Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Scots and Scots Descendant in America
Part III - Scots in the Settlement and Development of Canada and Newfoundland
Scots in Newfoundland by Malcolm Parsons

TO many who will read this book, Newfoundland is known only by report or through the pages of history; and it is interesting to note, as this article will later show, that men from Auld Scotiaís shores have played a very great part in making Britainís oldest colony what it is to-day. The majority of these persevering sons of the Heatherland carried little "siller" in their pockets, but their greater capital lay beneath the "croon oí their hats" and right well they used it. To compile a complete list of these Scots within the brief precincts of my space, would be, I am afraid, an impossible task, as we find them occupying positions of the highest distinction in church and state. Some of the greatest builders of Empire in Terra Nova have been and are Scotsmen, and while there are representatives in the colony from almost every shire in Scotland, still Greenock was probably headquarters, as it was from that trade-center many Scotsmen came to Newfoundland.

The cod and seal fisheries being the principal industries, practically all the Scotch firms doing business were directly or indirectly associated therewith, and with but few exceptions, devoted their energies and capital to the upbuilding of their business connections along these lines. One of the larger firms during the old regime was that of Kenneth McLean & Sons, the founder of which was a native of the north of Scotland, and a relative of the great Dr. Livingstone. Associated with him were his sons, who after his death moved to Montreal, and are known to-day as J. & R. McLean.

The firm of Hunter & Company was another very large one in the Eighteenth Century, and undoubtedly many offshoots from it are now known under other names ; Messrs. Patrick and Andrew Tasker were for a number of years Managers of this concern. They were long and honourably identified with Free Masonry and one of the local lodges bears their name. Another very old firm was that of Rennie Stewart & Company, whose principal hailed from Glasgow, and his descendants are to-day prominent in St. Johnís. McBride & Kerr was an old Greenock firm which afterwards changed to that of Goodfellow & Company. The partners of Messrs. R. & J. Rutherford acquired their business training with Hunter & Company, as did also their brothers, George and Andrew, who located at Harbor Grace, and the well known sign "Rutherford's Rain," is spoken of to this day.

For upwards of one hundred and fifty years, the name of Baine, John-stone & Company has been associated with the trade of Newfoundland, and it is notable that during that long period, the high standard set by their ancestors has been most worthily upheld by each succeeding generation. In 1780 their business was conducted at Port De Grave, an important fishing center, under the name of Lang, Baine & Company, and in 1800 was transferred to St. Johnís. The present managing director is Mr. Walter Baine Grieve, who in addition to his vast business interests has served Newfoundland in both branches of the Legislature, with honour to himself and great benefit to the colony. His father, the late J. J. Grieve, was one of Her Majestyís advisers in Newfoundland before responsible government was inaugurated. Many Scotsmen of ability and kindly personality have been connected with this old establishment, not the least of whom is John C. Hepburn, who is still with them. John Munn, one of the founders of Punton & Munn, afterwards John Munn & Company, was at one time a bookkeeper with Baine, Johnstone & Company. His descendants are still connected with the trade of the country, among them being John Shannon Munn, a director of Bowring Brothers, Ltd., and W. A. Munn, who carries on a commission and oil business.

On May 15, 1915, passed away a man who for about sixty years was at the forefront of commercial activity. Hon. James -Baird was born at Saltcoats, Ayrshire, November 30, 1821, and when but a lad of sixteen came to Newfoundland and became connected with the firm of Wilson & Company. In 1852, in conjunction with his brother David, he started the firm of Baird Brothers, which afterwards became James Baird. Some years later his three sons, J. C., Hugh and David, also his nephew, the late James Gordon, were taken into partnership. The firm then became Baird, Gordon & Company. On the death of Mr. Gordon the name was again changed, and the firm is now knowrn as James Baird, Limited. Messrs. James C., Hugh and David Baird are the present partners of a concern which ranks second to none in the island. Their ships ply to all ports which have trade connections with Newfoundland, and during the busy season, when the staple product is being handled, great activity may be seen on their extensive premises. The late Mr. Baird was for many years prominently identified with many manufacturing concerns, and held the Presidency of the Newfoundland Boot and Shoe Manufacturing Company until within a short time of his death. For fourteen years he sat in the Legislative Council, and often gave his adopted country the benefit of his exceptional ability and sound judgment. For a long period he was the honoured President of St. Andrew Ďs Society.

William Frew was born at Saltcoats, Ayrshire, in 1843, and came to Newfoundland when but seventeen years of age. Since 1881 he has conducted a large dry goods business in the same block as that of James Baird, Limited. Mr. Frew has found time for other interests, and at this writing is President of the Newfoundland Boot and Shoe Manufacturing Company. His brother-in-law, the late John Syme, was born at Irvine, Ayrshire, in 1843, and came out to the well-known firm of J. & W. Stewart,. known as the "Dundee Co.," which was the first to commence trade connections between Brazil and Newfoundland; and thanks to their initiative, within one hundred years Brazil has become Newrfoundland Ďs chief customer. James Stewart was a man of many parts and in 1812 was appointed one of the advisers to the resident governor.

