More than 100 years of history and traditions

The founding of the Club – December 1, 1906

A group of the professional and academic elite chose to establish the University Club. The idea of such a club in Montreal was born at a luncheon given by W. Graham Browne on December 1, 1906, at the St. James’s Club, then located at 475 Dorchester Boulevard West, a building later demolished when Place Ville Marie was constructed in 1962. Among those present were Professor Stephen Leacock, the professor of economics at McGill University and already famous for his humourous novels and stories, Dr. John McCrae, Seargent P. Stearns, Professor R.F. Ruttan, Dean F.P. Walsh, Vincent J. Hughes, Dr. T.J.W. Burgess, and H.D. Gibson.

Stephen Leacock wrote the invitation, addressing it to “some of the leading University Graduates in the City.” Whether or not he meant to offend by the phrase which was implicit in this invitation, it would automatically have excluded the leading capitalists of the Square Mile, such as Lord Strathcona, Lord Mount-Stephen, Sir William Van Horne, Lord Mayberry and others of the grandees inhabiting the Mount Royal Club. Few of these men had graduated from university. The invitation also excluded the majority of the members of the St. James’s Club, who were nearly all self-made businessmen.

The response to Professor Leacock’s invitation appears to have been enthusiastic. It was said that a club of this sort “would be a gathering place for graduates of all universities, offering them the amenities of fellowship in a suitable atmosphere.”

More than 100 years of history and traditions

Stephen Leacock – November 8, 1907

Stephen Butler Leacock (30 December 1869 – 28 March 1944) was an English-born Canadian teacher, political scientist, writer, and humourist. In the early part of the 20th century, he was the best-known humorist in the English-speaking world. He is known for his light humour along with criticisms of people’s follies. The Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour was named in his honour.

DIn Stephen Leacock’s Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich (1914), which is a satire on private, middle-class men’s clubs in Montreal (and possibly of the University Club, given that the author was one of its founders), the characters meet at the club to smoke cigars, consume alcoholic beverages, and converse.

In the early days, Stephen Leacock and his friend René du Roure played billiards frequently. Neither played well, but that didn’t stop Leacock from assuming the role of the expert and driving Professor du Roure to distraction with non-stop advice and coaching, much to the amusement of other members. Nevertheless, Leacock knew his limitations, and was once heard to remark wryly, “I have worked at billiards for half a century. I’ll need another.” But skilled or not, Professor Leacock and his friends Professor du Roure, Chief Justice R.A.E. Greenshields, and later Chief Justice Orville Tyndale, were renowned for their opening shots. Strike the cue ball as hard as you can and see if something doesn’t happen, was their approach.

More than 100 years of history and traditions

Early life in the Club – 1911

It is not easy, 100 years later, to determine the motives of the group of university professors and professional men, who, on March 8, 1907, met and decided to organize a social, luncheon and dining club for themselves and others like them.

Montreal already had many clubs – social, sporting, religious and ethnic. One estimate was that nearly fifty clubs were already active in 1907. They included the St. James’s Club, the Mount Royal Club, which had been organized in 1897 by the major businessmen of the day because they found the St. James’s Club “too crowded”, the Forest and Stream Club, and the St. Denis Club, to name the larger social clubs. Sports clubs flourished. Golf had become popular, and at least two golf clubs were organized and enjoyed enthusiastic supporters.

The early 1900s were a period in which snowshoers, known as “les raquetteurs,” put on colourful club costumes and paraded and rambled in the fields and forests of Montreal island. Dau’s Blue Book for 1911 lists a total of 81 clubs in Montreal.

The University Club of Montreal was designed to cater to university graduates, a select group in those days. The make-up of society, and, indeed, much of the population at that time, was not only predominantly English speaking, but predominantly of British origin. In the east end of Montreal, there existed a whole other society, which was mostly French-speaking and working class. Along the shores of the St. Lawrence near the Victoria Bridge lived a group of working class residents of mainly Irish descent. Even then, the district centered around St. Lawrence Boulevard was headquarters for a small colony of immigrants from central Europe, the majority of whom were Jewish. The business, academic and professional classes were almost exclusively of British origin, with a strong strain of Scottish background. By 1907 a great deal of money had been made by the entrepreneurial class of Scottish-born businessmen and this money was being spent on mansions in what has become known as the Square Mile, or sometimes, since the mid-1900s, the Golden Square Mile.

More than 100 years of history and traditions

The founding members – 1912

Needless to say, in the case of the University Club, the vast majority of members and potential members came from the English, or to use the current expression, the anglophone community, with the occasional French Canadian included. Georges Vanier, later a general and governor general, who joined in 1912, is a good example of the Club’s distinguished francophone members.

Among the original members, certain names stand out. They include Sir Edward Beatty, long-time president of the Canadian Pacific Railway and chancellor of McGill. He used to hold meetings of the governors of McGill in the boardroom of the CPR. Other distinguished members of that original group were J.H. Birks; George A. Campbell, a leading member of the Bar; Walter W. Chipman, another leading lawyer and diplomat; A.R. Holden and R.B. Hutchison, prominent lawyers; and the architect Percy Nobbs. It is interesting to note that, of the original group of members, thirteen were still members in 1938, nearly thirty years later.

