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

MAYORALTY:- November 9th1899-1900. 1916-1917. 1917-1918. 1933-1934.
PROFESSION:- Provision Merchant.
WARD:- St Jude's changed St Paul's.
FIRST ELECTED ALDERMAN:- February 1917 on death of Ald Young.
OTHER CIVIC POSITIONS HELD:- Magistrate 10th December 1900. Guardian.
RESIDENCE:- Hillborough Crescent. Catherington.
DECEASED:- January 3rd 1952, aged 93.
BURIED:- Christchurch, Portsdown.
From Mayor to Lord Mayor. Perpetuating the Pink dynasty Harold Rufus Pink was born in Portsmouth on 27th October 1859. He was the eldest son of five times mayor Sir William Pink. During his record service to the community he was chairman of the Finance and General Purposes Committee for more than 35 years. Much of his life was devoted to supporting Portsmouth's hospitals and this work was recognised in 1927 when he was appointed Chairman of the British Hospitals' Association. On his death in 1952 he was regarded as the Grand Old Man of Portsmouth's municipal life. He served on the council throughout two major wars - thrice as mayor and losing a son - Lt Harold W. Pink. R.E. - at Salonika in 1916. Pink's dedication to municipal affairs was acknowledged in 1928 when he was made a Freeman of the City.
However, his civic career had an inauspicious beginning. On the 21st March 1894 he stood in a bye-election for St Jude's Ward. The event generated little interest with but a 60% turn out - poor for the time. Just before the poll closed the mayor (Alderman A.L. Emanuel) arrived at Kent Road School to supervise the count. The result was:- for Pink 533, for Mr A.G. German 367. Thus commenced a record of fifty-seven years' civic devotion to both Town and City, an achievement unparalleled in borough history.
Pink was regarded as a good committee man and a regular attendee. On this basis, and within six years of his first election, Pink was proposed for mayor. The nomination caused some disquiet. (1) Though it was the practice of the council to meet in committee to select the new mayor the proceedings were freely leaked to the press. On the nomination of Pink the previously mentioned Cllr James Bishop made two objections. Firstly, Pink was too junior a member of the council. Secondly, and more importantly, he had been canvassed by Alderman Abraham Emanuel. This was not denied and, claimed Bishop, such action was degrading and personally he would never indulge in it himself. It was a blot on the office and under such a system they could never have respect for the mayor.
Bishop, senior to Pink, was them nominated for mayor by Cllr G. Scarrott (Outfitter. St George). Cllr Dr Emmett (Mile End) then spoke in favour of Pink noting that Cllr Brewis (Kingston) had previously described Bishop as a man of substance, "But he did not say whether he had plenty of money or plenty of fat." concluded Emmett. The vote was called with the result:- for Pink 30, for Bishop 19. Had Bishop been selected he would have had the singular honour of being mayor of two of the largest boroughs on the south coast - Portsmouth & Southampton. Just how wise the council were in rejecting Bishop was manifested two weeks later at the local elections when, on the 1st November, Bishop lost his seat by a margin of six votes. He received little sympathy in the press.
After the election it was customary for the old and new mayors to exchange robes. An added feature at this election was that now the outgoing mayoress invested the new mayoress with her chain of office.
Rufus Pink can perhaps be seen as Portsmouth's war time mayor for three of his tenures coincided with international conflict. When he first came to office the Boer War was in progress and fund raising was an important part of a mayor's duties. Thus subscriptions were collected for Christmas presents for the men of the Naval Brigade fighting in South Africa. On their return from campaign the mayor received the Naval Brigade from HMS Powerful and on 24th April 1900 and a civic banquet accorded to them in the Town Hall. The Portsmouth's hospitals needed constant funding. To this end the mayor Pink instituted a house to house canvass to raise moneys. Later he laid the foundation stone of the Portsmouth Corporation Tramway Power Station.
