Bruce, Clarence Napier, third Baron Aberdare 1885-1957, athlete, was born in London 2 August 1885. He was the second son of Henry Campbell Bruce, later second baron, and grandson of Henry Austin Bruce, home secretary and first baron [qv.]. His mother, Constance Mary Beckett, was a granddaughter of J. S. Copley, Lord Lyndhurst [qv.]. Bruce was educated at Winchester, where he was in the cricket eleven and was captain of rackets in 1903 and 1904, and at New College. At Oxford he represented the university at cricket in 1907 and 1908 (when he scored 46 for the winning side) and also at golf, rackets, and tennis, at which he won the silver racket in 1907. He gained third class honours in modern history in 1908. In 1911 he was called to the bar by the Inner Temple, and in the following year married Margaret Bethune, only daughter of Adam Black. By her, who died in 1950, he had two sons and two daughters. Bruce was already a notable player of games, but the full extent of his talents did not become apparent until after the war. Between 1914 and 1919 he served with the Glamorgan Yeomanry, with the 2nd Life Guards, on the staff of the 61st division, and with the Guards Machine Gun Regiment. He retired with the rank of captain; the death in action of his elder brother in 1914 left him heir to the title.
From 1919 he began to play cricket for Middlesex, which he had represented twice in 1908. One of his best years was 1925 when he scored 527 runs in nineteen appearances. On 23 June, at Nottingham, his county were set 502 runs to win in the fourth innings, and achieved that total. Hendren and Bruce added 154 together in 95 minutes, and Bruce finished with 103 to his name; Wisden justly describes this as one of the great matches in the history of Middlesex cricket. His last game for the county was in 1929.
Bruce was a good golfer and competent at all ball games, but he excelled at the two great indoor court games, rackets and tennis. At rackets he was the amateur champion in 1922 and 1931 and was ten times winner of the doubles with different partners. His finest achievement was to become open champion of the British Isles in 1932 by defeating J. C. F. Simpson. Although the loser was the best receiver of service playing, Aberdare's service was devastating and his court craft superb. He was the singles champion of Canada in 1928 and 1930 and won the doubles in Canada and the United States (with H. W. Leatham) in the latter year.
He was tennis champion of the United States in 1930, and of England in 1932 and 1938; he also won the M.C.C. gold or silver prize every year from 1930 to 1937. Here too his superb fitness assisted him and he was a master tactician. In 1938 he defeated L. Lees, champion for five years and a younger man, in the semi-final 3-2, after being two sets down. His service was always accurate (although he eschewed the American variety) and his attack on the dedans deadly. In the final he won easily, finishing with a spectacular winning gallery shot. In France he won the Coupe de Paris six times. At doubles he had a happy knack of bringing out the best in his partners.
After his succession to the barony in 1929 he played an increasing part in public life. From 1931 to 1946 he was a member of the Miners' Welfare Committee, an appointment reflecting the long connection between his family and the South Wales coal field. He took a great interest in youth welfare and was treasurer of the National Association of Boys' Clubs in 1935 and chairman from 1943 until his death. Another lifelong interest was the Queen's Institute of District Nursing of which he became chairman in 1944. In February 1937 Oliver Stanley [qv.] announced the creation of a new National Advisory Council on Physical Training of which Aberdare was chairman until 1939. Aberdare was an admirable choice; he was good in the chair, unruffled and modest, while his reputation brought in money and support. In a speech in 1938 he declared that his great ideal was to give everyone a chance of making the human body a fit instrument for the human soul. In that year he himself was amateur tennis champion, and in 1939, at the age of fifty-three and partnered by his son, he attained the final of the doubles at rackets.
In Wales he continued the family interest in the university (of which his grandfather was the first chancellor) as president of the Welsh National School of Medicine; he received an honorary Doctor of Law in 1953. In 1948 he became prior of the Welsh Priory of St. John of Jerusalem, and was a knight of the order which he had long aided. He spoke in the House of Lords on the subjects dear to his heart; in 1944 he twice voiced the claims of youth in the debates on the education bill, and at the end of the same year urged that youth club leaders be not forgotten in the demobilization programme. During the war of 1939-45 he served in the Home Guard; he was honorary colonel of the 77th (later renumbered 282nd) (Welsh) Heavy A.A. brigade. He was appointed C.B.E. in 1949 and promoted G.B.E. in 1954.
In 1931 Aberdare had joined the executive committee of the International Olympics. He attended the games at Los Angeles in 1932, Berlin in 1936, and after the war in London (1948), Helsinki (1952), and Melbourne (1956). In September 1957 he married, secondly, Grizelda Harriet Violet Finetta Georgiana, daughter of Dudley Francis Amelius Hervey, C.M.G.; returning with her from an Olympic meeting in Sofia, he was killed in a car accident in Yugoslavia 4 October 1957. He was succeeded by his elder son, Morys George Lyndhurst (born 1919).
With E. B. Noel, he was the author of an admirable work on First Steps to Rackets (1926) and he edited the Lonsdale Library volume on Rackets, Squash Rackets, Tennis, Fives and Badminton (1933). He contributed the notice of Peter Latham to this Supplement.
There is a portrait by Flora Lion in the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff.
The Times, 5, 10, 11, and 14 October 1957
Contributor: Michael Maclagan.