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

MAYORALTY:- November 9th 1895-1896.
WARD:- St Mark
OTHER CIVIC POSITIONS HELD:- Magistrate 1st December 1896.
RESIDENCE:- Northleigh. 57 London Rd. North End.
DECEASED:- 30th May 1914. Aged 68.
BURIED:- Kingston Cemetery.
In 1860 Portsmouth hosted some fifty breweries yet John Young is the only representative of that trade to be chosen mayor. But Portsmouth born Young's rise was meteoric. Within three years of being elected to the council, and despite being its junior member, he was mayor. The youngest ever in terms of service. This was perhaps even more surprising when it is considered that his selection had nothing to do with his prowess in debate - in fact he was rarely heard. But he was reputed to be a good committee man.
The council met at noon on Saturday the 9th. Young was duly nominated by Sir William King and seconded by Harold Pink. The harmony of the proceedings was soured to a degree by Cllr James Bishop (Bootmaker, St Mary 1892 and twice ex mayor of Southampton) who stood to support the nomination and then went out of his way to sneer at all but one of the previous occupants of the mayoral chair during the last quarter of a century. (1) 'They had had," he said, "too many of the do-little-take-it-easy-give-one-or-two-banquets, types of mayors. They now wanted a mayor who would distinguish himself. Only one of the previous occupants in the last twenty-five years came up to expectations he claimed. Albeit Bishop declined to name the man of his choice - possibly because there were so many ex mayors present. Bishop then went on to say he hoped there would be no bickering this year re any vacancy that may arise on the Aldermanic Bench. He added that he further hoped they would all look after themselves so that no vacancy occurred.
There ensued an innovation. As was customary the new mayor invited the members of the council to join him at worship in St Thomas's on Sunday the 10th. A voice, "In cocked hats?" "Yes." replied the mayor. "I tried mine on last night and I must confess I looked rather well in it." (laughter) In the evening at the mayor's banquet 120 covers were served and the serviettes were all folded in the shape of 'cocked hats'. Subsequently, on the Sunday, forty-two members of the Corporation attended church and all but nine, for the first time in public, wore their cocked hats.
As a consequence of rapid growth in some areas there was a redistribution of Wards in the Borough albeit the number was kept at fourteen. On March 17th a special committee was set up with the purpose of negotiating for the municipalisation of the Tramways - eventually acquired in 1900.
The first regular telephone communication between Portsmouth and London was established. The year was marred by the death of Prince Henry of Battenburg, Queen Victoria's son-in-law, as a consequence a grand fund raising ball in support of the Royal Hospital was cancelled. Throughout his tenure Young did not enjoy the best of health but was ably assisted by his wife who was noted for her gracious smile. (2) In summary Young was regarded as a capable councillor and magistrate being respected in a wide circle. He supported many charities such as the Evening News' Boot Fund and the Radium Fund. In the customary vote of thanks at the conclusion of his year Sir William King eulogised on Young's qualities and made special mention of the support given by Mrs Young.
Young was never elected alderman and left the council in 1899 to concentrate on his numerous other interests especially in the field of charity and education. He was chairman of the Trust Committee of the Portsmouth Royal Hospital. This is the work for which he is perhaps best remembered such that the Portsmouth Times obituary notice was headed, 'Public Man & Philanthropist'. Additionally, he was a local Commissioner for Income Tax and for fourteen years a member of the 5th Hant's Volunteers. In matters of religion he worshipped at St Mark's North End where he was a church warden. He suffered poor health for a number of years. He died leaving a widow, one son (a second had previously been killed in an accident) and four daughters.
Norman Gordon
Obituaries:- Portsmouth Times June 5th 1914. Evening News 1st June 1914.
1. Evening News 11th November 1895. Hant's Post Friday 15th November 1895. Portsmouth Times, 17th October 1896.
2. Hant's Post 13th November 1896.