A complete list of the founders does not exist, but it is possible to identify the first members. They are: Frank E. Barbour, Fayette Brown, W. Graham Browne, Nevil Norton Evans, H.D. Gibson, J. Claud Hickson, E.P. Lachapelle, Stephen Leacock, Andrew Macphail, Allan A. Magee, John McCrae, Clarence Morgan, R.F. Ruttan, Paul F. Sise, Sergeant P. Stearns, Édouard Fabre Surveyer, and F.P. Walton, and, of some of them, quite a bit is known.

More than 100 years of history and traditions

The Governor Generals – from the Duke of Connaught to David Johnston – October 31, 1913

The coat of arms over the fireplace in the university room is that of the Duke of Connaught, Governor General of Canada from 1911 to 1916. The Duke gave permission for the coat of arms to be given to the Club on October 31, 1913, to mark the fact that the Clubhouse was built and the Club opened during his term.

From the first beginnings of the Club, it became the custom to invite the sitting governor general of Canada to become an honorary member of the Club, and this invitation was usually accepted. It was customary to invite the current governor general to a special dinner in his or her honour. The dinner in honour of General Vanier as governor general took place forty years to the day after he had become a regular member in 1912. A number of Canadian prime ministers have been members of the Club at different periods of their lives. John Turner was a member in the late 1950s. Indeed a party was held for him at the Club prior to his departure from Montreal to take his seat in the House of Commons when he was first elected.

More than 100 years of history and traditions

The The designing of the Clubhouse and Percy Nobbs – December 17 1913

It would be difficult to imagine Stephen Leacock, a founding member of the Club, in his rather rumpled attire, drink in hand, comfortably sitting with his fellow members in most of the other private clubs built in Montreal in the early twentieth century. It is fair to assume that he would have found little comfort in their rather formal, even grandiose, surroundings.

Whether the members originally had in mind a Clubhouse less formal than the others, we do not know, but we do know that, in choosing a fellow member, Percy Erskine Nobbs, as the architect, they were virtually assured of a more relaxed ambiance than was to be found in the other clubs. Nobbs had a reputation for designing unpretentious, yet exquisitely crafted buildings.

Prior to the appointment of Nobbs to design a new Clubhouse on Mansfield Street, the Club had been housed in what had been private residences. Not long after, in 1912, the Club acquired the present day property on the east side of Mansfield from the Skelton estate for $45,100. In May of that year, approval for the demolition of the existing house on the property was received from the city and construction of the Nobbs-designed Clubhouse began. It was completed over an eighteen-month period and opened for business on December 17, 1913.

More than 100 years of history and traditions

The Club and WWI – July 28, 1914

The history of the Club and of its members in the first half of the twentieth century is a reflection of the history of Canada. One cannot consider the former without including the latter. The impact on the Club of the Great War, as it was called, was immense. Its effect was both different and much more concentrated than the impact of World War II.

Montreal, as the commercial capital of Canada, had an extensive social life, with continual dinners, dances and balls. Active participation by military officers in full uniform was sought after. Militia regiments were not only modeled on those of Britain, but often had active affiliations with particular British units. In 1914, British patriotism ran high. It was the principal motivating factor for enlistment. When war was declared in 1914, it was expected to last six months.

At the outbreak of war, Canada’s population was about 8,000,000. Perhaps 1,500,000 were men of military service age, and, by 1918, nearly 500,000 had served. In 1918, the Club’s ordinary membership was 366, while total membership numbered 601. Of these, 206 (34 per cent of members) saw active military service overseas. A total of twenty-six were killed in action or died of wounds.

Over one hundred honours were conferred on members. These included one Victoria Cross, three Knights Bachelor, one Commander of the Order of the Bath, twelve Companions of the Order of St. Michael and St. George, twenty-seven Distinguished Service Orders, thirty-four Military Crosses, one Distinguished Conduct Medal, two Companions of the British Empire, four Orders of the British Empire, one Victorian Order, and fifteen foreign decorations.

More than 100 years of history and traditions

Dr John McCrae and « In Flanders Fields » – May 3, 1915

Dr. John McCrae’s poem « In Flanders Fields » remains one of the most moving war poems ever written. A copy of the poem is mounted with a photograph of John McCrae and replicas of his medals in the John McCrae Library of the Club. They are accompanied by a book containing many of his poems, significant extracts from his Great War diaries (in the form of letters to his mother), and an extensive biographical essay by Sir Andrew Macphail, a member who was dean of medicine at Bishop’s University and later taught at McGill. The poem first appeared anonymously in Punch on December 8, 1915. A bound edition is to be found in the Club library. It immediately proved to be popular throughout the Commonwealth and in the United States, and is still recited at many November 11th memorial services.
Dr. McCrae was born in Guelph, Ontario, of Scottish parents. He studied medicine at the University of Toronto, served in the South African war as a gunner and came to the McGill University Faculty of Medicine in 1900. He was a founder of the Club, first chairman of the Club’s organization committee, and a very active member until he went overseas. He died in his mid-forties in 1918 of pneumonia and meningitis while serving in Flanders as a lieutenant-colonel. His name appears in the memorial window.
In Flanders Fields by/par John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields. Take up our quarrel with the foe;
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


More than 100 years of history and traditions

The Club and World War Two – September 1, 1939

On the outbreak of World War II in September, 1939, Canada was a very different country from that of 1914. The combined effects of the Great War and the consequent Canadian Movement had had a tremendous effect on the attitudes of most Canadians. The population had risen to 11,000,000 and vast strides had been made in the country’s economic and business structures. The acquisition of constitutional authority over military and external affairs was another development.

