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A History of our Firm
Chapter V - William Ritchie & Co., Montreal (subsequently Gilmour and Co.), William Ritchie, Allan Gilmour of Ottawa


WILLIAM RITCHIE and CO., MONTREAL,
SUBSEQUENTLY GILMOUR and CO.
Founded 1828
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 therewith.'

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.

WILLIAM RITCHIE
Born 24 August, 1804
Married Miss Mary Strang, 1 September, 1834
Died 17 January, 1856

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 Canada.

Neither 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 it.

Mr. Ritchie 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.

ALLAN GILMOUR
OF OTTAWA
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 offer.

Upon 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 doubt.'

I believe 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 temper.

At one 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.


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