was chairman. This was in a class by
itself and had no direct relationships with the shipping lines.


The responsibilities of the chairmanship of the various shipping companies,
with which were associated those of managing director, were enhanced by the
anxieties of long and deep trade depression. Lord Kylsant was an optimist,
and he was always hoping that the clouds would lift. Had the hope
entertained by many that prosperity would return earlier been realized, Lord
Kylsant would, doubtless, have been regarded as a great leader who had acted
courageously where others had hesitated. He himself bore the burden of the
finance of the various enterprises of which he was chief. Able men were
appointed to carry out the daily work and the technical shipping management,
but their responsibilities did not extend to finance. On ordinary matters of
business, apart from finance. he was known to be an easy man to deal with,
quickly taking decisions and his relations with his staffs were excellent.
His standards of commercial morality, generally, were high. Thus no firm
with which he was connected was permitted to have advantages over others
where contracts were concerned. He wished to maintain the credit of his
companies, but a time came when rumour was so rife that nothing could
prevent the disclosure of the whole position. He was granted leave of
absence by the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, and after his return he was
arrested. On charges of making and publishing false annual reports of the
Royal Mail Steam Packet Company for 1926-27 he was found not guilty, but on
the charge of making, publishing, and circulating a false prospectus he was
found guilty, and was sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment in the second

Briefly, the charge included the bringing in to annual balances of certain
sums of a non-recurring kind and an "economy of truth" which, the
prosecution successfully claimed, falsified the document as a whole, though
the figures were accurate in themselves. The charge was of a technical kind,
and, had trade improved as many expected, Lord Kylsant's policy of
maintaining dividends out of sums available, and drawing upon reserves,
might have been justified, and the prospectus would not have been recalled.
Lord Kylsant bore his trial with great dignity, cast no blame on any
colleagues, and on return to ordinary life retired to his residence in South
Wales. On his return to Coomb he was given a warm welcome and his car was
drawn by 40 men at a running pace for about a quarter of a mile to the
entrance of the house, and passed under an arch of laurel and evergreen
which had been built over the gates. All who knew him acquitted him of any
desire to act criminally, and they laid the responsibility on the assumption
of duties beyond the power of any individual to bear and on a certain
financial recklessness and a belief in the future which events showed was

Lord Kylsant was an owner of 6,000 acres in Carmarthen and Pembrokeshire,
and of the historic castles of Llanstephan and Amroth. Politics and the
Church in Wales were two of his great interests outside business. Before his
elevation to the peerage, Lord Kylsant sat in Parliament as a Liberal for
Pembroke and Haverfordwest from 1906 to 1910, and as Unionist member for
Chester from 1916 to 1918 and 1918 to 1920. For a brief period in 1933 Lord
Kylsant returned to public life, and when he attended the House of Lords was
cordially welcomed.

In March, 1902, he married Mai Alice Magdalen, C.B.E., a Lady of Grace of
the Order of St. John of Jerusalem in England, co-heiress of the late Mr.
Thomas Morris, J.P., D.L., of Coomb, Carmarthenshire. She survives him with
three daughters---the Countess of Coventry, Lady Suffield, and the Hon. Mrs.
Charles Pilkington. There is no heir to the peerage, which, therefore,
becomes extinct.

The funeral will take place at Llangunnock Church, on Thursday, at 2 p.m.

On learning of the death of Lord Kylsant, Sir Vernon Thomson, ex-president
of the Chamber of Shipping, telegraphed from Aviemore, Inverness: -

With deep regret I learn of the death of Lord Kylsant. In his prime he
rendered many and great services to British shipping, and he had been one of
the outstanding personalities of his generation in world shipping.



mr p coppard

I have been looking in to the land left to the pepole of stanford le hope essex by lord kylsant in 1924/5 could any one tell me who & what was the conditions of the gift was.I would like to say thank you to his familey.