SIR EDWARD SEABORNE CLOUSTON
1849-1912

From: "Montreal, Pictorial and Biographical"
Pub. by The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Montreal, 1914


High on the keystone of Canada’s financial arch was inscribed the name of  Sir Edward Clouston, of whom a leading journalist wrote: “He was one of the mainsprings of Canada’s progress.”  Not only did he achieve notable results in his own career but was also the adviser and counselor many who have stood highest in the public life and activities of the Dominion, and thus a notable figure passed from the stage of earthly activities when he was called to his final rest on the 23rd of November, 1912.  

He was then still in the prime of life, his birth having occurred at Moose Factory on James Bay, May 9, 1849, his parents being James Steward Clouston and Margaret Miles.  The father, a native of Stromness, Orkney, Scotland, was a chief  factor in the  Hudson’s Bay service.  The mother was the eldest daughter of  Robert S. Miles, also prominently connected with the Hudson’s Bay Company.  Sent to Montreal to continue his education, the son became a pupil in the high school, of which Aspinwall How was then head master.   Subsequently he spent a years in the service of the Hudson’s Bay Company and then returned to Montreal when a youth of sixteen to become junior clerk in the Bank of Montreal, entering that institution in 1865.  This was the initial step in his successful career as one of Canada’s foremost financiers.  In his twentieth year he was appointed accountant at Brockville and two years later was transferred to Hamilton in the same capacity.  

In 1874 he became assistant accountant at Montreal, was attached to the London, England, office and also the New York office in 1875.  Five years later he was made manager of the Montreal branch and in 1887 was promoted to the position of assistant general manager.  In 1889 he became acting general manager and from 1890 was general manger, being called to that position of grave and great responsibility when but forty-one years of age.  Throughout the years of his connection with the bank he had ever in mind, not only the interest of the shareholders, but also the welfare of his subordinates, many of whom received from him unusual consideration and kindness.  Sir Edward Clouston’s tenure of office in the Bank of Montreal was longer than that of any of his predecessors, the presidency during these years having been filled  by Sir Donald Smith, afterward  Lord Strathcona and Mount RoyalSir George Drummond and R.B. Angus.  In retiring from the general managership Sir Edward Clouston retained the vice presidency, which he had held since Sir George Drummond became president in 1906.  In his official capacity as vice president he regularly attended the board meetings and never ceased to be in close touch with the important affairs and interests of the bank.  

The prominent place which he held in the regard of the leading financiers of the country is shown by the fact that he was again and again elected to the presidency of the Canadian Bankers Association.  He was thus in constant touch with the financial world and his advice upon matters connected with it was frequently sought by the different finance ministers of the Dominion, for no man in Canada had a surer grasp of difficult financial problems, and his genius in this respect was an enormous asset to the great institution with which he was so long connected.  His discernment was keen and his insight enabled him readily to recognize the possibilities and probable outcome of any business situation.  

The Montreal Herald spoke of him as “a man of few words, of unerring accuracy in his judgments and of  a caution in business transactions which, while it protects the bank from loss, does not hinder its development.”  

The Montreal Witness said: “Sir Edward Clouston possesses in extraordinary degree that sixth sense of the banker – intuition as to character, rapid analysis of method, what is in a proposition from the first chapter to the last – in short knowing who and what to trust.”  

It was these qualities which made his cooperation sought in various directions and brought him prominently before the public in various important commercial and financial connections.  He was vice president of the Royal Trust Company; and a director of the Guarantee Company of North America, the Canadian Cottons, Limited, the Canada Sugar Refining Company, the Ogilvie Flour Mills Company, and the Kaministikwia Power Company.  He was chairman of the Canadian board of the Liverpool & London & Globe Insurance Company and the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York.  

