18 November 1918
IRISH POLITICAL CONSPIRACIES.
We regret to announce that Sir Robert Anderson, K.C.B., LL.D., died in London on Friday from sudden heart failure following influenza.
Anderson was born in Dublin on May 29, 1841, the son of Mr. Matthew Anderson, who at that time held the office of Crown Solicitor in Dublin. The family were of Scottish origin and had emigrated, like so many other Scots, into Ulster in the 17th century. One of its members, as Sir Robert proudly records in one of his volumes of reminiscences, figured prominently in the immortal defence of Londonderry. Robert was at school at Boulogne and Paris, entered Trinity College, and in due course was called to the Irish Bar.
In 1865, while still a very junior barrister, he became familiar with the confidential reports and secret information which had led the Irish Government to arrest the persons charged with treason-felony at the State trials of that year; and in 1866 he was requested by the authorities to prepare for the information of Lord Naas, the new Chief Secretary, a précis of all the secret documents relating to this subject accumulated at Dublin Castle. It was in this almost accidental way that Anderson, who had not contemplated such a career, was enlisted in the public service. His special knowledge of the ways of Irish political conspiracy became known in high official circles not only in Dublin, but in London. After the famous Clerkenwell explosion in December, 1867-a warning of which Anderson was able to transmit beforehand to the London police, though they failed to make any use of the information-one of the results of what he himself terms "the unreasoning panic" that followed was the organization of a Secret Service department of the police, and he was invited to take charge of it. But it only remained in existence for three months; and Anderson, who had come over to London in connexion with the new department, was about to return to the Irish Bar when he was requested to take charge of Irish business at the Home Office. In this capacity he had a good deal to do with the surveillance of the Fenian conspirators-Irish and American-Irish-whose plots gave some anxiety to the Government in 1869 and 1870.
In the years that followed Anderson's reputation for shrewdness, tact, and power of work led to his being entrusted with important secretarial duties for several Royal Commissions, in which he acquitted himself with distinction and success. But in 1877 he retired from the Civil Service, with ambitions of a professional and literary career.
Once more his aims were thwarted. In 1880 there was a recrudescence of Irish plotting, and Anderson was invited by Sir W. Harcourt, the Home Secretary in the Gladstone Ministry then in office, to help in dealing with it. He consented with a reluctance which was much increased by the events that followed the murder of Lord Frederick Cavendish and Mr. Burke. This crime Anderson, in one of his volumes of "Recollections," declares was "an event of no special significance" and, in fact, a "mere accident." It led, however, to Mr. Anderson's appointment to represent in London the Irish Department for Police and Crime, in which capacity he conducted an active campaign against the Fenian dynamiters. In 1888 he became head of the Criminal Investigation Department in succession to Colonel Howard Vincent, and, ex offcio, an Assistant Commissioner of Police. At the very outset of his discharge of his new duties occurred the "Jack the Ripper" crimes, concerning which he definitely states in the volume already quoted that they were perpetrated by a Polish Jew whose identity was known to the police, though they could not obtain the evidence necessary for his conviction.
In the very month of Anderson's appointment the Parnell Commission began its sittings, and, in his own words, "the Le Caron affair dragged him into fame." Into the details of the controversy aroused by Anderson's relations with Major Le Caron, and as to the strict official propriety of his conduct in making use, in letters contributed to The Times, of knowledge obtained by him in his official capacity, it is unnecessary now to enter. He was at the time both vigorously assailed and as vigorously defended by Ministers and ex-Ministers. He always maintained the absolute propriety of his own conduct, and the letters he addressed to us in his own defence are marked by characteristic directness and vigour. He continued to direct the Criminal Investigation Department with great ability until 1901, when he finally retired from the public service. Since his retirement, on which he was created a K.C.B., Sir Robert was industrious in authorship. He wrote a number of books on theological topics, and some lively volumes embodying his memories of his official experiences. His publications included "The Coming Prince," "Human Destiny," "Daniel in the Critic's Den," "The Silence of God," "The Bible and Modern Criticism," "Side-Lights on the Home Rule Movement" (1906), "Criminals and Crime," "The Lighter Side of My Official Life" (1910), "The Entail of the Covenant" (1914), and "Misunderstood Texts of the New Testament" (1916). He married, in 1873, Lady Agnes Moore, sister of the ninth Earl of Drogheds, and had three sons and one daughter.