A prominent figure in commercial life is W. H. Davidson, who conducts a large commission business. He was born at. Aberdeen, December 21, 1843. and for many years served Messrs. J. & W. Stewart in the capacity of buyer. The late Sir Robert Thorburn was born at Juniper Bank, Peebleshire, March 28, 1826, and came to Newfoundland in 1852. He received his business training in the old establishment of Baine, Johnstone & Company, then under the management of his uncles. He became a partner in the firm of Grieve & Company at its formation in 1862. On the death of the senior partner in 1887, the business merged into that of Thorburn & Tessier. From 1870 to

1885 he was a member of the Legislative Council, but resigned in the latter year to accept a seat in the House of Assembly, and the office of Premier of the Government, which he held until 1889. At the Colonial Conference held in London in the "Jubilee Year" of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, he represented Newfoundland, and as senior member of the Conference, he had the honour of reading the address presented to the. Queen by that body at Windsor Castle, May 4, 1887. He received the honour of Knighthood in the same year.

Thomas McMurdo & Company, the well-known drug finn, was established at St. Johnís in 1823 by the late Thomas McMurdo and associated with him was his son-in-law, the late John McNeil, father of the present head of the establishment, who is ably upholding the integrity and business ability of his predecessors.

The Reid Newfoundland Company was founded by the late Sir Robert G. Reid, noted railway contractor and bridge builder, whose birthplace was Coupar Angus, Perthshire. His crowning achievement was the construction of the Newfoundland railway which is operated by the company bearing his name. His sons, Sir W. D. Reid, and Messrs. H. D. and R. G. Reid, control and operate the various activities of the company, which also includes a steamship service, a dry dock, and the electric lighting and street-car system of St. Johnís.

Hon. John Anderson, who is extensively engaged in the dry goods business, was born at Saltcoats, Ayrshire, January 27, 1855, and the "land of the thistle" is responsible for his early education. He entered the employ of Messrs. Baird, afterwards becoming senior partner in the firm of Anderson & Lumsden; three years later the partnership was dissolved, and he now does business under his own name. Mr. Anderson is a member of the Legislative Council, and at one time served on the Municipal Board of St. Johnís.

One of the Scottish names well linked with the trade of Newfoundland is that of MacPherson. The history of the family dates back to the landing of a Captain MacPherson at Port De Grave. He was born at Greenock, the great-grandfather of the present generation, and acted as agent for one of the fish firms. His son Peter conducted business at St. Johnís for a number of years. Connected with him was his son, the late Campbell MacPherson founder of "The Royal Stores," which is now one of the largest concerns doing business in the island. it was mainly due to his great executive ability that the firm has attained such marked success. The present principals are Messrs. Archibald and Harold MacPherson. Besides the parent house at St. Johnís, they also operate branches at Grand Falls and. Milltown two inland towns built up by the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company, where pulp and paper manufacturing is conducted on an extensive scale. The elder son of Campbell MacPherson, Major Cluny MacPherson, M.D., C.M., is serving his king and country in France. He is a knight of grace of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, also a commissioner of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland. When "D" company of the First Newfoundland Regiment was drafted to England, Dr. MacPherson went across with them, as medical officer. He was afterwards attached to the war office, experimenting in the laboratories; and while assisting there devised the medicated helmet adopted by the British and French armies.

In the forefront of manufacturing we find the establishment of G. Browning & Son, biscuit manufacturers, the founder of which was the late Gilbert Browning. He was born in Ayrshire, October 19, 1821. After the great fire which swept St. Johnís in 1846, he went there to rebuild the premises of Baine, Johnstone & Company. The present head of the firm is John Browning, a son of the above named ; he is also President of St. Andrewís Society in Newfoundland.

Other Scotch names prominent in the mercantile life of the colony are Marshall, Stott, Rodger, Templeton, Rankin, Bryden, Murray, Smith, Sciater, Paterson, McRae, Duff, Palmer, Fletcher, Coates, Cathrae, Jarvis and Cron.

Newfoundland has been singularly fortunate in the choice of governors many of whom were Scotchmen. In the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, we find such names as Cochrane, Montague, and others, and in recent years we have a shining example in the person of Sir William McGregor, afterwards Governor of Queensland, Australia. The present governor, Sir Walter E. Davidson, is also a Scotsman. Some of the most notable names connected with the church are Scottish, or of Scottish origin. A few must suffice, such as Fraser, Boyd, Graham, Archbishop MacDonald, Robertson, Sutherland, also such educators as John Irving Roddick, Adam Scott, and Robert Stott are well known. It has often been said that Scotsmen are to be found taking the initiative wherever they go, and it would appear so in Newfoundland, as the geographical survey was started and organized by a Scotsman, Alexander Murray. To another, named Hamilton, belongs the credit of starting the first custom house. His work was later taken up by Alexander Dunn of Aberdeen, who was also the first to commence mining in the colony. Then again, in the field of medicine and surgery we find such names as Dow, Allan, Carson, Forbes, Scott; and I might continue enumerating many other notable Scotsmen in all walks of life, to whose achievements Newfoundland owes much of her present prosperity. Each of these stern yet kindly characters of Caledonia, whose word has always been their bond, and whose deep sense of the duties of life were so well and ably exemplified, have given and are giving to the coming generations an inspiration to achieve similar greatness.

The tartan they "richt weel" wore, and far across the foam,
Did foster the old traditions of the dear loved Highland home.
The land of Burns and Wallace is proud it gave them birth,
For all have played a noble part in proving Scotlandís worth


St. Johnís, Newfoundland.

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus