Mr. David Hannay
Naval Historian and Writer
Mr. David Hannay, who died suddenly in London on Tuesday at the age of 80, was an able writer and lecturer on naval history. As one of the group of journalists who helped before the War to form public opinion on sea power and need of an adequate fleet he rendered national service, no less than by his influence on the young officers at the Royal Naval College. He had a sound knowledge of Spain and Spanish affairs.
David McDowall Hannay was born in London on December 25, 1853. His father, James Hannay, entered the Navy in 1840, and served in the Syrian War, but at heart he was a journalist and satirist, and while still in the service he produced a comic manuscript journal in which he ridiculed the admirals and captains in the Mediterranean. Later he became an active journalist, a Quarterly reviewer, and the author, among other novels, of "King Dobbs" (dedicated to his friend Thackeray), "Singleton Fontenoy," and "Eustace Conyers." David was educated at Westminster School, and was for some months vice-consul at Barcelona, where his father had been Consul. Over a period of many years he contributed to Henley's Scots Observer and the National Observer, the Times Literary Supplement, the Pall Mall Gazette. He also did much work for the magazines, and a selection of his essays in Blackwood and elsewhere was republished under the title "Ships and Men," in 1910. His first book was a monograph on Admiral Blake, in the series "English Worthies," edited by Andrew Lang, which appeared in 1886. To another series on "Great Writers," he contributed lives of Smollett (1887) and Captain Marryat (1889), both of which were well received. On the work of Marryat he was a specialist, and in the nineties he contributed introductions to an illustrated edition. To the "English Men of Action" series he contributed a biography of Admiral Rodney in 1891. His hereditary interest in Spain led to a study of Spanish literature and an excellent biography of Don Emilio Castelar. He was indeed a recognized authority on Spanish affairs, on which, as well as on South American politics and the Naby, he was at one time a frequent contributor to The Times.
Hannay was an original member of the Navy Records Society on its formation in 1893, and two years later he edited one of the society's first volumes, "The Letters of Lord Hood." Perhaps the best known of his books was "A Short History of the Royal Navy," in two volumes, which appeared in 1898 and 1909. It is especially valuable for students and was largely the outcome of Hannay's work as a lecturer at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich. A later work (1912) was "The Sea Trader: His Friends and Enemies," written as a companion volume to Commander Robinson's "The British Tar in Fact and Fiction." In 1914 Hannay produced for the Cambridge University Press a volume on "Naval Courts-Martial," a representation of the old Navy down to the Napoleonic Wars as it is pictured in the Court-martial records. In 1926, he wrote "The Great Chartered Companies," a survey of their history from the Genoese establishment at Chios in the fourteenth century.
All Hannay's literary work was marked by the freshness, vigour and directness which were characteristic of the man himself. He had a clear and uncompromising honest mind. His outlook on life was that of the old Liberal school. He had decided opinions on all the subjects with which he was acquainted, and was equally decided in expressing them. Kindness itself, he observed high standards in his own life and expected others to observe them. He was incapable of tempering the truth, as he saw and understood it, out of any consideration of personal interest of worldly expediency, and this incapacity often stood in the way of success as a writer and journalist. He did not cultivate a wide acquaintanceship, but he enjoyed the affection, the admiration, and the respect of all who knew him well.
The funeral will be at All Souls Cemetery, Kensal Green, to-morrow at 11.30.