WILLIAM RITCHIE and CO.,
SUBSEQUENTLY GILMOUR and CO.
Style altered to Gilmour & Co., 1841 Closed 1878-9
Mr. Allan Gilmour senior, Mr. Wm. Ritchie,. and Mr.
Allan Gilmour had completed their Canadian business tour (commenced on 5
June) on 22 July, 1828, and although Articles of Partnership—which I
cannot ignore—only bear date i March, 1829, there cannot be the least
doubt that immediately after this 22 July, 1828, both Mr. Ritchie, at
Montreal, and Mr. Gilmour, at Quebec, were engaged at least in setting
their nets, if not, as is more likely, in active business. It must be
remembered that Mr. Gilmour had to get home, not necessarily at once, and
travelling—more particularly by sea—in those days was not conducted with
any unseemly haste. It is useless to suppose that these gentlemen spent
the intervening nine months in idleness.
The Cyclopedia of Canadian Biography (1886), in an article revised by Mr.
Allan Gilmour of Ottawa, says
'The Montreal firm was established at the
same time as that of Quebec, under the management of William Ritchie, a
nephew of Mr. Gilmour senior of the Glasgow firm. This house was known as
William Ritchie & Co., and it carried on for many years a wholesale dry
goods and grocery business, besides supplying parties engaged in the
management of square timber and other lumber in Canada and New Brunswick,
and further it conducted the considerable financial operations connected
Messrs. Wm. Ritchie & Co.'s business was in two ways essential to the
foreign houses; and as regards the home firm, if we must admit that it is
essential first to provision, and secondly to pay the bills of our
offspring, then to the full extent were W. R. & Co. essential to the home
firm also. One can imagine, on the arrival of a mail, the Montreal letter
being accorded a first place, as, on the advice therein of heavy or light
drawings, would depend the equanimity and digestion of the home partners.
Drawing bills is easy work; accepting them equally so; with the arranging
of finance to meet them comes the rub.
Montreal was and is the money
centre of Canada—it occupies a position in that respect akin to London—and
finance was a very necessary feature in the operations of the various
establishments. It was also the centre of the provision trade, and
enormous supplies had to be purchased and forwarded to the New Brunswick
as well as to the Canadian lumber parties. Whether to survey the various
aspects of the money market and take favourable opportunities of placing
exchange, or correctly to judge the conditions surrounding the market for
the more material food supplies for the lumber parties in Canada and New
Brunswick and the stores in the latter province, a man of good parts, of
clear and astute judgment, was required. In 1832, referred to in the
Canadian Cyclopedia as 'the first year of the dread cholera period,' there
came out from' Glasgow, as assistants, Mr. James Gilmour (a younger
brother of Messrs. John and David Gilmour, then at Quebec), also Allan
Gilmour of Shotts.
Mr. Ritchie's retirement, while possibly not a direct
result of the retirement of Mr. Allan Gilmour senior, was probably a
by-product of it, the two having been in direct touch with each other for
many years. His withdrawal from the concern bears date i January, 1841,
and on this date the above-named Allan Gilmour of Shotts, and James
Gilmour were admitted, and the style of the firm altered to Gilmour & Co.
The Ottawa (then Bytown) firm of
Gilmour and Co., seems to have been formed at this time with Mr.
Hamilton—a connection of the Gilmours — as manager, under the close
supervision of Mr. Allan Gilmour (Shotts), who himself had to assume
residence and control there in 1853. James Gilmour was the last partner
resident in Montreal. He was retired on to a farm shortly after 1856, and
Mr. Allan Gilmour (Shotts), henceforward styled as of Ottawa, came back
temporarily. Then, I believe, a Mr. White, previously head clerk
(brother-in-law to John and David Gilmour of Quebec), held the procuration
for a time. Speaking of the period that comes within my own knowledge, Mr.
Thomas McDuff, of a well- known Edinburgh family, held the procuration. I
do not think there was much more than an annual visit from the Quebec and
Ottawa partners at balancing times. On such occasions Mr. Allan Gilmour of
Ottawa sent home a closely written, closely reasoned letter of unlimited
folios, reviewing the past season's work and future prospects, more
especially in regard to the miffing operations. These were almost the only
occasions on which he did officially write home. While the book-keeping
and the provisioning of the up-country mills and camps centred at
Montreal, their operation and direction emanated from Mr. Allan Gilmour of
Ottawa, no doubt in consultation with the partners at Quebec.