Many younger members of the Club saw military service during World War II, and two members were killed in action. They were RCAF Group-Capt. Vaughan B. Corbett, D.F.C, who was killed in a plane crash on February 20, 1945, and Capt. W. Roy Dillon of Les Fusilleurs de Montréal, who was killed at Dieppe on August 19, 1942. Their names have been carved into the key block of the wooden frame surrounding the roundel memorial window found in the stairwell between the ground and first floors of the Club.

Among those older members who served in senior ranks were Gen. Andrew G.L. McNaughton, Air Vice-Marshall Frank McGill, Col. George D. Currie and Brig.-Gen. A.J. de Lalanne.

More than 100 years of history and traditions

Clubhouse – memorial windows, coat of arms, and other memorabilia – May 11, 1940

In remembrance of those who served in the Great War, two stained glass windows were installed in the main stairwell of the Club. A tattered brown paper wrapper bearing signatures, framed under glass, hangs in the front lobby of the Club. The wrapper is dated May 11, 1940. At the bottom of it, one finds the following legend:

In 1916 Brooke Claxton and George W. Bourke met with Sir Stopford Brunton in the University Club to discuss the recruitment of a second artillery unit from McGill. In March 1917, Sir Stopford received authorization to raise a second McGill University Siege Artillery draft. It was quickly recruited, housed in the McGill Union and trained on campus. The unit, 200 strong, proceeded to England in June 1917. Renamed the 10th Canadian Siege Battery, it went to France in March 1918 under the command of Major L.C. Ord and served with distinction until the end of the war. Sixteen gunners were killed in action or died of wounds, and are memorialized on the base of the flagstaff at the entrance to the Sir Arthur Currie Memorial Gymnasium. Thirty-four men were wounded. The survivors of the 10th Battery held annual reunions beginning in 1919, many of which have taken place at the University Club. Fifty years ago, the Battery Association was presented with a bottle of Johnny Walker to be opened for the comfort of the last four surviving members. The bottle was wrapped in brown paper and was signed by the members present. In 1972, the distillers, when approached to determine if the contents of the fifty-year-old bottle were potable, replaced it with a gallon of the same brand of more recent date. The wrapper was removed, suitably framed and now this prized relic remains in the University Club where the battery had its beginning.

In 1919 Maj.-Gen. Andrew G. L. McNaughton, representing the Canadian Corps of Heavy Artillery, presented his Club with a German anti-tank gun that was captured in September, 1918, after use in battles at Arras and Cambrai. It is a Mauser single shot, 14 mm two-man rifle, mounted on a bipod and displayed in the lobby at the foot of the main stairwell. It would take a very large and fit pair of soldiers to fire it and receive its recoil.

More than 100 years of history and traditions

An imaginary walk by Peter MacKell – March 28, 1944

An imaginary walk… If, by some miracle, Stephen Leacock were to come back to life today, how would he find Montreal? Let us suppose he woke up in the years before World War I in the house where he lived on Côte des Neiges Road just south of Cedar Avenue. If he took his regular walk down the hill to McGill University, he would pass many houses familiar to him in 1907. On the north side of what he knew as McGregor Avenue (now Docteur-Penfield), he would recognize much of the red brick terrace still there. As he passed along McGregor to Stanley Street, he would pass the Reford House, the Donner House, and the house built by Bernard Hallward, whose son Hugh is now one of the senior members of the Club. At the corner of McGregor and Stanley, Leacock would see the J. K. L. Ross House, now the McGill Faculty of Law. He would have to turn south on Stanley, since McGregor did not then connect with Peel, and walk down to Sherbrooke Street. Much of the block of Stanley from McGregor to Sherbrooke Street, notably on the west side, would be familiar to him. One of the original families, the Stewarts, continued to live in their family house until as recently as twenty years ago.

At the corner of Sherbrooke and Stanley, Leacock would, of course, recognize the Mount Royal Club, built in 1904. Across the street stood the home of Lord Atholstan. (It was restored by Alcan as its company headquarters in 1983.) On Mansfield Street itself, once residential but now lined with modern buildings, he would see nothing familiar but the Club itself. If, however, he took the evening sleeper train to Toronto, as he often did, he would walk through Dominion Square (now Dorchester Square), past the Windsor Hotel and St. George’s Church to Windsor Station. The geography of the island of Montreal, bounded as it is by the expanse of the St. Lawrence River and the back river, remains a fixed stage on which the life of the city is played out. Although skyscrapers crowd the downtown core, the position of McGill at the foot of the mountain and fronting on Sherbrooke Street and many of the city’s churches remain as they were in Leacock’s day.

