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Fraser's Scottish Annual
Sir Sanford Fleming, K.C.M.G., LL.D., F.R.S.C.

GREAT men are studied as patterns on which the lives of others may be more or less moulded. The facts of a great, a useful, an honourably successful life, are set as an example, and an inspiration to the young, and as a standard to those whose years have brought the enjoyment rather than the pursuit of life's prizes. The elements of greatness—what are they? Blackie, wise as the Greeks who inspired him, has it:  "A man is great amongst men, just as Mount Blanc is great among Swiss, or Ben Nevis among Scottish mountains a man rising above the normal level of his kind, with as marked an elevation as these heights above the common reach of heaven-kissing hills, and at the same time possessing all the qualities and virtues that belong to terrestrial elevations generally." One does not tire of quoting Professor Blackie, so breezy, so fresh, and so full of suggestive wisdom. Thus, he adds, that a great man is essentially and broadly human, and achieves in the exercise of his one special talent the highest excellence, as Shakspeare did in the drama, only by the social atmosphere which he breathes, and the human sympathies which he cultivates. A great man must be deficient in no function that makes a man a man.

The Scottish people, at home and abroad, have given many sons who, measured by this standard, have not been found wanting, and among them Sir Sandford Fleming, is a conspicuous figure. "The man and the moment" are the two things Matthew Arnold think's to be necessary to secure great work. The time was propitious and the man did not fail in the case of Sir Sandford. When one casts but a cursory glance over his long career, the number and the magnitude of his undertakings seem marvellous, but when the details of that career have been unfolded, and the man behind them has been revealed, then wonder changes to admiration, for the greatness of the man, as well as of the work, has been discovered; and greatness, if it has found expression in word or deed, sooner or later receives the recognition and the homage it deserves. What Mr. Fleming found when he arrived in Canada, was a country in its beginnings—the resourceful man's brightest opportunity. How he wrought in its development, contributed to its growth and greatness, and bore himself as one of its most notable citizens, will one day, no doubt, form the theme of a thrilling biography ; here a great subject can only be very briefly outlined.

As seen to-day, Sir Sandford has many of the traits that are attributed to the sons of the Ancient Kingdom of Fife, of which he is a native. He is ample of stature, with a certain majesty of bearing. His features are leonine, and one sees at a glance the force of character which has won success by the strenuous application of extraordinary talent to the solution of great problems. But while every line indicates energy and a rugged strength, the kindliness and the goodness which never fail him are also to be read in his open countenance.
Shirra Hall, Kirkcaldy, was built of stones taken from the church, of which the famous Scotch minister, the Rev. Mr. Shirra, was the pastor. The best known of Mr. Shirra's homely and quaint sayings is thus told : One day, when reading from the 116th Psalm, " I said in my haste, all men are liars," he quietly remarked—"Indeed Dauvid, gill ye had lived in this parish ye might hae said it at your leisure." And for the sake of Shirra Hall, one other anecdote, as related by W. Ford, may be allowed. One day, observing a young girl with a large and rather gaudy new bonnet, with Which she herself seemed moderately pleased, and also noticing or suspecting that his wife was indulging in a quiet nap, he paused in the middle of his sermon and said "Look ony o' ye there if my wife be sleepin', for I canna see her for thae fine falderals on Jenny Bain's new bonnet."

