Montreal, Quebec, was booming early in the 20th century just before World War I (1914-1919).
During this time, immigration surged setting new records and the population of Montreal grew to half a million people. Skilled workers from England found employment in the city’s factories and European immigrants, especially Jews fleeing persecution, made up the biggest group. Local people were also migrating from rural areas attracted by the city’s remarkable economic growth and the available opportunities.
Montreal offered all these people hope of a better life.
Canada’s first stock exchange, The Montreal Stock Exchange founded in 1832, grew to prestigious levels during this time of great expansion. In 1910, the total number of trades was more than double that of The Toronto Stock Exchange. This growth led to the merger of several small companies creating larger corporations which in turn traded their shares1 on the Exchange.
My great grandfather, Robert Lindsay (1855-1931), was a stockbroker during this exciting and prosperous period of Montreal history. Robert was the son of the successful banker, Robert A. Lindsay (Bank of Montreal), as well as the nephew of the prominent politician, William Burns Lindsay. Wisely, he left banking and politics to his elders and forged his own career in finance.
Robert was born in Montreal in 1855, the oldest of four children, three boys plus a girl who died in infancy. His mother, Henrietta Dyde, passed away in 1864, ten weeks after her baby daughter died. Robert was only nine years old at the time. His father remarried two years later and he and his new wife, Charlotte Anne Vennor, had six more children.
Mary Heloise Bagg, one of the daughters of Stanley Clark Bagg and Catherine Mitcheson, became his bride in 1881. The Baggs, a prominent Montreal family with real estate interests, welcomed their first stockbroker into the family.
Early in 1914, at the age of 59, Robert retired from his long and successful career as a stockbroker. That same summer, during one of his periodic trips to England, he arrived just days before the outbreak of WW1. His son, Stanley (1889-1963), had enlisted as a lieutenant2 with the Royal Highlanders of Canada so Robert decided to take up residence with the rest of his family.
He joined forces with Canadian philanthropist Lady Drummond and Lady Perley as founders of the first of The King George and Queen Mary Maple Leaf Clubs3. Several sizeable London homes were donated and refurbished to provide for the welfare of Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) soldiers on leave from the front. The safe well organized environment provided lodgings, meals, recreational activities, up-to-date military information and even savings accounts for the soldiers thus preventing drinking, idleness and any opportunity to pursue “morally questionable activities”. London became their “home away from home” where they could recover from trench life, boost their morale and heal physically and mentally before returning to the front.
Three years later, in 1917, Robert’s ill health led to his withdrawal as the Treasurer-Secretary and his return home to Montreal. “The committee and workers of “The Maple Leaf Clubs” greatly regretted his departure… As a souvenir of his services, they presented him with a massive silver cigar box…”4
Robert’s son became “Captain” Stanley Lindsay and survived the Second Battle of Ypres (and the first German gas attack). Eventually he recovered his health and also returned home to Montreal in 1919.
Once home again, Robert and his wife committed their lives to helping others. He was a member of the Anglican Church, a life governor on the board of three main hospitals as well as the Church Home (for the elderly) and a member of The Mount Royal Club.
One such commitment catered to his great interest in art. Robert had been active in the Art Association of Montreal (now the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts) since his retirement from the financial world. He was honorary president at the time of his death and had previously held executive positions for many years.
His obituary remembered him as “a kindly man of retiring nature… a supporter of many charity campaigns, and who preferred to remain anonymous in all his undertakings”5.
Edited by author 2020-07-13
1“Shares are units of ownership interest in a corporation or financial asset that provide equal distribution in any profits, if any are declared, in the form of a dividend”. Www.Investopedia.com as seen 2020-07-13
2Stanley B. Lindsay worked his way up to Captain with the 13th Battalion of the Royal Highlanders of Canada
4Maple Leaf Clubs Lose Treasurer, Mr. Robt Lindsay Back From England After Four Years’ Absence – Friend of Soldiers – Newspaper article -August 7, 1917.
5Robert Lindsay is claimed by death in his 77th year, Newspaper Obituary, June 5, 1931.