Blake, Sir Henry Arthur (1840–1918), police officer, resident magistrate, and colonial governor, was born 18 January 1840 in Corbally, Co. Limerick, son of Peter Blake (1809–50) of Corbally Castle, Co. Galway, county inspector of Irish Constabulary, and Jane Blake (née Lane) of Lanespark, Co. Tipperary. Educated at Dr St John's academy, Kilkenny, at Santry College, and at QCG, Blake spent eighteen months as a bank clerk before entering the constabulary as a cadet in 1859. As a sub-inspector he showed detective skill and gallantry; he received three favourable records in 1871, and in 1876 was appointed RM for the disturbed district of Tuam, Co. Galway. A judicious and active RM, he was also a clear, vigorous, observant, and humorous writer (notably in his Pictures from Ireland (by ‘Terence McGrath’), and ‘The Irish police’ in Nineteenth Century (1881)). In December 1881 he became one of the first three ‘special RMs’, taking charge of the midland division of counties. Unique among the ‘specials’ in having been an RIC officer, he improved methods of patrolling, and was critical of the handling of police unrest in 1882, particularly by his colleague Clifford Lloyd (qv).
When the special RMs were reorganised in 1883 as ‘divisional magistrates’, Blake – who was initially hurt at what seemed to him a neglect of his services – entered a successful new career as colonial governor (1884–1907), serving in the Bahamas, Newfoundland, Jamaica, Hong Kong, and Ceylon. He was appointed KCMG (1887) while the renegotiation of American fishing rights in Newfoundland was in dispute; the Newfoundland prime minister demanded a voice in the matter, and Blake acted as a mediator. In 1888 he was appointed to Queensland, but resigned without taking up office. This did not blight his career; after serving in Jamaica (where his term was twice extended by request of local public bodies) he was appointed GCMG in 1897. Among other honours and offices he was an FRGS, a member of the RDS council, an honorary member of the Royal Zoological Society of London, a knight of Justice of St John of Jerusalem, and district grand master of Ceylon freemasons. His later writings include studies of China (1904) and Ceylon (1907) and many magazine articles.
After retiring from colonial service, he became (1910) chairman of Newfoundland Oilfields Ltd. In retirement he lived at Myrtle Grove, Youghal, Co. Cork (associated with Sir Walter Ralegh (qv)), and became a representative of southern unionist opinion. In 1916 he made a statement to the royal commission on the Easter rising, concluding that ‘the people are not law-abiding, but they yield to a real control if it is impartial and just . . . The immediate cause of the present rebellion . . . has been an absence of any attempt at control . . .’ (quoted in 1916 rebellion handbook, 198). In 1917 he was one of the five Irish Unionist Alliance members on the Irish convention, where he deployed his experience as a colonial administrator. He died 23 February 1918 at Myrtle Grove, where he was buried beneath yew trees planted by Ralegh.
He married first (1862), in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, Mary Jeannie Irwin (d. 1871) of Boyle, Co. Roscommon; they had a daughter (b. 1863), twin daughters (1864) of whom one died at birth, and a son (b. 1871). Blake married secondly (1874) Edith (Edith Blake (qv)), elder daughter and coheir of Ralph Bernal Osborne (qv) of Newtown Anner, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary; they had one daughter (b. 1875) and two sons (b. 1877, 1878). A great-granddaughter, Patricia Arbuthnot, married the writer Claud Cockburn. The Hong Kong emblem showing the blossom of the Bauhinia blakeana is a legacy of Blake's governorship; he had a strong interest in botany, and the tree (like Blaketown in Newfoundland) was named in his honour.