It was in Shirra Hall that Sir Sandford Fleming was born, on the 7th of January, 1827. His father was Andrew Greig Fleming, and his mother's name was Elizabeth Arnot. He attended the grammar school of his native town, then under the control of Mr. William Black, whose signature certifies to the " superior diligence of Master Sanford Fleming," at an early age. He was often "dux" of his classes, and he gave every promise of a bright future. The church his family attended was that formrly ministered to by Mr. Shirra, but the building was a more modern structure. Kirkcaldy was then a town of about 8,000 inhabitants, but the enterprise which has placed it among the leading industrial centres of Scotland to-day, was abroad, and young Fleming imbibed not a little of its spirit ere he left his native land for Canada at the age of eighteen. At that time, 1845, the passage across the Atlantic was quite a formidable thing, and it was not uncomon for friends to consider the voyage as a separation for life. One of the parting incidents which impressed itself on Mr. Fleming's memory was the gift of a silver crown of George III., by a cousin named Robert Imrie, who said, in giving it ''Take this crown, as a keepsake, and as long as you have it, you will not want money." Only the other day-, Sir Sandford opened an old desk which had not been used for forty, odd years, and there lay his cousin's keepsake, the George III. silver crown; also a letter to his father written on board ship on his voyage to Canada. Associated with this letter is a pathetic incident which has to be. recorded. The sailing vessel on which he shipped from Glasgow for Quebec took forty days on the out-trip. She encountered a great storm and was driven far out of her course, and her safety was a matter of doubt. She was laden with tons of railway iron bars, which were tossed against her sides with every pitch and lurch of the vessel. Mr. Fleming saw that if the terrific storm continued any length of time the iron would crash through the vessel, and as no abatement seemed likely he composed himself for the worst. In these circumstances he wrote an account of the situation to his father, giving day and hour, and the position of the ship. This letter he put into a bottle and sealing it consigned it to the deep. The me- sage travelled, slowly but safely., to the coast of Devonshire, where it was picked: up by a fisherman and forvardec to Kirkcaldy. Before it had reached there, however, his father had heard direct of the safe arrival of the ship at Quebec, and the bottled missive caused no alarm.
On his arrival in Toronto Mr. Fleming at first engaged in the profession of land surveyor. He afterwards joined the engineering staff of the Northern Railway, having qualified himself for that calling in the Old Land. His ability was soon recognized, and he rose in the service of the company until lie became Chief Engineer of the road in 1857. The question of railway transportation was the most important before the cbuntry for many a year during and after that peri6d, and Mr. Sandford Fleming's genius for railway construction found increasing exercise in laying down plans and comprehensive schemes, as well as in active operations. What the country owes to his counsel, to his energy, and to his advocacy, cannot here be told, but the record remains a monument to his name in the annals of railway development. In partnership with Messrs. Ridout & Schreiber he carried out Several large contracts, and established his name as a business man of large grasp as well as an engineer of professional distinction. He had become so thoroughly identified with railway enterprise that, when the people of the Red River settlement moved to establish railway communication between themselves and Eastern Canada, he was chosen their commissioner to London, to lay their case before the Imperial authorities.

The following letter intimating his selection will be read at this distance of time -with peculiar interest, as showing how slowly Her Majesty's mails travelled in those days ; the letter which is dated February 2nd, did not reach Mr. Fleming, in Toronto, until the 29th of July following. The post marks on the envelope are: "Pembina, Minn.," February 7th; "Detroit, Mich.," July 22nd ; " Toronto, C. W.," July 23rd, and one more mark, not decipherable:

Feb. 2nd, 1863.
Sanford Fleming, Esq., C. E., Toronto.

My DEAR SIR,—By last mail we forwarded to you a Memorial and certain Resolutions passed by the people of Red River. The memorial related to the proposed opening up of the Lake Superior route, its practicability and its desirableness and the Resolutions among other things contained your appointment as our Delegate, to look after our interests. Previous to receiving Mr. McNab's letter the people of Red River had appointed me as delegate to England, to look after the same object, and at the same [time] to endeavour to procure for this settlement elective institutions and the establishment of a system of responsible government. Notwithstanding my appointment, however, I was so delighted at the prospect of help in Canada, and securing your raliable services, that, in conjunction with my partner, Mr. Caldwell, of The Nor'-Wester, I called the meetings and pushed through the memorials and resolutions above referred to. I write to ask you, while pushing the Road and Tele- graph matters, also to push our views with regard to elective institutions. We want responsible government, and a Governor appointed by the Queen. At present, governor and legislators hold their appointments from the Hudson Bay Co., in London, and this irresponsible squad gives anything but satisfaction. To keep you posted in matters relating to this country, I have directed The Nor'- [Fester to be sent to you and Mr. John Mc- Nab regularly. Should you leave for England, send your address. Write me regularly, giving in full everything that passes relating to this country. Clip out what you see in Canadian and English journals, and enclose with your correspondence—all of which the Nor'-Wester will do full justice to. Get the Memorials and Resolutions widely I published and such extracts from our journal as will interest parties in this country, and your present undertaking.