Mr. McDuff was a man much
respected in Montreal, and everywhere trusted—certainly he held the full
confidence of the partners—yet early in 1877 it was found he had not only
much abused this trust but had absconded.
When he disappeared he left a
statement of all his shortages, and how they occurred. He had been in the
habit of speculating in pork for Gilmour and Co., and having made some
heavy losses, was told not to speculate any more without the consent of
the partners. In his anxiety to redeem his previous losses he disobeyed,
with the result of only getting deeper, and he was afraid to meet Mr. John
Gilmour. Mr. Allan Gilmour of Ottawa had retired in 1872.
The event fell as a terrible blow
upon Mr. John Gilmour, and he never afterwards properly looked up. His
body was found under the ice at Montreal the following spring. The firm's
subsequent history is one of liquidation—truly a gloomy ending.
Married Miss Mary Strang, 1 September, 1834
Born at Langton, Mearns, a nephew of Allan Gilmour senior, William Ritchie
and Allan Gilmour were first cousins, and from the earliest days great
friends—they sat on the same bench at the Mearns School, together
proceeded to Pollok, Gilmour and Co.'s office, and lodged together at
Glasgow. The first separation took place in 1821, when Allan Gilmour was
sent to Miramichi, and William Ritchie to Grangemouth to learn ship-draughting.
The friendship was, however, soon to be renewed; in 1822 Mr. Ritchie also
followed to Miramichi. There, doubtless, he pursued the usual routine of
store and outdoor business. What this meant I give, later on, some
indication, obtained from my brother Alexander, who went through somewhat
of the same schooling at a later period. Suffice it to say, it gave full
occupation both to mind and body. It is natural to suppose that Mr.
Ritchie's shipbuilding and ship-designing education at Grangemouth was
utilised at the Miramichi shipyard. What follows, however, is that he who
had studied shipbuilding goes to Montreal to manage store, finance, and
buying, and Allan Gilmour builds ships at Quebec.
I give hereafter an account of
the tour made along with his cousin and Allan Gilmour senior in 1828.
Presumably of intention this had been undertaken in the summer, and made
less arduous than some of its predecessors, on account of the senior's
advancing years. The winter was the time usually devoted to prospecting.
Truly the men of that generation took their trips—if these were their
pleasures—seriously, and with an eye to business.
His firm were the bankers for all
the foreign concerns. The work at Montreal was responsible, and involved
much detail. The place itself for residence would be the most desirable in
Mr. Ritchie nor Mr. Robert Rankin was actually home at the time of the
re-arrangements consequent upon Mr. Gilmour senior's severance from the
Polloks. They were respectively represented by Mr. Allan Gilmour and Mr.
Alexander Rankin. In the conferences and the negotiations Mr. Allan
Gilmour acted generally for the Canadian partners, present and
prospective, and Mr. Alexander Rankin for the New Brunswick partners,
present and prospective. With the fresh Agreement for three years then
concluded, as between the Polloks and the foreign partners (James Gilmour
of Miramichi, brother of Allan Gilmour senior, alone withdrew) Mr.
Ritchie, so far as his interests were concerned, was not altogether
satisfied. True, this Agreement gave to any foreign partner not present
thereat, the power to decline, within six months, to implement it; but in
those days of tedious communications, six months soon went by.
Correspondence, negotiations, and remonstrances went on throughout the
term, till, in the autumn of 1840—the Agreement terminating 31 December of
that year—Mr. Ritchie set sail for home.
Into the Agreement Mr. Ritchie
had evidently only entered in a half-hearted way; indeed, after events
show this and Allan Gilmour senior's malign influence upon him. A
considerable amount of acrimony had been created during the
correspondence; further negotiations failed, and litigation ensued. It
would be as needless as undesirable to enter into details of the wrangling
and litigation, which extended, what with reclamations and appeals, down
to 1851. On ii February of that year, before the full bench of Scottish
Judges, decision was given under which, in my opinion, either side in
final result would have been better off if they had accepted the original
offer made by the other party. His withdrawal from the firm dates back to
i January, 1841, say from :-
William Ritchie & Co., Montreal;
Allan Gilmour &
Co., Quebec; and
John Young & Co., Hamilton.