Peter R. D. MacKell

More than 100 years of history and traditions

The Committees – 1975

The eight committees of the Club provide direction to our Club in various areas of activity. Each meeting is minuted, each committee has a chairperson who is a member of council, and each committee gets new recruits every year. This structure ensures continuity, stability, innovation and commitment from the membership. It is a system that is truly the backbone of the Club. The involvement of members, who feel part of the Club when they pay their dues, figuratively speaking, and serve on one committee or another, is arguably the most important ingredient of future success. Those who have served have served us well and should be thanked. They have set the bar high for those who will follow.

Committees are one of the features that make our Club unique. They offer an easy way of getting to know members and of being involved in the life of the Club. Lorne Gales is credited with the idea of a program committee, which has contributed enormously to the character of the Club. In an age when the Club is perhaps used more for business than social reasons, the programs and special events bring members together for both social and intellectual pleasure.

Many of the finest paintings in the Club collection were obtained in the 1940s and 1950s when art buying was first assigned to the library committee (later renamed the library and art committee) and Miller Hyde and Anson McKim acted for the Club in acquiring important works.

In the mid-1970s, there was concern amongst a group of members that change was required in the form of a wine and food committee to ensure that the club’s reputation for excellent food and wine was maintained. Leading the concern was a small band of gourmands, lovers of fine wine and food who were prepared to devote serious time and effort to this end. The newly formed committee was determined to develop a wine and food program which would steer the change in course aimed at retaining and attracting members and improving club usage.

More than 100 years of history and traditions

The honour roll – 1976

A club in Canada which numbered among its members such outstanding figures of Canadian public life as Gen. Georges Vanier, Lieut.-Col. John McCrae, Stephen Leacock, Douglas C. Abbott, Brooke Claxton and Gen. A.G.L. McNaughton, can by that very roll call be said to represent a microcosm of the history of Canada.

Each year since 1976 a distinguished member has been honoured at an annual dinner for personal achievements and service to the Club.
  • 1976 George Hodgson & Edgar Andrew Collard
  • 1977 George Marler & Frank Scott
  • 1978 Conrad F. Harrington & Herbert Lank
  • 1980 Douglas C. Abbott
  • 1981 James A. de Lalanne
  • 1982 Lord Moran
  • 1983 John Humphrey
  • 1984 G. Miller Hyde
  • 1985 Alan A. Macnaughton
  • 1986 John Seaman Bates
  • 1987 Alan B. Gold
  • 1988 Ken P. Farmer
  • 1989 Alexander John Campbell
  • 1990 D. Lorne Gales
  • 1991 Christopher Plummer
  • 1992 Fred Kaufman
  • 1993 Donald R. McRobie & M. Laird Watt
  • 1994 David L. Johnston
  • 1995 Alex K. Paterson
  • 1996 John W. Durnford
  • 1997 Sylvia and Richard Cruess
  • 1998 William Tetley
  • 1999 Philip Patrick Aspinall
  • 2000 L.Yves Fortier
  • 2001 Charles Doherty Gonthier
  • 2002 Sean B. Murphy
  • 2003 Sandra and David Hannaford
  • 2004 Gavin Graham Ross
  • 2005 James Alexander Robb
  • 2006 Patrick McGillycuddy Stoker
  • 2007 Stuart Hyndman
  • 2008 Eric Clark
  • 2009 Kalman Samuels
  • 2010 Patrick Kenniff
  • 2011 John Brooke Claxton

More than 100 years of history and traditions

Club life and major personalities – November 8, 1982

The life of a club is found in the characteristics and personalities of its members. One way of remembering past members of the Club who have developed distinguished personalities, is to recall those members who have served as president and whose names are stencilled on the panels in the front hall of the Club. The first on this list is the first president, Seargent P. Stearns, who served from 1907 to 1918. He was a renowned chairman, who conducted meetings with skill and tact, and with a natural eloquence which usually carried the point he was making. It is not easy to look back over a span of 100 years and pick out of the lists of members those individuals who gave the Club its distinctiveness.

The Members’ Round table, a table in the Main Dining room and in the Billiard room at which members, alone or in groups, join with others for lunch, has long been known for good fellowship. Distinguished members lunching there in the period between the wars included J.M. Macdonnell, Roy Campbell, B.K. Sandwell, A. Forbes Hale, W. Gordon Mitchell, W.F. Biggar, M.W.H. Mackenzie, Sen. A.K. Hugessen, Francis Hankin, W.W. Chipman, Sandy Urquhart, Arthur Surveyer, Monteath Douglas, Graham Towers, A.L. Lawes, Sen. L.M. Gouin, W.M. Birks, Ross MacDonald, Roy Dillon and Charles Hébert.

