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William Robert Oswald


Oswald, William Robert Lieutenant-Colonel, commander of the Brigade of the Montreal Garrison Artillery, was born at Seabank, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, was educated at Bellevue House, and was actually, although some time later, under the same masters as Sir Peter Lurnsden, of Afghanistan fame, He is the descendant of an ancient family which has held an honoured place in the annals of not only Scotland but of England since the days of the Saxon Heptarchy. The derivation of the name is suggestive of its Anglo-Saxon origin, os, signifying, "man," and wald, " wood." The legend says that the founder of the Oswald family was the Earl or petty king of Northumberland of those early days, who had three sons, one a soldier, the second a sailor, who founded a family in life, and the third a merchant, the ancestor of the Oswalds of Ayr. From the soldier sprang the Oswalds of Dunnikeer and the Oswalds of Auchencruive, families of distinction in the shire. The colonel’s father married a daughter of Captain Mackenzie, of Frendville,. Aberdeen-shire, who belongs to an old and well-known Highland family. It will thus be seen that the subject of this sketch legitimately inherits his love for military life, which, no doubt, he would have embraced in early days had the opportunity offered, and Iike many cadets of noble Scotch families who in the past have "filled a page in story," either in the annals of their country or in those of many nations, where the wandering Scot, like Andrew Fairservice and the hero. of Quentin Durward, as graphically portrayed by Sir Walter Scott, have taken into their service, along with their swords a shrewdness and sagacity that has raised them to the front rank. Colonel Oswald’s lines, however, lay in the more pacific and profitable, if less romantic, paths of mercantile life, and in 1866 he sailed for Canada. He stopped here for a year and a half before going back to his native land, and returned shortly after with the agency of the Scottish Provident and. the Scottish Fire Insurance Companies; settled in Montreal, and is now of the firm of Oswald Brothers, stock brokers, 53 and 55 St. Francois Xavier street, general agents for the City of London Insurance Company, and one of the senior members of the Stock Exchange. In 1868 he entered the Garrison artillery, then commanded by Colonel Ferrier who was succeeded by Colonel Henry McKay and he, in his turn, by Colonel Torrence Fraser, who was the predecessor of Colonel Oswald.. The colonel, during the seventeen years since his entry into the regiment, his been connected with the service, and continuously in the Garrison artillery, with the exception of three years in the Field battery, returning to it to take command on June 24th, 1881. He found it in a most demoralized state, there not being fifty officers and men all told, but going energetically to work he soon raised it to the standard of 1870, when it marched 300 strong, to the front during the Fenian raid. Being a strict disciplinarian, he soon restored its former efficiency. At the time of the raid he was lieutenant of No. 6 Battery at Trout river, when his command was under fire. Lieutenant Oswald met with an adventure during this campaign which might have had a very serious ending. He proposed to Colonel Ferrier to visit the Fenian camp at Malone, in disguise, and ascertain the strength of the enemy. He managed matters as he thought very cleverly, but towards evening, finding that he was an object of suspicion, reported .himself to General Hunt, who was in cornmand of the United States troops sent to prevent the Fenians from crossing the border. The lieutenant asked General Hunt how he knew he was a spy. "We have known it all day," was the reply, "though you think you are so well disguised. We spotted you the moment you sat down at the table for breakfast, and next time you try your hand keep on your hat We saw the diagonal mark of the forage cap across your forehead, the covered part being whiter than that exposed to the sun, and knew at once you were a British soldier." About twelve years ago he joined the Dominion Artillery Association, was its first life member, and took command of the first Canadian team to Shoeburyness in 1881, winning the Marquis of Lorne’s prize in the contest, between England and Canada. He succeeded General Luard as president of the association, which position he now holds. The receptiori of the English team last season was principally due to the encouragement he gave, and it was owing to him that the 40lb. breech-loading Armstrong guns now in the possession of the Canadian artillery were procured through the medium of the minister of .militia. The cup presented by the Marquis of Lorne is a handsome specimen of the silversmith’s art, and bears an inscription to the effect that it was a special mark of approbation for the energy and judgment he had shown. It was his intention, last June, to have gone with the Canadian team to England but that project, on account of the North-West troubles had to be abandoned, especially as some of the best men were going with the Montreal brigade to the North-West. Lieut-Colonel., Oswald has two brothers: the eldest served as a lieutenant in the Victoria Rifles at Pigeon Hill in 1870; was captain and adjutant cornmanding a troop of fifty-two scouts, under General Strange, at Fort Pitt, during the late rebellion, and now holds a commission in the Mounted Infantry Corps, Winnipeg. The younger brother was attached to the Royal engineers in Egypt, and passed all through the recent campaign there. Our subject has long been a member of St. Paul’s Church, his wife’s mother being the daughter of Dr. Black, the first pastor of that church. Colonel Oswald is a member of the Masonic craft. He has travelled on the continent of Europe, through the Southern States, arid through Canada as far as British Columbia. The brigade of Montreal artillery, under command of Colonel Oswald, served through the North West rebellion campaign of 188$, receiving the ImperiaI war medal for this service. Colonel Oswald married Miss Greenshields, daughter of the late John Greenshields, founder of the old and well-known dry-goods firm of Greenahields, Son & Co.


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