In the aforesaid action Mr.
Ritchie laid claim to an interest in the firm of Pollok, Gilmour & Co.,
Glasgow, and Rankin, Gilmour & Co., Liverpool, but was unable to sustain
had in 1834 married Miss Mary Strang, a sister of Mrs. Rankin and Mrs.
Gilmour —all the more painful the litigation that went on.
He purchased the considerable
estate of Middleton, in Midlothian, to the management of which he devoted
himself till his death in 1856, his wife having predeceased him in 1851.
Born 23 August, 1816
Made partner Gilmour & Co. 1841
Died 25 February, 1895
To distinguish him from Allan Gilmour of Glasgow, I
have generally heard him spoken of as Shotts Allan, and by some, on
account of his stature, as Long Allan. Herein it will be convenient to
call him Allan Gilmour of Ottawa. He was born in Shotts Parish, adjoining
Mearns, and received the ordinary Scotch parish-school education,
proceeding thereafter to Glasgow University for one year. He, like many of
the foregoing, was a nephew of Allan Gilmour senior. His father lived to
the ripe age of ninety-three. Allan went to Canada in 1832 with his cousin
James Gilmour (brother of Allan Gilmour, then of Quebec, subsequently of
Glasgow) as cadets to William Ritchie & Co., Montreal (founded 1828), both
being cousins of William Ritchie. There both remained in the capacity of
clerks and managers till the end of 1840, when Mr. Ritchie retired and
they became partners, changing the style of the firm to Gilmour and Co. It
was Allan of Ottawa that his uncle Allan Gilmour senior, after a stormy
interview, turned from his door late one winter's night, because he would
not lend himself to his machinations for the disruption of the firm, and
the undoing of the Polloks. It was to Allan Gilmour senior unbearable that
at any rate two who bore his name would not acquiesce in his designs and
withdraw from the firm, even although the tempting bait had been offered
to each in turn, that if he did so he would be made his uncle's heir.
Allan Gilmour, then of Quebec, had already unhesitatingly refused the
assuming partnership he established an agency at Bytown (the present city
of Ottawa) under the management of a Mr. Hamilton, a connection of the
Gilmours. Bytown had been, and continued to be, the centre of the firm's
lumber operations. Allan Gilmour's duty it was to supervise personally
these operations, and for this purpose he paid frequent visits from
Montreal to Bytown and the camps. His journeys were attended by much
exposure to cold, and a neglected gathering in the ear, caused thereby,
ultimately entailed stone deafness of that ear. This was in the early
fifties. Shortly afterwards the other ear also grew deaf, probably from
sympathy, and so in later years his hearing was terribly bad. Possibly it
was from this cause he read a great deal.
In business, things were not
going well. Mismanagement at Bytown had set in, and in 1853 he had to
assume the reins and his residence there—leaving James Gilmour at
Montreal. This gentleman's convivial habits did not, however, conduce to
good business, and he was not without some other peccadilloes. When it was
found he had committed the firm to large responsibilities without proper
equivalent, he had to go, and from 1857 on, the Montreal firm was
conducted under a per pro.
Besides the square-timber business, Mr. Gilmour had the
control of the firm's mills at Trenton, and on the North Nation, of the
Blanche River Mills, and, at a later period, of the very extensive mills
on the Gatineau.
He did not make as frequent visits to this country as did the other
foreign partners. Of courteous and somewhat distinguished manner, he, as
far as my observation went, was the only one of them who effectively
responded to Allan Gilmour's (Glasgow) letters.
He had a worrying time at Ottawa,
for though he gave the closest personal attention to the business and
hardly ever took a holiday, the sawmill operations were for many years not
successful. But the tide turned at last, and with more prosperous times he
found leisure to devote to shooting and fishing. I think this must have
been about 1859. His first shooting was on the prairies, and he was
usually accompanied by Mr. Cumming, of the Trenton Mills, and later by Mr.
John Manuel, a nephew who resided with him. Afterwards he became a member
of the Long Point Estate Shooting Company, now or lately one of the most
famous preserves of the American Continent, if not of the world. But I
rather think he loved his fishing best. Along with Mr. James Law of
Montreal, he became joint owner of the River Godbout, about 250 miles
below Quebec. At first the only approach thereto was by schooner from
Quebec, specially chartered to take down the party, with their equipment
and provisions, and the salt in which to pickle the salmon. Later on Mr.