The shifting population gathered around this table reflected the changing personality of the Club in the post-World War II years. In the 1950s, a group of senior lawyers, businessmen and others involved in academic and professional careers made a habit of lunching at this table. In the 1960s and 1970s, a convivial group of members convened at lunch most Fridays in the main dining room. The group, which had a fluid membership, usually consisted of Albert Cloutier, John Lynch-Staunton, Kenneth Mackay and a floating quorum of their contemporaries. This “Friday Lunch Club” usually did not adjourn until late in the afternoon.

During the 1980s the Members’ Round table regulars included John Durnford, the dean of the Law Faculty at McGill, Bob Murray, John Humphrey, Bill Hackett, William H. Pugsley, George Hodgson and Don Bailey. It was probably the most McGill faculty-oriented population seen in the main dining room at any one period.

In more recent times, the use of the Members’ Round table has been steady. Regulars have included Dick Stevenson and Bruce Kippen, who also distinguished himself annually by performing as Santa Claus at the annual children’s Christmas party. McGill law professor William Tetley, who abandoned the Faculty Club for the University Club in the 1980s, lunched at this table, leading a lively discussion among such other regulars as Stuart Hyndman, Patrick Stoker, Warren Simpson, Bruce, Kippen, Kalman Samuels, Sean Murphy, Chill Heward, Tass Grivakes, Eric Clark, Gavin Ross, Michael Malley, Gordon Smith, Claude David, John B. Claxton and Robert J. Bourdius. Before smoking was prohibited, some lunchers adjourned to the Leacock room after lunch for coffee, a cigarette, cigar, or pipe.

Among the regulars at the centre table is a group of senior members who are always pleased when younger members join them. The initial approach is daunting to some, if not all, intermediate members. Louis Fernandes was in the main dining room when two intermediate members arrived, having resolved to sit at the centre table for the first time. They were somewhat taken aback to discover that no one was there, although it was twelve o’clock. Louis explained that they would have a long wait as the others were just starting their pre-lunch drinks downstairs.

The Club continues to be a place where members of varied interests enjoy gathering together.

More than 100 years of history and traditions

Club rooms – description and naming – September 1986

The Clubhouse was classified as an historic monument in Quebec in September, 1986.

When the Club started, the first secretary (then the term for general manager) was W. Graham Browne, who filled that office for the first thirteen years of the Club’s existence until his retirement in 1920. The respect with which Mr. Browne was held is demonstrated by the naming of a room on the third floor the Graham Browne room.

A hundred years ago, life was very different. The pace was unhurried, and it was customary to lunch at one’s club, with time for a drink or two first, and the leisure to enjoy good food, formal service, and the company of fellow members. Then coffee would be taken in the reading room (now the Leacock room), followed by a brandy, followed by a discreet nap in the library before heading back to work. Or one might opt for an afternoon of bridge, originally in the card room (now the Humphrey lounge), later in the billiard room where Louis Fernandes, our longtime maître d’hôtel, remembers three tables going every afternoon.

More than 100 years of history and traditions

Club staff – January 1988

The dedication typical of Club staff was demonstrated by Dennis Schuller, the University Club’s building manager, when Montreal’s ice storm blacked out the city in January, 1998. As ice-coated power pylons tumbled and emergency shelters filled up, he worked out an exchange of services with the Ultramar building next door, thereby saving the venerable Clubhouse. Schuller put his engineering skills to work and hitched the Club’s gas heating system to the neighbour’s generator, giving the Club both heat and hot water. In return, Ultramar’s maintenance staff enjoyed hot showers in the Clubhouse and simple Club meals, cooked on the Club’s gas stoves and served by candlelight.

Occasional extra services have included discovering, as he puts it, “a member or guest left over from the night before, sleeping on a sofa.” He wakes them up, gives them breakfast and sends them home, thereby keeping up the Club’s reputation for hospitality.

That reputation is maintained by the entire 38-member staff, led since January 2013 by General Manager, Sylvie Chevarie, the first woman to occupy the position.

More than 100 years of history and traditions

Women and UCM membership – 1988

In the Club’s early years, women were allowed in the University Club but restricted to the ladies’ dining room, unless accompanied by a member, when they were allowed to dine in the main dining room. In the mid-1970s, the University Women’s Club, a group of university graduates, was allowed to rent space in the Clubhouse and to have limited access to the Club in order to increase Club revenues. To be sure, the University Club was more forward-looking than its counterpart institutions elsewhere, which did not even let women in their buildings. In the 1980s, the lease of the University Women’s Club was terminated.

The story of women gaining admittance as full members of the University Club has many versions, but this much is believed to be accurate. In the 1980s, as Montreal women became more involved in the business and professional world, they grew more interested in what was happening in the men’s clubs. A movement arose to admit women to the University Club as members, which was met at first with a wall of resistance. Joan Clark, O.C., Q.C., Ad.E., a highly respected and distinguished member of the Bar and a partner at Ogilvy Renault, was angered by the Club’s exclusion of women, some of whom were in her own firm and who, as professionals, were barred not only from membership but also from joining their clients for lunch at the Club during a break in discussions at their firm’s offices. She decided to force the issue.

