Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lyall, George

LYALL, GEORGE (d. 1853), politician and merchant, was the eldest son of John Lyall of Findon, Sussex, a merchant and shipowner of London, by his wife Jane, born Comyn. He entered his father's business, and on his father's death in 1805 succeeded to the direction of it. For several years he was chairman of the Shipowners' Society, and his experience and suggestions were of considerable use to Huskisson in negotiating his commercial treaties with the northern states of Europe. He presided over the meeting at the London Tavern, 11 Dec. 1823, at which John Marshall initiated the agitation for a reform in the system of keeping ‘Lloyd's Register’ of shipping, and he sat in 1824 as a representative of the shipowners on the committee of inquiry, which reported in February 1826. Nothing, however, was done until 1834, when the ‘Register’ was reformed and placed under the supervision of a permanent committee, of which he was an original member (see Annals of Lloyd's Register; Martin, History of Lloyd's). He was also one of the chief promoters of the great Marine Indemnity Company at Lloyd's, as well as of the London Docks and Guardian Insurance Companies. In 1830 he was elected a director of the East India Company, and was its chairman in 1841. He made an unsuccessful attempt to enter parliament in 1832, when he contested the city of London as a tory at the first election after the passing of the Reform Bill. A vacancy occurring in 1833, on the death of Alderman Waithman, he defeated the liberal candidate, Alderman Venables, and was elected by 5,569 to 4,527 votes. In politics he was a Canningite, but being a poor speaker his influence, which was great, was chiefly exerted indirectly. He, however, introduced a Merchant Seamen's Widows Bill on 25 April 1834, and having overcome the partial opposition which the ministry at first offered to it, he carried it successfully through the house. At the general election of 1835 he lost his seat, and did not stand again until 1841, when he and Masterman were elected. He retired from public life in 1847, and died at 17 Park Crescent, Regent's Park, London, on 1 Sept. 1853. Though diffident and unobtrusive, his sound judgment and mercantile knowledge gave him considerable weight in the House of Commons and in the city of London. His son, also named George, was M.P. for Whitehaven from 1857 to 1865.

[Times, 7 Sept. 1853; Gent. Mag. 1805 ii. 1179, 1853 ii. 418; Ann. Reg. 1853; Raikes's Journal, i. 165; Hansard's Parl. Debates, 3rd ser. vols. xxi. xxii. and xxiii.]

J. A. H.