Gilmour had his own well-appointed steam yacht. He owned the river and
much adjacent land, purchased the fishing rights at its mouth, and had
them zealously protected winter and summer. He had ravines bridged,
provided easy approaches to the pools, had boats placed at every eligible
spot - in short, transformed what must at first have been a
rough-and-tumble outing, into a somewhat luxurious holiday.
Such an authority as Charles
Hallock writes:-' I have fished a good many salmon rivers, but the best
sport I ever had was on the Godbout in 1889, with that prince of anglers,
Allan Gilmour of Ottawa.'
Mr. Gilmour fished the river from 1859 till his death.
From the detailed records, say 1864 to 1906 inclusive, I find that 12,830
salmon were taken by the fly, weighing 145,819 lbs. or something over 11½
lbs. per fish, and this by an average of probably less than four rods.
Their yearly visits cover an average of twenty-seven week days—not
necessarily fishing days —and even on suitable days it does not follow
that all the rods always fished. If we carry the average a little further
it works out, on the above basis, at twenty salmon for the four rods every
day. One notable take was that of Mr. Gilmour's, on 10 July, 1865, when he
landed forty-six salmon weighing 426 lbs., and I think he told me that he
did not fish after three o'clock, having had enough! There was another
notable take in 1874. The party only fished ten days that year, and N. A.
Conneau (the River Guardian) continued on. In eighteen days he caught 360
salmon—his biggest day, fifty-seven, averaging over 11lbs., his last and
smallest day one; indeed, if we eliminate his last five days' fishing, he
had the astounding record of 345 salmon, averaging 10¾ lbs., for thirteen
days' fishing. Sir John Gilmour when out in 1869, was of the party, and
between 16 June and 17 July captured 164 salmon, 1806 lbs., the best
fishing that year. In the foregoing no account is taken of grilse, nor yet
of sea trout, of which latter there was abundance, sufficient to furnish
grievous annoyance to the salmon rods!
Mr. Gilmour retired from business
in 1873. I travelled home across the Atlantic with him in 1874. He was
most likeable, though conversation was very difficult by reason of his
deafness. The cords of his heart were in a manner unloosed, and he was
confidential. It was touching to hear him say, All my life I have worked
hard, and I feel tired; now I am going to travel for a time and see if I
can enjoy my leisure. Much as I could have done so earlier, I had then
neither the means nor the opportunity. Now that I have both—I doubt, I
he did enjoy and prolong his trip. After revisiting home scenes he gave a
whole year to leisurely visiting the principal points of interest in
France, Switzerland, Holland, Italy, Germany and Austria. He went up the
Nile to Philae, a journey not so easily accomplished then as now, and was
the only one of the party who would venture to shoot the cataract.
Thereafter he went through Palestine, leisurely and exhaustively —much
that he saw there and in Egypt, being himself well read, made a vivid
impression upon him. But through it all, his deafness was a sore
affliction, and on his return to Canada he in a sense immured himself
within the gates of his fine place on the banks of the Ottawa, and in
cultured retirement devoted himself largely to reading. He was on very
intimate terms with Lord Dufferin, the Marquis of Lorne, and other of the
Governor-Generals, entertained Prince Arthur on his visit to Canada
1869-70, and in the early days of the Parliament's location in Ottawa,
when suitable residences and accommodation were scarce, his was a wide
hospitality. I have heard that he had a fair share of the Gilmour quick
period in his career—the time of the threatened Fenian invasion—we find
him holding the rank of Major in the Militia, at that time the only line
of defence. Though a keen, he was not a rabid politician. A thoroughly
public-spirited man, he unostentatiously identified himself with
everything that was good and for the elevation of the community. He was a
liberal patron of local artists, and a considerable benefactor to the Art
collection in Ottawa. When University education was taking its rise in
Ontario, he gave largely to the funds of Queen's University. Truly an
outstanding man, his usefulness was only limited by his infirmity. From
1854 till his death, 25 February, 1895, Mr. John Manuel, whose brother was
married to Mr. Gilmour's sister, lived with him in close companionship.