At least two members were required to propose a new member, and Dr. William Feindel, the director of the Montreal Neurological Hospital and Institute, and William Grant, one of Joan’s partners, agreed to propose her.

Mr. Alex Paterson immediately promised that he would raise this issue with the council and no doubt it would be swiftly addressed. He soon discovered that there was a bylaw that restricted the Club to men and that it would take a two thirds’ majority vote on a resolution at the annual meeting to change it.

Upon discussion of the matter with David Johnston, a member and McGill’s principal at the time, and he thought that they should introduce a resolution because a large percentage of McGill’s faculty were women, and, besides, since the University was paying for receptions and meals held at the Club, it was inappropriate that women should be excluded. They believed that a resolution changing Club policy would go through easily, so they did no lobbying

Arriving at the Club for the annual meeting, it was noted that the front four rows of seats were filled with the most senior members of the Club and that few other members were present. They won the vote on the resolution to amend the bylaw, but only by a simple majority rather than the two-thirds majority required.

They gave notice of a second motion to amend the bylaw and a special meeting to consider the issue was called. It was held in the Club’s billiard room and this time the meeting was overflowing with members. Mr. Paterson argued in favour of the resolution by saying that its defeat the first time round had taken him by surprise. His daughter offered her two cents’ worth: “If you lose again, don’t come home.” David Johnston, the father of five girls, made an eloquent plea, but the day was won by Jack Campbell, one of the Club’s senior members and one of Canada’s outstanding barristers at the time. Jack pointed out that, having welcomed women into our businesses and professional firms, we were in no position to exclude them from the Club. The vote this time was substantially in favour of women’s admission.

Shortly afterwards, in 1988, the council voted to accept almost all the women who had been proposed as members. Happily, women are now full members. In 1996, Claudette Bellemare was elected the first woman president.

More than 100 years of history and traditions

Wine and Food at the Club – 1990

It is often said that a member should consider the University Club as his “home away from home”. The characteristic that home and Club share is that both offer the enjoyment of being able to relax and to enjoy eating and drinking in a congenial setting in the company of family or friends. The University Club of Montreal has always had a reputation for excellent food.

Prior to the mid-1970s, the Club’s approach to food and wine could be termed “traditional British.” It reflected the tastes of its members, almost entirely Anglophone and entirely male. There was no wine and food committee. By 1981 a system of offering a “wine of the month” was born and has prospered. It now accounts for some 80 per cent of wine consumed at the Club. These wines are selected by the wine and food committee. While it is an arduous and difficult task to taste up to six wines at committee meetings and make selections, it certainly does improve the tone of these meetings.

The wine list has been dramatically improved and there is now a wide selection of wines available to meet all tastes and budgets. The Club now has a large wine cellar and members have their own private cellars for consumption in the Club.

But the past has not been forgotten. Early favourites continue to make frequent appearances: kidneys, liver and bacon, lamb chops, roast beef, and even the English mixed grill. And there are the stalwart basics, loved by all, that have endured: vichyssoise, hot or jellied consommé, pea soup, lobster bisque, after dinner cookies and last, but certainly not least, the habit-forming and diet-destroying potato chips.

Chef Alain Monod took over in 1990. Today’s menus are a mixture of international cuisines and tastes. And the Club’s reputation for excellent food remains undiminished.

More than 100 years of history and traditions

Club events – part of our history – January 1994

Our Club has the word “university” in its name, a word that itself reflects an ancient tradition. “University” means an open, outward-looking attitude towards the world, an interest in different ideas, acceptance of others’ beliefs and respect for other people. Nothing expresses better this openness than our program of guest speakers.

Every year, the Club invites more than twenty speakers: business, politics, diplomacy, the arts in all their forms, sports, health, gastronomy, religion, history, travel, and gardening are among the topics tackled in the lectures. I doubt that any other forum in Montreal offers such a range of speakers in such an intimate and hospitable venue. By welcoming our guest lecturers, our members show their interest in keeping pace with a rapidly changing world. Such a tradition of inclusiveness must be maintained; it gives our institution its distinct character; it makes our Club an outward-looking institution rather than an inward-looking one. This approach helps us build membership loyalty and will help us appeal to members from the younger generation in coming years. We have to have a dream. Why not a club of ideas, a meeting place for our future politicians, a forum where members and their guests could discuss, in the best tradition of debating societies, new ideas and new trends?

