Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: March 07, 2020
Webpage updated: October 07, 2020



ISAAC FOOT (1880-1960)

Mr Isaac Foot was born in Plymouth on February 23rd 1880, the son of Mr Isaac Foot, a carpenter and undertaker.  His father had been responsible for the building of the Christian Mission Hall in Notte Street in 1883 and the first Salvation Army Congress Hall in Plymouth in 1885-86. 

The young Isaac was educated at Plymouth Public Free Schools and the Hoe Grammar School.  He left school at the age of 14 and  moved to London to work  for the Admiralty.  However, he returned to Plymouth and was articled to the local solicitors, Messrs Skardon and Phillips, starting as a clerk earning 14 shillings a week.  He was admitted as a solicitor in 1902 and in1903 went into partnership with Mr Frederick Edgar Bowden (1881-1957) to form Messrs Foot and Bowden.

In 1904 he first stood for election to Plymouth Borough Council as a Liberal Party representative for Charles Ward but was unsuccessful.   Also in that year he married Miss Eva Mackintosh.  He tried again in 1906 as the Liberal candidate for Compton Ward but was again unsuccessful.  Third time lucky, he was elected in 1907 to represent Greenbank Ward and also sat on their behalf on the Plymouth Board of Guardians.

While continuing in that capacity, in January 1910 he also stood for Member of Parliament for the Totnes Division but was defeated by Colonel Francis Bingham Mildmay (1861-1947).  However, he was credited with achieving the best results for the Liberal Party in that constituency for some twenty years.

Undaunted once again, in October 1910 he contested the South East Cornwall (Bodmin) Division but was defeated once again by a local man, Sir Reginald Pole Carew, although it was by only 41 votes.

He again tried for Parliament in 1919, this time for Plymouth Sutton.  It was, by all accounts, an exciting contest and the result was the election of the first ever woman Member of Parliament to take her seat, Nancy Lady Astor.  They became life-long friends.

Isaac Foot was Deputy Mayor of Plymouth in 1920, in which capacity he represented Plymouth at the "Mayflower" Tercentenary celebrations in the United States of America.  He retired from local government the following year, when he was elected MP for Bodmin.  This was the first of a series of anti-coalition contests which broke up Lloyd George's coalition government and he had to fight the same seat again in 1923 and 1924, when he was again defeated.  He succeeded in getting re-elected in 1929 and served until 1935, when he lost to Mr John Rathbone and transferred his campaign to Saint Ives and then, in 1945, to Tavistock.  He earned the official title of "the Member for the Depressed Classes" for his untiring efforts on behalf of the poor in India in 1930 and Burma in 1931.  Back home, he served in the National Government as Secretary for Mines from September 3rd 1931 until September 30th 1932, when he resigned.  He was made a Privy Councillor in 1937.

During the Second World War he served at Mr Winston Churchill's request as a member of the three-man Security Executive Committee, which co-ordinated all security matters and advised the Cabinet.

Other offices which Mr Foot held were President of the Liberal Party, President of the National Education Association, President of the Brotherhood movement, President of the National Commercial Temperance League, President of the Pedestrian Association, Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, Vice-President of the British and Foreign Bible Society, Vice-President of the Pilgrim Fellowship, Chairman of Cornwall Quarter Sessions and Treasurer of the World's Evangelical Alliance, and Treasurer of the Temperance Council of Churches.

He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.  His love of books was of tremendous benefit to the City as during his lifetime he presented the City's library service with about 9,000 volumes, including 2,300 donated after the Second World War to help re-establish the library.  In 1959 the University of Exeter awarded him the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters.  He reputedly had a private library of 70,0000 books.

In 1927 he went to live at Pencrebar, Callington, and it gave him a great deal of pleasure when he was made a Justice of the Peace for Cornwall.  In 1945 he was unanimously selected to become the Lord Mayor of Plymouth even though he was not a member of the City Council.  In that year he was also appointed as Deputy-Chairman of the Cornwall Quarter Sessions, a distinction rarely conferred upon solicitors, and served as Chairman from 1953 until 1955.

Mrs Eva Foot died on May 17th 1946 following which he married Mrs Catherine Elizabeth Taylor, formerly Miss Dawe, of Saltash, in 1951 in the Saint Germans Registration District, Cornwall.

The present Queen's Coronation in 1953 was celebrated by the gift to the City Council of a medallion to be worn by ministers acting as chaplain to the Lord Mayor.

As a Methodist he opened the rebuilt Elim Chapel in Notte Street in January 1956, laid the foundation stone of the new Zion Chapel at Laira in May 1956 and laid the foundation stone of the new Saint Budeaux Methodist Chapel in the September.  On September 20th 1959 he celebrated sixty years as a Methodist local preacher with a  special service at the West End Methodist Chapel, Callington.

Mr Isaac Foot died in his sleep at his home, Pencrebar, Callington, Cornwall, on Tuesday December 13th 1960.  He had been ill for the last two months and confined to bed for the previous two weeks.  The funeral service was held at the West End Methodist Chapel, Callington, and his body is buried in Callington Cemetery.

He left a widow five sons and two daughters.   The sons were: Sir Hugh Mackintosh Foot (1907-1990), Baron Caradon, former Governor of Jamaica, and Governor of Cyprus from 1957 until the Island gained its independence in 1960; Mr Dingle Mackintosh Foot QC, (1905-1978) who was Liberal MP for Dundee from 1931-45 and became Labour MP for Ipswich in October 1957; and Mr (later Sir) Michael Mackintosh Foot (1913-2010), former Labour MP for Devonport from 1945-55 and Labour MP for Ebbw Vale from 1957.  Mr John Mackintosh Foot (1909-1999), Baron Foot, and Mr Christopher Isaac Foot (1917-1984) were in partnership as solicitors in Plymouth.  The two daughters were Miss Margaret Elizabeth Foot (1911-1965) and Miss Jennifer Mackintosh Highet Foot (1916-2002).