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William Barclay McMurrich

McMurrich, William Barclay, M.A., Toronto, was born at the city just named, on the 1st of November, 1842. He is the eldest son of the late Hon. John McMurrich and Janet Dickson. His father came from Renfrewshire, and his mother from Lanarkshire, in Scotland. The McMurrichs are a branch of the clan Chattan, and formerly the bards of the clans, transmitting the traditions from generation to generation. John McMurrich engaged in business for a time in Glasgow, and came to this country in 1835. His mercantile and political career is well known. He established three mercantile houses - one at Hamilton, one at Kingston, and one at Toronto - but he was mainly known by his long connection with the Toronto house, of which he remained a partner until hsi death, on the 13th February, 1883. William Barclay McMurrich is names after the Rev. Dr. Barclay, who was pastor of the old St. Andrew's church, then situated on Adelaide street. His early education was obtained at the Grammar school, at the corner of Jarvis and Richmond streets, and at Knox Academy, situated on the present site of the Queen's Hotel. Subsequently he studied in the Upper Canada College, where he showed many marks of proficiency, and afterwards matriculated at Toronto University. He applied himself to the study of the natural sciences, and was golf medalist in 1863; and four years later obtained his M.A. degree. Mr. McMurrich then studied law in John Leys' office, and was called to the bar in 1866; after which he entered into a partnership with Mr. Leys for the practice of law, which partnership continued until 1874, when the firm of McMurrich, Howard & Drayton, of which he is the head, was formed. The latter have since retired, the firm now being McMurrich & Urquhart. In 1868 Mr. McMurrich first sought the public confidence of his fellow citizens, and was elected as public school trustee for St. Andrew's ward, which position he held for nearly eight years, (being twice elected by acclamation and twice after contests), and on resigning was appointed solicitor to the board, which office he still holds. While a public school trustee, besides acting on other committees, he was chairman of the sites and building committee. In 1872, as chairman of the school board reception committee, he obtained much credit for the successful arrangements made in connection with Lord Dufferin's visit to the public schools. As a trustee he took an active interest in providing education for the large number of children then wandering at large in our streets, and preparing for lives of sin and crime. He visited New York and Massachusetts, and investigated the working of the industrial schools in those states; and, on returning, prepared a minute report, which was adopted by the board. As a result of his labours, the old House of Refuge and six acres of land were secured for the purpose of making an experiment in Toronto. Complications, however, afterwards arising, prevented his scheme being carried out. While on the board he was also instrumental in procuring a standing committee on printing and supplies, and in having taken steps for the formation of a free public library, which has since become an accomplished fact. In 1879 Mr. McMurrich was a candidate for aldermanic honours in St. Patrick's ward, and received the largest majority ever given to a councillor in this city. He at once took a leading part in civic affairs, and was appointed chairman of the court of revision. During that year the Marquis of Lorne and Princess Louise visited the city, and Mr. McMurrich very successfully discharged the duties of chairman of the reception committee. The following year he was returned by acclamation, and received the highest offices in the gift of the council, namely, that of representative of the city on the Northern Railway board of directors, and of chairman of the executive committee. While in the council he devoted considerable attention to the "local improvement" system, which has been advocated for years by the city press, and in furtherance of the project visited a number of American cities where the system is in vogue. He made several reports to the council on the subject, and that body ultimately adopted a scheme which is giving every satisfaction. The next year, 1881, he was a candidate for the position of chief magistrate of the city, and defeated Mr. Close by a majority of 1,160 votes. His record during the first year of his administration proved him to be one of the best mayors Toronto has had. As mayor he drew up a manual of the City of Toronto, entirely his own work, which was a consolidation of the Beaty and Mowat by-laws, and a number of amendments. The financial affairs of the city by this arrangement were placed upon such a basis that the city cannot be defrauded except by collusion of the corporation officials from the mayor downward. The committee of the council to whom the matter was referred thanked the mayor for the labour which he had taken upon himself in preparing the draft of the consolidated by-law, and placing it before them in printed form. Mr. McMurrich has also been the means of inaugurating the system of deposits by contractors doing work for the city, the non-fulfilment of their contracts entailing a forfeiture of the amounts deposited. As a reward the citizens returned him by acclamation to fill the civic chair for a second term. Mr. McMurrich has also filled other positions of trust in the gift of his fellow citizens. In St. Andrew's Society, after serving as secretary, he was raised to the presidency, a position which he occupied for two years. He is also a member of several other societies and orders of a benevolent character. It is only just likewise to say that the success of the Semi-Centennial celebration of the City of Toronto was largely if not almost entirely due to the enthusiasm and active interest of Mr. McMurrich. After the arrival of Lord Lorne in Canada, there was a gathering of the Canadian Scottish societies to do honour to the son of the head of the clan Campbell, and to the Princess Louise; and Mr. McMurrich was elected grand secretary of the union. He had the honour on this occasion of presenting the governor-general with a sprig of myrtle, the emblem of the clan Campbell. Mr. McMurrich is a member of the Presbyterian church, and is an elder of Knox church. He was one of those who assisted in the formation of the West Church Sabbath-school, and was connected with it for over twenty years, having been superintendent for many years, succeeding his father upon his resignation of the position. He is now superintendent of the Knox church Sabbath-school. For many years he has been commissioner to the Presbyterian General Assembly, and filled positions on important committees. He married, in 1866, Miss Dewar, a daughter of the late Mr. Plummer Dewar, of "Chedoke," Hamilton. In politics he is an independent Liberal. At the last general election, Mr. McMurrich contested West Toronto in his party's interest against James Beaty, Q.C., but was defeated, the vote standing 2,714 against 2,283. As a speaker, Mr. McMurrich is fluent, clear and forcible; and there is a grace about his way of stating a point that is not prevalent enough among our public speakers. It is a very safe piece of prophecy to put Mr. William Barclay McMurrich down as a coming man. He joined the Queen's Own at the time of the Trent affair, and was a member of the company then known as the Victoria Rifles, under Captain Orde. He remained a member of that company for three years. He also passed through the Military school in Toronto, and attended the camp of cadets at Laprairie in 1864. He is now a captain of the Toronto Garrison Battery of Artillery, having been gazetted to the command in June, 1884. He was called out for active service on the 5th of April, 1885, and was stationed at the new fort, Toronto, being commandant for the time being of the force quartered there. He was relieved from duty on the 22nd June.

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