George Broom

His Life & Character

This is an article that originally was printed in the
October 26, 1935 issue of Marine Digest, Seattle, WA

Come wealth or want, come good or ill Let young and old accept their part, And bow before the awful will, And bear it with an honest heart. Who misses or who wins the prize Go, lose or conquer as you can; But if you fail, or if you rise, Be each, pray God, a gentleman.


Thackeray in that stanza used the word Gentleman in its true sense-a man of personal honor and fine sensibilities, free from malice and envy, generous and gracious in triumph, serene and unbowed in adversity; tolerant of other men and their views, neither high-hatting the humble nor catering to the powerful; speaking ill of no one, considerate of everyone and ready with a helpful word or a helping hand for others.

Of that excellent company was George Broom.

Life is a great deal of a battle, each man a warrior. Wordsworth wrote noble lines defining "The Happy Warrior," a name now associated with an American statesman. For George Broom there is the name, "The Friendly Warrior." His weapons were the helpful word and the helping hand.

George Broom was a good man in the highest meaning of that term. But it never occurred to him to think of himself as such. Quiet, unassuming, rather retiring, he thought of himself as just one of us, no better, no worse-just human beings doing the best we can, each according to his own lights and ability.

A great deal of a philosopher, his outlook on life was mellowed by a kindly, tolerant humor that was a joy to many, many friends, ashore and afloat.

He has passed on; but while he was here he made- life brighter , more cheerful, more hopeful for all of us.

Men in all walks of life, prominent and obscure, held him in deep affection.

The Old West in frontier days had a genius for appraising a man in a single rugged phrase. It would have called George Broom a "squareshooter! "

This is an age of hifaluting titles in business. We have presidents and general managers and vice-presidents in charge of this and that, even in small enterprises. There was none of that about George Broom. He preferred to be known as the "sailmaker and rigger and Northwest distributor of Preservo," and Seattle loved to call him its "pioneer sailmaker and rigger." As a matter of fact, he was one of our leading business men; he was the founder and head of a business institution that for more than a generation has ranked as a Northwest maritime asset, with high standing in the financial as well as the commercial world. He was a member of exclusive organizations, but always be was George Broom, the "pioneer sailmaker and rigger." He made that term venerated.

He lived a full life, teeming with interests. There was his beautiful home set in broad acres on the shores of Port Madison. He had much pleasure in his home and his flower gardens, lawns and shrubbery. He was a lover of roses , growing rare and exquisite varieties. He always had a rose in his lapel when he came to the city each morning. Old timers will remember the long contest between him and the late J. P. Todd; each striving to raise the most beautiful roses. It was a friendly rivalry between two devoted rosarians. They began getting up early in the morning so as to have more time for the roses. First one and then the other would get up a bit earlier until both were rising hours before anyone else. But it was all good humored. Then Mr. Todd passed away in 1922. To George Broom, rose culture was a thing of absorbing and vivid interest.

He always had a dog-an Irish terrier of pedigreed lineage-and he found keen pleasure in their companionship. Bestbeloved of all his dogs was Fairholme, undoubtedly the finest Irish terrier of this district. Fairholme was the son of Celtic Patriot, the champion Irish terrier of all England in 1921. He was George Broom's constant companion, often coming to the city with him. There was a deep affection between man and dog. Fairholme's death under the wheels of a motor truck in September, 1934, was a sad loss to George Broom. He buried the terrier in the shade of a large Camellia tree, where the dog used to sit and watch his master at work among the roses. To the last George Broom cared tenderly for the grave. He never forgot Fairholme. (Incidentally our old friend chuckled often over the Beach Comber's use of Fairholme as a character in one of this publication's Wild Waves series, in which the dog had a leading part under the name of Sirloin.)

George Broom loved the sea and boats and ships. He had pleasure in his power cruiser Dunlin. Each summer, with a few old cronies, he voyaged for a few weeks into British Columbia or Southeastern Alaska waters, fishing and relaxing, forgetting business cares. To be a guest on one of these expeditions was a high privilege, sought by many.



George Broom loved the marine view from his home. He spent many a happy hour in contemplation of it. And then, above all, he had his two sons, Grenville and Rupert, whom he brought up with rare wisdom, after the death of their beloved mother, a mother such as few men have. She passed away in 1926, an irreparable loss to father and sons. George Broom took a keen pride in his two stalwart sons; he watched over them with gentle solicitude, but at the same time he gave free rein to their initiative and enterprise, so that they have grown into self-reliant young men. Grenville spent years in the Arctic, Rupert sailed on ocean steamships as a seaman. Between these ventures, George Broom trained his sons in the affairs of his own business so that when he passed on, they could take charge in a smooth transition.

In his home life, George Broom was happiest of an evening when he sat in an easy chair in front of the fireplace, a good book in his hand, a dog curled up at his feet, and his two sons home from sea or wilderness, one on each side of the fireplace, also book in hand or exchanging stories of their experiences on sea and land. George Broom was a companion to his sons.

He had great pleasure in his business, as well as in home, family and friends. He found his business vividly interesting, fascinating. He established it when the sailing vessel still was a factor on the sea; he had friendships with mariners of all kinds of craft-friendships that dated back to the years when all were young. Many of the old-timers have passed on. George Broom never forgot them. He loved to talk of them. The list was long, including such colorful personalities as the late Capt. Edward Cantillion, the noted sealer, and the late Capt. John A. O'Brien, long the nestor of the Pacific. (We drank toasts to their memory.)

George Broom lived a rounded life. He delighted in a good game of poker; whether he won or lost made no difference to him; it was the sport and fun of the thing that appealed to him. He was a well-balanced man. He never talked religion, but he lived it. He held fast to the old beliefs. As in all other matters, there was a fine tolerance for the views and beliefs of others.

The range of his friendships was amazing, everything from the waterfront worker in overalls to those who stand high in the American business world, East and West.

We of the waterfront will always love to remember him at his annual clam party, held in his sail loft each February for 21 successive years. He was the perfect host, moving quietly among his throngs of old friendsmoving quietly and yet somehow infusing the whole gathering with a glowing spirit of fellowship and good cheer and happiness. As you entered the sail loft you stepped into the past, into the old world of sea romance. You stepped into an atmosphere of sailing ship days-the aroma of sailcloth, hemp, tar, and rum in the air; walls covered with pictures of famous ships and navigators; a large ship's wheel here, and scattered about the loft a clutter of nautical instruments and gear of all kinds, and over there in the center of the loft the huge potbellied stove crackling cheerfully. And there at the long tables, loaded with steaming clams and other viands, the guests, from the local waterfronts, from East and West and North and South! And at the head table Stanley Griffiths, the shipping executive, rising to lead the singing of the ancient sea chantey, "Blow the Man Down, Bully," and all hands joining lustily in the refrain! What memories George Broom has left us!

"George Broom beamed benignly on his guests," wrote H. E. Jamison in the Seattle Star last February, after the 21st party, "and his guests beamed back. He was happy to be with his friends and his friends were happy to be with him."

George Broom lived the wellrounded life. He found much good in life, far, far more of good than bad. He found much pleasure in life, all clean and wholesome. The helpful word was always on his lips, the helping hand extended. We shall miss him sorely. A chair will always be vacant.

It is considered rather hackneyed to quote Shakespeare nowadays and the truth is that many of his fine things have been quoted so often, in season and out of season, that they have become shop-worn. But all the time I have been trying to write this sketch of a friend whom we all loved, some lines of Shakespeare have kept coming into mind-the words spoken by Marc Antony over the body of Brutus:

"His life was gentle, and the elements so mixed in him that Nature might stand up and say to all the world. This was a man!" Such was George Broom. He has left us a wonderful legacy-the memory of himself.


Note: George Broom was born in 1870 near Great Yarmouth, England; in October, 1886, then 16 years old, came to Seattle, entering sailmaking and rigging industry. In Klondike 1898-99: thence returned to Seattle, establishing business that became Northwest institution. Died in Seattle October 18. 1935.