Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford -1868 – Perth

Lord Charles Beresford (1846-1919) was a British Admiral and Member of Parliament, he was a hero in battle and a champion of the Navy in Parliament.  Below is another installment in our series of his memoirs – taken from ‘The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford’ written by himself and published in 1914.

This excerpt covers his time onboard The Galatea.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1868 – Perth

At Perth I visited the convict settlement; and there I found a relative or connection of the Beresford family, who had been so unfortunate as to be transported for forgery. He appeared to be a most respectable old gentleman, and (with the permission of the governor) I presented him with a small cheque. Alas! incredible as it may seem, the sight of my signature awoke the ruling passion; and my gentleman promptly forged a bill of exchange for £50, and (as I found when I came home) got it cashed.

It was in Perth, too, that I visited a prisoner, a fellow Irishman, who had been convicted of murder. He had been a soldier, and had slain his corporal and his sergeant. This man inspired me with some ideas with regard to criminals which later in life I tried to put into practice; and also aroused in me an interest in prisons and prison discipline which I have always retained. He was a gigantic person, of immense physical strength, with receding forehead and a huge projecting jaw. He was considered to be dangerous; five or six warders accompanied me into his cell; and they spoke to him as though he were a dog. I looked at the man’s eyes; and I was convinced then, as I am convinced now, that his intellect was impaired. Criminal psychology then hardly existed; and although it is now recognised as a science, it must be said that existing penal conditions are still in many respects awaiting reform. Subsequent experience has proved to me that I was right in believing that many crimes of violence are due to a lesion of the brain, and cannot therefore be treated as moral offences. I heard some time subsequently that the Irishman had been shot for the attempted murder of a warder. Perth and New South Wales were the only places in the British Dominions in which there was a death penalty for attempted murder.

I may here mention that in after years I was appointed, together with the (late) Duke of Fife, as civil inspector of prisons; an office which I held for a year or two. I was able to institute a reform in the system then in force of mulcting prisoners of good conduct marks. These were deducted in advance, before the man had earned them, if he gave trouble. A prisoner sentenced to a long term; who usually gives trouble during his first two years; found, when he began to run straight, that good marks he earned had been deducted in advance. I was able to change the system, so that no marks should be deducted before they were earned.

It was after I had been placed in command of the police at Alexandria, in [1882], that I was offered the post of chief commissioner of police in the Metropolis; and I was honoured by a gracious message from a very distinguished personage, expressing a hope that I would accept the appointment; but, as I wished to remain in the Navy, I declined it.

Excerpt from The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford written by himself and published in 1914.

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Further Reading and External Links

Lord Charles Beresford on Wikipedia

Lord Charles Beresford on The Dreadnought Project

HMS Galatea on Wikipedia