In haste, I remain, dear sir, Yours respectfully,

This was an historical, and a very important mission, and it was conducted with conspicuous ability. Her Majesty's Government recognized his peculiar fitness for such work, and in conjunction with the governments of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, asked him to "conduct it survey for the first link in a railway which would extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific within British territory." The construction of the great Intercolonial line followed, and during its construction Mr. Fleming acted as chief engineer. At this period he had much railway projecting, surveying and constructing on hands. In addition to the Inter-
colonial, he was, in 1871, appointed engineer-in-chief, to carry on Pacific railway surveys, and ill he was asked to take charge of an expedition which was to travel on the general route of the projected railway. The story of this survey is told in Principal Grant's book "From Ocean to Ocean." Dr. Grant's summing up was that ''the expedition had special services to perform in connection with one of the most gigantic public works ever undertaken in any country by any people." "The Intrcolonial links, with rails of steel, the provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick with the province of Quebec ; the Grand Trunk unites Quebec and Ontario; the Canadian Pacific Railway is to connect the latter with Manitoba and British Columbia, as well as with the various unborn provinces which, in the rapid progress of events, shall spring up in the intervening region." Thus, when the Dominion Government decided upon a trans-continental railroad through Dominion territory, Mr. Fleming was selected to project the scheme, and to make the surveys. Practically and professionally he is the father of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and if he had done nothing else during his whole career his name would go down to posterity. But before he retired from his position on that road, in 1880, his surveys had "established the practicability of the railway, and the means of overcoming the formidable barriers imposed by nature had been determined. Construction of the work was being proceeded with at both ends and between Lake Superior and the heart of Manitoba, in all ranging over some two thousand miles, and six hundred miles were nearly completed." He is still a director of the company, and manifests a deep interest in all its affairs. He had turned his attention to Newfoundland long before this—indeed while engaged on the Intercolonial and Canadian Pacific railways. His examination of the island colony was for the purpose of ascertaining whether a railway service could be established across the island. The reports made by his engineer were satisfactory, and then the local government asked him to conduct surveys for a railway from St. John's to St. George's Bay. On these surveys the railway now completed by Mr. Reid proceeded, so Newfoundland also claims him as the chief projector of her great railway line.

His busy brain also conceived the idea of the Pacific cable, which in connection with the overland telegraph system "would complete the electric circle of the globe, and bring Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa into unbroken telegraph touch of each other without passing over foreign soil." In 1879 his scheme for the carrying out of this magnificent project was submitted to the Canadian Government, and he has been the life and soul of the scheme ever since. He has been much in evidence in connection with it, at conventions, conferences, and in the press. Without his figures and his arguments the project would have died before now, but it bids fair to be taken up, and carried on to completion. At the colonial conferences Of 1887 and 1894, he urged his views, and on other occasions, notably last fall, in London, he has stood the strongest supporter of the undertaking. In 1893 he went on a special mission to Australia and England in connection with the Pacific cable, and in 1896 he was a representative from Canada at the Imperial Pacific cable conference. His services to this one cause have been enormous.