More than 100 years of history and traditions

Past presidents; 1996

One way of remembering past members of the Club who have developed distinguished personalities, is to recall those members who have served as president and whose names are stencilled on the panels in the front hall of the Club. In 1996, Claudette Bellemare was elected the first woman president.
  • 1907 – 1918 Seargent P. Stearns
  • 1918 – 1920 R. F. Ruttan
  • 1920 – 1921 F. E. Meredith
  • 1921 – 1922 Alexander D. Blackader
  • 1922 – 1923 Eugene Lafleur
  • 1923 – 1924 William F. Angus
  • 1924 – 1925 W. C. Chisholm
  • 1925 – 1926 H. S. Birkett
  • 1926 – 1927 Allan A. Magee
  • 1927 – 1928 John J. Creelman
  • 1928 – 1929 H. M. Little
  • 1929 – 1931 Charles W. Colb
  • 1931 – 1932 F. M. G. Johnson
  • 1932 – 1933 A. T. Bazin
  • 1933 – 1934 George S. Currie
  • 1934 – 1935 E. M. McDougall
  • 1935 – 1936 E. Peter Flintoff
  • 1936 – 1937 Conrad D. Harrington
  • 1937 – 1938 J. M. R. Fairbairn
  • 1938 – 1939 K. M. Perry
  • 1939 – 1940 Edward G. Hanson
  • 1940 – 1941 Gregor Barclay
  • 1941 – 1942 E. de B. Panet
  • 1942 – 1943 J. C. McDougall
  • 1943 – 1944 W. A. Merrill
  • 1944 – 1945 T. S. Morrisey
  • 1945 – 1946 E. S. McDougall
  • 1946 – 1947 J. H. H. Robertson
  • 1947 – 1948 Donald A. White
  • 1948 – 1949 Orville S. Tyndale
  • 1949 – 1950 James B. Woodyatt
  • 1950 – 1951 R. Ewart Stavert
  • 1951 – 1952 Chilion H. G. Heward
  • 1952 – 1953 A. D. Campbell
  • 1953 – 1954 Hugh A. Crombie
  • 1954 – 1955 B. E. Norrish
  • 1955 – 1956 Shirley G. Dixon
  • 1956 – 1957 Kenneth A. Creery
  • 1957 – 1958 John K. Wilson
  • 1958 – 1959 Kenneth B. Roberton
  • 1959 – 1960 R. D. Harkness
  • 1960 – 1961 Paul P. Hutchison
  • 1961 – 1962 G. P. Hedges
  • 1962 – 1963 Harrison C. Hayes
  • 1963 – 1964 Bartlett M. Ogilvie
  • 1964 – 1965 A. James de Lalanne
  • 1965 – 1966 George M. Hobart
  • 1966 – 1967 Anson C. McKim
  • 1967 – 1968 U. C. Cushing
  • 1968 – 1969 S. Boyd Millen
  • 1969 – 1970 W. P. Carr
  • 1970 – 1971 William T. G. Hackett
  • 1971 – 1972 James E. Pepall
  • 1972 – 1973 A. Blaikie Purvis
  • 1973 – 1974 M. Laird Watt
  • 1974 – 1975 J. E. Morgan
  • 1975 – 1976 Reford MacDougall, C.M.
  • 1976 – 1977 Robert C. Paterson
  • 1977 – 1978 Peter N. Quinlan
  • 1978 – 1979 John G. Lynch-Staunton
  • 1979 – 1980 Donald S. Wells
  • 1980 – 1981 Herbert B. McNally
  • 1981 – 1982 John J. Peacock
  • 1982 – 1983 Philip E. Johnston
  • 1983 – 1984 Joseph S. Connolly
  • 1984 – 1985 R. Douglas Bourke
  • 1985 – 1986 A. D. Lloyd
  • 1986 – 1987 Conrad H. Harrington
  • 1987 – 1988 Stuart H. Cobbett
  • 1988 – 1989 James A. Robb
  • 1989 – 1990 Eric L. Clark
  • 1990 – 1992 David H. Laidley
  • 1992 – 1993 Philip L. Webster
  • 1993 – 1994 Jean de Grandpré
  • 1994 – 1995 K. Warren Simpson
  • 1995 – 1996 Philip P. Aspinall
  • 1996 – 1997 Claudette Bellemare
  • 1997 – 1998 David C. A. Hannaford
  • 1998 – 1999 Bruce Kent
  • 1999 – 2000 Barry D. Birks
  • 2000 – 2001 Harvey M. Romoff
  • 2001 – 2002 Patrick Kenniff
  • 2002 – 2003 E. Lee Hambleton
  • 2003 – 2004 Mark J. Oppenheim
  • 2004 – 2006 Pierre Matuszewski
  • 2006 – 2007 James G. Wright
  • 2007 – 2008 John F. Lemieux
  • 2008 – 2010 Alain Ishak
  • 2010 – 2012 Erik Moisan
  • 2012 - – Eric Perlinger

More than 100 years of history and traditions

Reciprocal Clubs – 1996

In 1996, former General Manager, Chris Parkinson, shared the story of the prince who came to stay at the Club. He was a member of a reciprocal club who claimed to be royalty from an eastern European country. Arriving ostensibly for three nights, he refused to leave. “He had medical problems and he had people running around picking up prescriptions for him ... and getting laundry done for him. He was a very charming and compelling sort of individual, and he was there to stay. He clearly had no intention of leaving, nor, as events turned out, any intention of ever paying us.” To move the man out, Chris booked, paid for, and personally escorted him to first class accommodation on a train back to the United States, “or else there was just no way he was leaving the Club.”
In spite of this unfortunate incident, the Club currently has reciprocal agreements with 111 clubs in 23 countries.

