Old St. Andrews



Death of Sir Thomas Tait



St. Croix Courier
Aug 1/1940
Sir Thomas Tait Passes at Summer Home ‘Links Crest’
Retired Railway Executive Performed Splendid Service for Canada and Empire. Rose from Humble Clerkship.
The death of Sir Thomas Tait, retired railway executive and industrialist, occurred last Thursday, July 25, at his summer home, “Links Crest,” at St. Andrews, the day after he had celebrated his 76th birthday. Sir Thomas had been ill for several years and he was forced to resign active connection with the Parkhill Gold Mine of which he was president in June 1937. He spent his summers at his beautiful home on the edge of the golf links at St. Andrews by the Sea, and had come there at the beginning of July, hoping that the sea breezes would benefit his health.

He was born at Melbourne, Quebec, on July 24, 1864, and was educated at the Montreal High School, afterwards graduating from McGill University. In 1880 he joined the staff of the old Grand Trunk Railway as a clerk in the audit department, but two years later became private secretary to Sir William Van Horne, president and general manager of the Canadian Pacific Railway. He held this position for four years, after which he was a clerk in the general traffic manager’s office for a few months before being appointed assistant superintendent of the Ontario and Quebec Division in May 1887. He became general superintendent in March 1890 which position he held until 1893, when he was appointed assistant general manager of the CPR.

In May 1897 he was again promoted, becoming manager for eastern lines, and in April 1901 was named manager of transportation, holding this office till March 1903. The Australian colony of Victoria needed an experienced railway man to act as chairman of its railway commission and Thomas Tait was strongly recommended for the position by Sir William Van Horne and by Sir Thomas Shaughnessy. The railways of Victoria were in poor condition by reason of political mismanagement, and were a heavy drain on the finances of the colony. But the deficit of $1,800,000 which faced the then Mr. Tait at the end of his first year’s work as chairman of the Victoria Railway Commissioners, was changed within three years to a surplus of just under a million dollars. For the first time in the history of Victoria there was scientific railroading, and constant improvement was effected so long as Mr. Tait remained at the head of the commission. But the position became distasteful because of political attacks and intrigues and in 1910 Mr. Tait announced he would not accept a renewal of his appointment. In announcing Mr. Tait’s resignation in the Legislature, Hon. John Murray Premier ofr Victoria spoke of the retiring official as “a strong, fearlss, man, of really great ability,” who had never desired to do an injustice to anyone. He added that it would be a long time before Victoria could get a stronger man and she would have to go far before she could get as competent and able a man to fill his place. This sentiment was echoed in the press.

The honor of Knighthood came to Mr. Tait on New Year’s Day, 1911, in recognition of his splendid services to the railways of an important section of the Empire. He was made a Knight of Grace of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. Returning to Canada after an extended world tour, Sir Thomas “Acted as president of the Montreal Citizens’ Recruiting Association at the outbreak of the first Great War. In 1916 Sir Thomas was offered and accepted the position of Director-General of National Service. His duties were to seek co-ordination and improve the means of recruiting for war corps authorized and to be authorized. He was promised the full support of the Dominion Government. He had been in office barely a month when he resigned and was succeeded by R. B. Bennett. The incident which led to Sir Thomas Tait’s resignation had to do with his proposal to appoint G. M. Murray secretary to the Director of National Service. Objection was raised to his appointment because of an allegation that Mr. Murray had sent out an incorrect circular regarding Canadian products and materials, which had not been corrected. Mr. Murray corrected it and opposition to his appointment was withdrawn, but then Mr. Murray decided not to accept the position and Sir Thomas felt called upon to resign, which he did. In 1928 Sir Thomas received from the University of New Brunswick the honorary degree of LL.D. He was at one time president of the Montreal branch of the Royal Empire Society, retiring from office in 1931. On his return to Canadian, he became interested in the Fredericton and Grand Lake Coat and Railway Company of which he was president. In later years he devoted much of his time to Parkhill Gold Mines of which he was president but he resigned that office in June 1937 owing to ill-health. Sir Thomas is survived by his widow, formerly Miss Emily St. Aubert Cockburn; two sisters, Mrs. Harold Hampson of Montreal and Mrs. George O’Halloran, of Ottawa; two brothers, H. M. Tait, of Minneapolis and R. G. Tait, of Oliver, BC; three nephews, Robert Hampson an Hr. R. Hampson of Montreal and James O’Halloran, of Quebec; and three nieces, Mrs. Rutherford Caverhill and Mrs. Leslie Marler, of Montreal and Mrs. Anson Green, of Ottawa. His only daughter, Winifred Marion, who became Mrs. John Forney, died some years ago. The funeral service was held at All Saints Church in St. Andrews on Saturday, after which the body was taken to Montreal for cremation.

Shiretown Items—A Good Citizen. The passing of Sir Thomas Tait removes one of the best known among our summer visitors. He and his family spent many years at the Algonquin before building their present beautiful home “Link Crest.” Sir Thomas took an active part, until recent years, in all things connected with summer life here, golf, swimming, tennis, sailing, dancing, and was as well known among local people as among summer residents. Heartiest expressions of sympathy are extended to Lady Tait by her many St. Andrews friends.