Political Biographies of the Mayors of Portsmouth (1836-1900)

MAYORALTY:- November 9th 1868-1869.
PROFESSION:- Wine Merchant.
WARD:- St George
RESIDENCE:- No 2 Marlborough Terrace. Worthing
DECEASED:- July 5th 1900 aged 68
BURIED:- Highland Road Cemetery.

There was much interest in this election and the chamber and galleries were packed. Alderman Scale stood to propose Alderman George Sheppard for the new mayor noting that Sheppard had been a council member for twenty years and his record showed he was well suited to the office. This was seconded by Alderman Wells - albeit noting that Sheppard was a known Conservative. Then followed Cllr Baker who nominated Edwin Galt. Baker observed that over the years they had had a variety of mayors from, "Gay to grave - from lively to severe." Galt had progressive views and favoured municipalisation of the Water Company. Moreover, he was young and married. His nomination was seconded by ex mayor Alderman G. Stigant.
So the council was set for a 'head to head' contest. There were those who deprecated this and the ensuing debate tended, at times, to descend into an undignified slanging match. It was hoped that Alderman Sheppard would withdraw - he did not. Alderman Emanuel stood and in a long speech condemned everything. Other councillors saw this as a display of sour grapes by Emanuel still smarting from not being elected to the Watch Committee the previous year. Eventually the vote was taken which produced:- for Sheppard 21, for Galt 30, neuter two. so Galt was elected. Noted for his hospitality, (and being a wine merchant in a position to be so) Galt's mayoral banquet the next evening, held in the Beneficial Hall, was over subscribed, many being unable to obtain tickets.
Council work apart Galt's main interest was as a member of the Volunteer Corps. He began as secretary to the 2nd Hants Artillery Volunteers upon its formation and ended as Lt-Colonel of the Corps. He thus hoped to bring the great Review back to Portsmouth in 1869. This was not to be. The stated reason was that the Metropolitan units declined to pay rail fares in excess of 1 /6d return from London and the railway companies would not modify their tariffs. So the event went to Dover. Galt was not held responsible and by way of compensation a sham fight and march past by the county regiments was staged on Southsea Common on 26th April.
The plight of the distressed ex Dockyard workers persisted. Galt and others were active in finding solutions. Long term charity was not seen as feasible and one possibility was emigration. Thus with financially assisted passage via local subscription, on the 20th April 391 families embarked for Canada on the troopship HMS Crocodile. A further 776 left on the 1st May on HMS Serapis.
In August 1871 the joint resignation of the Ford brothers meant that there were two vacancies for alderman. The council met on the 5th September to fill these vacant slots. (2) The nominees for the first vacancy were:- the mayor (John Baker) R.W. & H. Ford (The Fords were trying to regain seats on the council and though not councillors were still eligible for aldermanic position) and E. Galt. The voting was:- for Baker 18, R.W. Ford 6. H. Ford 4, Galt 3. So sitting mayor Baker was elected alderman on the first ballot.
On the next the candidates were. R.W. Ford, W. Kent and E Galt. The votes were W. Kent 16, Galt 11, Ford 10. So Cllr Kent. who had never been mayor was chosen in preference to Galt. Galt was outraged and resigned his seat on the Council. His letter of resignation was read to the Council by Mayor John Baker. Cllr Ubsdell moved that it be not accepted suggesting the resignation had been written in a fit of pique at a vote cast at a recent Council meeting. (3) This motion was carried. So, though he did not attend he was still a member of the council.
Indeed, in November 1871 seven aldermanic seats fell due for re-election. Galt was one of the nominees but came eighth in a field of nine. Galt took no further part in local affairs. He never stood for the council again and was one of the few mayors never to have been elected to the Aldermanic Bench. Nevertheless, this was not the end of his civic life. On the 7th January 1876. he was appointed J.P. albeit his appearances were infrequent.
His numerous financial interests included directorships in:- Woking Water & Gas Coy, and the Southsea Railway Coy. For most of his public life Galt resided at Beach Mansions Southsea wherein he had a financial stake. In his later years he retired to Worthing where he died on the 5th July 1900. He left a widow, three sons (two of whom were serving in South Africa at the time i.e. Boer War) and two daughters.
Norman Gordon
1. Portsmouth Times 14th November 1868.
2. Portsmouth Times 9th September 1871.
3. Portsmouth Times 30th September 1871 Page 6. col 'd'.
Obituaries:- P.T. July 7th 1900 and the County Journal same date.