More than 100 years of history and traditions

The Club's art collection – 2005

A century in the development of Canadian art is illustrated in the paintings on the walls of the University Club of Montreal. The collection spans each period of the Club’s existence, from early twentieth century portraits and Group of Seven landscapes to paintings of Montreal landmarks, abstract works, and a 2005 still life that was purchased fresh from the easel of a Montreal artist.
Every room has art on its walls, adding in an important way to the atmosphere in the Clubhouse. From the Club’s earliest times, members have proved over and over again that they have an eye for exceptional work, either by buying paintings independently and giving them to the Club or purchasing art jointly for the collection.
Art has always reflected what is going on in society at any given time. When the Club was founded, many Canadian artists were going to Europe, Paris in particular, to study and bring back their experiences with formal academic training and Impressionism. In Canada, there followed the Group of Seven and various interpretations of landscape painting. In more recent times, contemporary art has developed in many directions and styles. As a result, we can expect it to become more of a challenge to decide what to acquire for the Club. The insightful decisions taken in the 1950s will not be easy to repeat.
Recently, the Library and Arts Committee was commissioned to look for a contemporary work as a replacement for the paintings that had to be sold. Montreal artist, Pierre Dorion, was visited in his studio, and had his large oil painting, Arrangement 2005, brought to the Club. After an animated discussion, the committee voted unanimously to buy the work and hang it in a central position in the main dining room.

More than 100 years of history and traditions

Celebrating the first 100 years &ndash October 31, 2008

To celebrate the first 100 years of the University Club of Montreal, the Library & Art Committee mounted a display of photographs of our Club. These photographs come from several sources: the Club’s archives, the McCord Museum and the McGill University archives as well as from the John Bland Canadian Architecture Collection, of the McGill University Library. The records show that the first Clubhouse opened on March 28, 1908, formerly the Sumner residence, described as a big, three-storey building on the north-west corner of Dorchester Boulevard and St. Monique Street (St. Monique disappeared when Place Ville Marie was built). This house was sold in 1911, and the Club purchased the Ibbotson residence on the west side of Mansfield north of Burnside Street (now de Maisonneuve Boulevard West). In December 1913, the Club moved to its present location at 2047 Mansfield Street, a magnificent building designed by the distinguished architect Percy Erskine Nobbs. The University Club of Montreal celebrated its first 100 years with the publication of the Club’s history book, a superb dinner with guest speaker Maestro Kent Nagano and a two-night gala dinner.

More than 100 years of history and traditions

Celebrating 100 years in this building on December 17, 2013

Prior to the appointment of Nobbs to design a new Clubhouse on Mansfield Street, the Club had been housed in what had been private residences. Not long after, in 1912, the Club acquired the present day property on the east side of Mansfield. The construction of the Nobbs-designed Clubhouse was completed over an eighteen-month period and opened for business on December 17, 1913.
On December 17, 2013, the Club will celebrate 100 years in our current Clubhouse.

More than 100 years of history and traditions

The next 100 years – November 8, 2107

The year is 2107. The University Club of Montreal will be celebrating its 200th birthday. Can you imagine what the world will be like then? Probably not. Yet that date is 100 years from now, as far in the future from today as the founding of the Club is in the past. Astounding isn’t it? Yet our Club has survived, blossomed and managed to remain relevant throughout.

A club, any club, is an assembly of men and women who agree to abide by certain rules, who enjoy each other’s company, who share certain common values and interests and who congregate in a specific location.

The location issue is worth pausing to consider. Our building’s location is crucial to our success. As an analysis of our membership has shown, 95 per cent of our working members living in Montreal have their offices within a kilometre of the Club – an astonishing statistic.

Another statistic shows that an increasing number of members live away from the downtown core, making the Club less of an evening destination. We have adapted our schedule and our event programming to fit this reality. While we can only admire the foresight of the founders of the Club in selecting the current location of our building, we must remain vigilant about the demographic trends of Montreal in order to continue attracting Montreal’s best.

The Club is a composite of objects, colors, lights, scents, and perspectives. It is the woodwork in the lobby, the curving staircase, the stained glass windows, the many paintings, the majestic main dining room with its membership table and the cosy breakfast room. It is the familiar face of many staff members, who have been with us for many years and who recognize us. Who among us doesn’t like to be recognized and called by name?

Finally, a word about our members, about ourselves. Let us take a step back in time. In the beginnings of the Club, the typical member was a white Anglo-Saxon male. A hundred years later, our members are much more diverse: they are men and they are women, French and English, younger and older, with various ethnic, linguistic and racial backgrounds.

The Club has been able to adapt to its changing environment. It reflects Montreal, and Montreal today is very different from Montreal a hundred years ago. Who would be able to speak with confidence about how Montreal will look a hundred years in the future? No one. But everybody will agree that our city will be very different from what it is today: it will be more diverse, more international, more open to influences from major global trends. The survival of the Club will of necessity come from harmonizing its activities with the changing face of Montreal.

Long live the University Club of Montreal!

Le club universitaire de Montréal


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