Student Life

Beyond the gates of Montreal’s cemeteries

Montreal’s historic cemeteries inter the area’s most famous figures. This week, The McGill Tribune reviews the historic personas laid to rest around the city.

John Redpath (1796 – Mar. 5, 1869)

Redpath was a businessman and philanthropist who helped industrialize Montreal in the early 19th century. He was also involved in major city projects including the the construction of the Lachine Canal in 1825 and the Notre Dame Church in 1829. These contributions made Montreal a central commercial trading hub and popularized Redpath’s success among city dwellers. After his death in 1869, he was buried in Mount Royal Cemetery.

Jocelyn Gordon Whitehead (25 Nov. 1895 – July 5, 1954)

Buried in the Hawthorn-Dale Cemetery, Whitehead gained infamy for delivering a sucker-punch that led to magician Harry Houdini’s death. He was a McGill student and an amateur boxer in the early 20th century. According to witnesses, on October 22, 1926, Whitehead visited Houdini in his dressing room before a Montreal performance and asked the magician if it was true that he could withstand punches to the abdomen. He then delivered several blows to the magician’s stomach as he was laying down. Over a week later, Houdini died on October 31, 1926 of severe appendicitis. Whitehead was never charged with a crime, but he did have to sign an affidavit for Houdini’s widow, Bess Houdini, recounting the events of that night.

David Ross McCord (18 Mar., 1844 – Apr. 12, 1930)

McCord was not only a Montreal native, but also a McGill law graduate and eventual magistrate. McCord, who is interred in Mount Royal Cemetery, gained national praise and fame by advocating for the rights of indigenous peoples in Canada. He later lobbied for the creation of a national museum dedicated to Canadian history in 1878. On Oct. 13, 1921 he got his wish when the McCord Museum opened its doors with a collection of 15,000 artifacts from McCord’s personal collection.

Sir John Abbott (Mar. 12, 1821 – Oct. 30, 1893)

Abbott was the third prime minister of Canada, serving from 1891 to 1892. Another McGill law alumnus buried at Mount Royal Cemetery, Abbott began his career as an attorney, and soon became one of Montreal’s most prominent lawyers to date. He later returned to the university as a professor of law and earned a doctorate in civil law. Before his prime ministership, Abbott rose to national attention for successfully defending the perpetrators of the St. Albans Raid and for advocating for greater language diversity in Quebec by promoting the interests of Anglophone Quebecers.

Charles Meredith (Dec. 17, 1854 – Jan. 7, 1928)

Meredith, who is now buried at Mount Royal Cemetery, was a banker and president of both the Montreal Stock Exchange and the then-prominent Canadian brokerage firm, C. Meredith & Co.  In 1910, he became the president of Hillcress Collieries Ltd. and was director of the British & Colonial Press Service while sitting on the Montreal Board of Trade. Additionally, Meredith co-founded the Mount Royal Club and once owned the land on which the Ritz-Carlton Hotel was built. The Charles Meredith House, Meredith’s home located in the Golden Square Mile, is now used by McGill’s Faculty of Medicine, which houses the Departments of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health.

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