. . .well, not my Father, but my great-great uncle. We usually think of family history as covering the lives of people who were not public figures in their own right, but they sometimes appear at the periphery of the lives of the famous.
Randal Casson (1850 – 1914), younger brother of my great grandfather, was the junior partner in Breese, Jones and Casson, a firm of solicitors in Portmadoc (Porthmadog), Caernarvonshire. The firm had been founded by David Williams, uncle of Edward Breese, who was the first Liberal MP in Merioneth, winning his seat in 1868. In January 1879, aged 16 years, David Lloyd George was articled to Randal Casson, his fee almost bankrupting his uncle Richard Lloyd.
Randal took the young clerk under his wing and even involved him in local politics, being a Gladstonian Liberal himself. When David went to London, in November 1880, to take the Law Society’s Intermediate Examination, Randal encouraged him to lengthen his stay:
‘By all means stay a week longer if you like. There is plenty to do and see on one’s first visit to London.’
Randal was a keen member of the Portmadoc Volunteers; his young clerk joined under his command. They drank beer together and sometimes worked in Randal’s garden on a Sunday.
In April 1884, David passed the Final Examination, achieving only 3rd class Honours. The fact was that by this time he was more interested in the Portmadoc Debating Society than in the minutiae of the law. Nevertheless, Randal offered him a place as assistant solicitor, with commission for any new business he brought in. But by this time their relations had soured, the younger man chafing at his inferior position, as his own ambitions grew, and he was determined to set up in competition with his mentor.
We learn much of all this through My Brother and I, the memoir by David’s younger brother, William George, who was also articled to Randal. For a while William acted as go-between. David did set up on his own, and William joined him after qualifying and ran their partnership for fifty years. Randal had reason to resent his young protegé for abandoning the Portmadoc firm and setting up a rival business. But ultimately they remained on cordial terms. Randal softened enough to send him a generous valedictory letter and to keep, throughout his life, the gracious letter he received in return from the future Prime Minister. In it, David Lloyd George expresses a sense of ‘ triumph to have won such expressions of esteem from a gentleman whom I have always known to be sincere as well as discerning’ and acknowledges his appreciation of ‘the honourable motives which prompted you to take the pains you did to enable me acquire competency in the profession you instructed me in.’
Diana Devlin ©