Toronto’s Scottish connection

Richard Fiennes-Clinton knows audiences don’t need to come from a Scottish background to take interest in the historical impact of Scotsmen. Many people who took interest in his local lecture last week about the Scottish impact on Toronto don’t necessarily have Scottish roots, but have a passion for history.

“There are the cultural aspects – learning about different cultures and different people and learning about the value of history – but also, a lot of (the history) just makes for good stories as well,” Fiennes-Clinton, pictured, said. “A lot of them can be pretty entertaining.”

On Nov. 29, Fiennes-Clinton lectured at the S. Walter Stewart library branch for the East York Historical Society. He spoke about Canadian historical figures with Scottish roots, such as Fathers of Confederation Sir John A. Macdonald and George Brown.

Both Macdonald and Brown were born in Scotland: the former in Glasgow and the latter in Alloa, Clackmannanshire.

Macdonald immigrated to Upper Canada with his family at five years of age in 1820. In 1867, he became the first prime minister of Canada.

“Although he’s often thought of in connection with Kingston or Ottawa, there were, of course, connections between him and Toronto,” said Fiennes-Clinton, founder of the Muddy York Walking Tours in Toronto.

During the Rebellions of 1837, Macdonald came to Toronto where he took part in the attack on the rebels at Montgomery’s Tavern. He also practised law in Toronto toward the end of his life.

On the other hand, Brown immigrated to Toronto in his 20s and became a noted reform politician.

“In modern Canada, he’s know for two really big legacies,” Fiennes-Clinton said. “The Globe and Mail newspaper came from his Toronto Globe newspaper and, of course, he was really the unofficial father of the Liberal Party of Canada.”

Fiennes-Clinton believes it important to learn about Canadian heritage because it’s interesting to see how different cultures came together and what they accomplished.