His cooperation and support extended to various other projects of a public or semi-public character, and at all times he manifested a deep interest in those projects relating to general progress and improvement or the betterment of social, intellectual, political and moral conditions.  He was vice president of the Parks and Play Grounds Association and The Crematorium, Limited, was president of the Royal Victoria Hospital and a governor of the Montreal General Hopspital, Montreal Maternity Hospital, Alexandra Hospital and Western Hospital, the Protestant Hospital for the Insane, the Fraser Institute, the Montreal Dispensary, the Victorian Order of Nurses, and McGill University.  In 1920 he was one of the principal promoters of the Typhoid Emergency Hospital and was a member of the executive committee of the local branch of  St. John’s Ambulance Association.  He was honorary treasurer of the King Edward VII Memorial Fund and of many other commemorative and charitable funds.  He was a patron of art, and possessed many fine pictures himself, while the Montreal Art Association numbered him as one of its counselors as well as one of its generous benefactors.  

Sir Edward Clouston was also well known as a sportsman, taking an active interest in early life in football and lacrosse, and he was also a well known racquet player.  He was captain of the Canadian team which played the Harvard University Football Club in 1875.  He was president of the Montreal Racquet Club in 1888 and was appointed a trustee of the Minto challenge lacrosse cup in 1901.  Sir Edward was ever willing to encourage the amateurs in sports, and in addition to those already mentioned he was a devotee of snowshoeing and fancy skating.  In later years he became an enthusiastic yachtsman, motorist and golfer.  He was also a clever swimmer and did a great deal to advance the sport in many ways.  He was the donor of a trophy for competition among the members of the Royal life Saving Station, which is being competed for annually, and many other such trophies were presented through his generosity.  When the Rugby Club was organized as a branch of the Montreal Athletic Association he became an active executive officer.  He was one of the trustees of the Stanley cup in the early days of its competition and acted as an official at many of the championships held under the auspices of the Amateur Skating Association of Canada.

In November, 1878, Sir Edward Clouston married Annie Easton, youngest daughter of  George Easton, collector of  her Majesty’s customs at Brockville, Ontario.  Lady Clouston, who survives him, keeps up the beautiful and historic estate at  St. Annes, known as Bois Briant, which was the pride and delight of  Sir Edward’s later years, and she also maintains the home at No. 362 Peel street in Montreal, known so long as the city residence of  the general manager of the Bank of Montreal.  This was Sir Edward’s favorite title.  President and vice president appealed to him but little; it was as an administrator that he won and held his fame.  He was mentioned as successor to  lord Strathcona as high commissioner for Canada in Great Britain in 1909.  The previous year he had been created a baronet and in 1911 he was appointed a Knight of Grace of the Order of the Hospital of  St. John of Jerusalem in England.  He was one of the best known club men of Canada, belonging to Mount Royal Club; St. James Club, Auto and Aero Club; Forest and Stream Club; M.A.A.A.; Montreal Hunt Club; Montreal Jockey Club; Royal Montreal Golf Club; Royal St. Lawrence Yacht Club; St. George Snowshoe Club; Toronto Club and York Club, Toronto; Rideau Club, Ottawa; Manhattan Club, New York; and Bath Club and River Thames Yacht Club, London, England.

In a review of his life history many points stand out prominently.  Within a quarter of a century he rose from an humble position in the bank to that of general manager and remained vice president until his demise.  He was the recognized leader of finance, whose counsel was sought and valued in connection with the greatest undertakings.  His business genius and public spirit went hand in hand and each constituted  factors in the progress and upbuilding of Canada and in the development and promotion of  the country’s interests.  His influence was far-reaching and effective as a force in national prosperity and greatness.

One who knew Sir Edward best summer up his character in the following article, which appeared in the journal of the Canadian Bankers Association after his death: “In life Sir Edward Clouston was a man of few words and I have felt that silence is my most fitting tribute to his memory.  He was not an ostentatious man; he employed neither press agents nor stage managers.  Many of his generous actions are known only to the writer of these lines; many others are known only to his Maker.”


Return to Notable Montrealers

Back to the homepage

Questions, Comments or Suggestions?
contact
Patty Brown
coordinator of the MontréalGenWeb