Between mayoralties Pink's interest in financial affairs continued becoming Vice Chairman (1900) and then Chairman (1910) of the Finance and General Purposes Committee. Throughout his civic career he presented no fewer than 34 Budgets to the council.
MAYORAL ELECTIONS 1916 & 1917. (2)
In November 1916 Alderman Pink was proposed by Cllr Childe - who also spoke of the worthy Mrs Pink. The result was a formality and Pink exchanged regalia with the previous incumbent - four times mayor Sir John Corke who now became Deputy Mayor. In his acceptance speech Pink said he looked to a brighter future for Portsmouth in health, education and reconstruction. He reflected on his previous mayoralty noting that every proposal he had brought before the council had been accepted with but one exception that of the refusal of the council to buy the Water Coy. This he said was the most hideous mistake the council ever made.
In 1917 Pink was proposed by Cllr Gleave. The motion was seconded by Cllr Beddow who noted that women were now doing national work and he was sure the mayoress would try to mobilise Portsmouth's women to the cause. In his acceptance speech Pink mentioned the need for food economy and on a patriotic note he said the borough's war heroes should be acknowledged especially Portsmouth born V.C. recipient Sgt James Ockenden (Royal Dublin Fusiliers) (3)
MAYORALTIES 1916-1917. 1917-1918
Pink was mayor again during the crucial war years of 1916-1918. This was no easy task and it is only possible to give a brief synopsis of his achievements during this phase. Fund raising again topped the agenda and, inter alia, he promoted a number of savings' campaigns and flag days in which Portsmouth, never a very affluent borough, raised over 4,000,000 for the war effort. He retired from this office just two days before the Armistice, and a little later the King honoured him with a Knighthood. Members of the council are the guardians of the Freedom of the City. It is not often bestowed. But at a special meeting of the council on October 25th 1928 Sir Harold and Lady Pink's services were remembered and rewarded when he was made a Freeman of the City. At the same ceremony he was presented with a casket by the mayor who noted Sir Harold's outstanding work as Financier during the days of the Great War.
MAYORALTY 1933-1934. (4)
Though he had given as much service to his community as any man there was more to come. From borough mayor to Lord Mayor of the City of Portsmouth this was Pink's only peace time tenure. For the ceremony the Guildhall was packed and places reserved for school children. Women were numbered among the ranks of the councillors present. Pink was proposed by Alderman W. Gleave, who also did the honours seventeen years previously. The honour of seconding the motion went to the youngest member of the council - Cllr John Privett.
In his speech Privett applauded the dignity which now graced British mayor making ceremonies. He contrasted it with a similar election of yesterday in New York when 20,000 police were on duty and 20,000 bootleggers and prize fighters were in attendance. So the seventy-eight year old Pink was elected for his fourth term. In his acceptance speech Pink referred to the unemployment problem. There were currently 7,595 registered unemployed in Portsmouth. He argued that the council should spend to ease the problem. One project was the aerodrome development which would soak up some of the unemployed. Pink also envisaged a flying boat base in Langstone Harbour - a far cry from the Camber Docks projects of bygone days.
At the close of his tenure in 1934 he became, as is now the custom, Deputy Lord Mayor. In April 1935 Sir Harold and Lady Pink were presented with another silver casket containing a scroll recording the Corporation's appreciation of their services. In religious affairs he often worshipped at St Luke's Church. In private life he was twice married. First to the daughter of the late Henry Witcher of Avon near Ringwood Hants - who predeceased him. His grandson, Ralph Bonner Pink, represented Portsmouth South at Westminster for a number of years.
Norman Gordon
Obituaries Evening News 4th January 1952 & Hants Telegraph 11th January 1952.
1. Hant's Post 13th October 1899.
2. Evening News 9th November 1916. & Evening News 9th November 1917.
3. In the November 1918 Council elections a women was returned - Miss Kate Edmunds for St Simons Ward.
4. Evening News 9th November 1933 plus illustration. Evening News 10th November 1933.