Campbell, Charles Gordon (1885–1963), 2nd Baron Glenavy , civil servant and banker, was born 22 October 1885, the eldest son of James Henry Mussen Campbell (qv), first Baron Glenavy, and his wife Emily, the second daughter of John McCullagh, RM, of Newry, Co. Down. Educated at Crawley's preparatory school, St Stephen's Green, Charterhouse School, and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, he served as a lieutenant in the Royal Engineers (1905–10).
Campbell was called to the English bar at Gray's Inn in 1911 and to the Irish bar in 1920. He practised for a short time, once before the house of lords, before entering the British civil service, where in 1915 he became an assistant controller in the Ministry of Munitions. As an authority on wage settlements, in which capacity he appeared as an expert witness before a number of royal commissions, he was largely responsible for the British Temporary Wages Regulation Act of 1918. In that same year he joined the Ministry of Labour and visited Ireland to investigate the payment of unemployment benefit. Reporting his findings, he assisted in drawing up a new scheme of payment, and was placed in charge of its operation. With the establishment of the Irish department within the British Ministry of Labour, Campbell, the son of the Irish lord chancellor, was appointed its first secretary. Between 1919 and 1921, a period of great industrial unrest, he served as chief industrial conciliator for Ireland.
In September 1922 Campbell moved back to Ireland and, to the delight of unionists, was appointed secretary of the Department of Industry and Commerce. Given his status as a key figure in the new Irish civil service, he was often followed by anti-treaty forces during the early period of the fledgling state. After his car was fired upon near Portobello Bridge he changed his residence every night for a period. On Christmas Eve 1922 his home, Clonard, Kimmage Road, Terenure, was badly damaged in an arson attack.
Campbell found the conservative Department of Finance his greatest obstacle in attempting to carve out a role for the Department of Industry and Commerce in the new state. His initial instinct was to reject a development role for the department, but he soon became convinced of the need for state intervention in industry. He believed that government-led inducements were the key to attracting foreign enterprise, training, and capital, all of which he viewed as essential to immediate industrial development. He persuaded Patrick McGilligan (qv), minister for industry and commerce, to promote a policy based on the imposition of tariffs and won a surprising ally in Patrick Hogan (qv), the minister for agriculture. Between 1924 and 1926 he was successful in persuading the government to grant tariff concessions at budget time. He identified the need for a comprehensive and regional-based policy that promoted industry, rationalised economic resources, and sought to reduce Ireland's over-reliance on agriculture. In February 1923 he accompanied W. T. Cosgrave (qv), Patrick Hogan, Hugh Kennedy (qv), and Joseph Brennan (qv) to London to discuss with the British government the questions of land purchase and compensation. The following year he committed the Department of Industry and Commerce to the Shannon electrification scheme and, with Arthur Cox (qv), played a key role in drafting the legislation. In 1925 he accompanied McGilligan to the World Parliamentary Congress in the USA to enquire about organisational models for public utilities. He also examined the possibility of having the organisation of the Irish electricity scheme either financed from the USA or operated by a large American concern. Due to his work on the Shannon scheme he excluded himself from serving on the Tariff Commission (1926) and by so doing caused an eclipse of his department which lasted until 1932. He opposed the 1927 Currency Act, passed to establish a Saorstát pound at parity with sterling, in the belief that deflationary pressures imposed by parity would be more damaging for an agricultural-based economy than for an industrialised economy. Energetic, courageous, and clever, he frequently railed against ‘the cretinous slobs’ who passed ‘for people of intelligence in Ireland’.
After the 1932 election, but before the change of government, Campbell resigned from the civil service. Now Lord Glenavy, having succeeded to the title on the death of his father in March 1931, he was made a director of the Bank of Ireland in January 1932. He later served as both deputy governor (1943–5) and governor (1945–7). From 1934 to 1938 he was a member of the Banking Currency and Credit Commission. Although he signed the majority report, he appended a twenty-one-page memorandum that emphasised the Irish banking system's dependence on overseas investment and bank deposits. In addition the memorandum attacked policies that might undermine either of these two elements, such as the establishment of the Agricultural Credit Corporation.
Despite being opposed to the reconstitution of the currency commission as a central bank, Campbell served as a director of the Central Bank of Ireland from its establishment in February 1943 until his death in 1963. Described as the ‘pied piper to the children of financial orthodoxy’, he was remembered by Maurice Moynihan (qv) for his ‘woeful countenance, his quiet voice, his irony and his essential humanity’. A member of the Brennan Commission of Inquiry into the Civil Service (1933) and of an advisory committee under the Trade Loans (Guarantee) Acts (1932), he was chairman of the Hibernian Insurance Company and the Property Loan and Investment Company, as well as being director of the B&I Steam Packet Company, the Great Northern Railway Company, and Cyril Lord Carpets Ltd. He persuaded Seán Lemass (qv) to support financially the establishment of a peat briquette factory at Lullymore in Co. Kildare.
Campbell was widely read and had a great appreciation of English literature and an abiding interest in philosophy, particularly the writings of Spengler, Nietzsche, and Schopenhauer. In London he had been friends with D. H. Lawrence, Katherine Mansfield, G. B. Shaw (qv), Robert Lynd (qv), and John Middleton Murry. To Mansfield, Campbell had a long lugubrious face and a rich forlorn voice and was inseparable from his umbrella. On the publication of Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928) Lawrence sent a copy to Campbell with a letter saying that the book cost £2 to friends and £6 to others; by return Campbell sent £6. He was a member of the Gate Theatre's board of directors (1929–31) and under the pseudonym Richard Erroll wrote a play, ‘Treaty with the barbarians’ (1928), which, produced by Shelah Richards (qv), had a single performance at the Peacock Theatre.
An outdoorsman, Campbell especially liked sailing, and owned a Dublin Bay 21 footer called Garavogue. He was president of the council of the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital (1932–62). He died of cancer 30 July 1963 after six months’ illness.