110 YEARS and still going strong - The British Consulate in Seattle

At the end of June, I attended a reception in the elegant lobby of the Northern Trust Bank. The reception was to bid farewell to Her Majesty's (HM) Consul David Broom and to welcome his successor, HM Consul Dennis Leith, and his wife Barbara. ("Her Majesty" in this case is Queen Elizabeth II, and the "consuls" of the British variety.) The British Consulate, with offices in downtown Seattle, is essentially a trade commission representing Washington and Oregon for commercial and trade affairs, and Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana for diplomatic and consular affairs.

The guests at the reception represented members of the banking, trade, corporate, business and civic communities. All had good words to say in praise of David Broom's four-year tenure in our fair city. The praises culminated in Broom being presented with the Freedom of the City by Gov. Gary Locke - a well-deserved honor.

David Broom had worked very closely with Boeing during his time in office, later working with Gov. Locke's associate encouraging Boeing to remain in Seattle, with favorable results. The state of Washington and the United Kingdom have been important trading partners for many years, covering the diverse fields of food, fashion, aerospace, technology, transportation, hospitality and tourism, to name but a few.

Great Britain opened its first foreign consulate in Washington Territory at Port Townsend in 1882. The first British Vice Consul was the Rev. John B. Alex-ander, an Episcopal minister. On appointment by Queen Victoria, Alexan-der resigned from his church duties to carry out his functions as vice consul.

He built what is now known as "Alexander's Castle," with crenellated turrets for his fiancée, a fair Scottish lass who, he had promised, would live in a castle when she came to America. Unfortunately, the lady was impatient and married somebody else. The castle's tower was not built merely for architectural beauty or to please the lady's whim for a castle, but actually to support a tank for the storage of rainwater. Alexander's Castle is the oldest building within the Fort Worden compound and is now open on weekends as a historical site in Port Townsend. When it became clear that the expected development of Port Townsend would not continue - because the railway would bypass it - the British government decided to move Alexander to the eastern side of Puget Sound. Tacoma had a greater expectation of developing as the business and financial center. Alexander was located there as the official British Consul in 1892. As events showed, Tacoma was eclipsed by Seattle, and the consulate later moved to the bigger city, with its jurisdiction covering Washington state. Then, as now, the consulate was essentially a trade mission, and as a trade mission it remains extremely active: the United Kingdom is still one of the largest importers of Washington apples, fish, and hi-tech and aerospace equipment.

The British consulates in the port towns of Seattle and Tacoma were the first foreign consulates to be established in the area.

Mr. Bernard Pelly was the first consul in Seattle, and a founding member of the University Club. His son, Francis Pelly, now retired in Seattle, was in turn consul-general here in the late '70s. My association with the British consul in Seattle goes back to the early days of 1963 and our arrival to our fair city. The resident consul of that time was instrumental in helping us initiate our radio program, "The British Hour." Incidentally, that gentleman, a worthy Scot by the name of McGee, actually had his official residence on Queen Anne, and we attended many consular corps social events at his home.

Mr. McGee appeared many times on "The British Hour," always introducing "The Queen's Annual Christmas Message." He also was helpful in following the protocol of obtaining the same, which was quite a procedure; he had to make sure that it was not aired before having been heard in England!

Mr. McGee was followed as consul-general by Francis Pelly. Pelly was also president of the English Speaking Union in the late 1970s, sponsoring my husband and me for membership in the organization, in which I am still very active. I have worked with at least a dozen different consuls over the years, helping organize special events for trade shows and promotional events related to the radio programs, the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977 and her visit in 1983, as well as social events for the English Speaking Union and the World Affairs Council. Our present consul, Mr. Dennis Leith, is a career diplomat with a strong background as a trade attaché from Moscow to Mexico, having served as consul-general in Vietnam, first secretary in Sofia and head of trade in Chunking, from which he comes to us. We bid him a hearty welcome, and know that he will enjoy his posting in Seattle. TTFN

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