Science and literature have had in Sir Sandford a liberal patron and an earnest devotee. One of his most notable services has been in connection with the acceptance of universal or Cosmic time. So important has his labours in this field been that the story of how he was led to study the question might well be given, did space permit. Briefly, he was passing through Ireland and made a railway detour to visit a friend. In order to regain his travelling connections he found it necessary to drive across country rapidly to a railway station from which a train was announced in the "Official Railway Travellers' Guide," to leave at a certain hour. He arrived before the specified time, but there was no train, and he found on enquiry that there would not be one for twelve hours. He drew forth his guide-book and pointed to the time column there, and asked the officials to bring on their train, as forward he must get. He was told the printer had made the mistake of inserting p.m. for a.m.—that was all! Of course nothing could be done but to wait. To the discomfort of the accommodation was added the disappointment and loss caused by the upsetting of his plans, but from the incident came the thought that a simple printer's error should be impossible in a railway time-table, and that to avoid it absolutely the twenty-four hours of the day should be enumerated instead of only twelve. But his ideas were his own, and being new met opposition. He made a careful study of the subject in all its bearings, and in 1879 contributed an elaborate paper to the Canadian Institute, which effectually set the ball a-rolling. The title of the paper was " Time Reckoning," and the writer's object was to show:

1st. The difficulties which arise from the present mode of reckoning time, owing to the extension of telegraph and steam communications by land and water.
2nd. The natural and conventional divisions of time.
3rd. The systems of reckoning time, ancient and modern.
4th. The necessity of meeting the defects caused by present usages, and the useful results which would be obtained from a uniform non- local system.
5th. The practicability of securing all the advantages attainable from uniformity, without seriously interfering with existing local customs.

How he developed the discussion of the question and carried the arguments of his opponents triumphantly, is a matter of history to those who have taken an interest in the subject. He established his position, however, only after infinite pains and labour. His pioneer work has elicited praise from those whose "well done" is worth having. The Council of the Canadian Institute was not slow with its tribute. M. Otto Struve, the astronomer Roal of Russia, was generous in his acknowledgments, and other distinguished men and societies followed suit, after the battle had been fought and won.

What the literary and scientific men of Canada owe to him would be difficult to estimate. In no small degree he was instrumental in the formation of the Canadian Institute whose story of fifty years existence has been graphically told only the other day. He was not only, one of the few patriotic spirits who founded it, but it is questionable whether without his never failing and persistent support it would have been instituted at all, at least for many years after the time of its foundation. At one of the early meetings when the fate of the project hung in the balance, only two of the promoters appeared. One was Mr. Fleming. The story of that critical meeting is thus told : ' After much silence and long waiting in vain for other members to appear, the one addressed the other in these words, 'This looks bad—we must, however, proceed, as the saving is to make a spoon or spoil the horn. Let one of us take the chair and the other act as secretary,' and so agreed, dispensing in the emergency with a quorum, they passed it series of resolutions with complete unanimity." One of these resolutions proved the turning point in the path of progress and thus launched the Institute has advanced and fulfilled the expectations of its founders and friends. Sir Sandford Fleming's name is as a matter of course closely, associated with its history, and he has ever proved its willing friend.

In 1880 he was elected Chancellor of Queen's University, Kingston, Ont., for a term of three years. From term to term he has been re-elected since, and he still adorns the chancellor's chair, giving time, thought and substance in furthering the interests of that most excellent university, which draws so much of its inspiration, and so many of its ablest men from Scotland, and under whose shadow Scottish thought and Scottish customs are kindly fostered, whether it be on football field, in the Ossianic Society, or in the class-room.

As an author Sir Sandford Fleming has done useful work. Among his volumes are: ''The Inter- colonial; a Historical sketch"; "Short Sunday Service, for Travellers"; "Daily Prayers for Busy Households"; "Uniform Standard Time"; "A Cable Across the Pacific"; "The Prime Meridian Question';' ''England and Canada"; ''Old and New Westminster"; "Expeditions to the Pacific"; "Parliamentary vs. Party Government"; ''An Appeal to the Canadian Institute on the Rectification of Parliament"; "The Early Days of the Canadian Institute," etc.

In recognition of his services he was created a Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George in 1877, and was promoted to be a Knight Commander of the same order, in 1897. In 1882 he was presented with the freedom of the Burgh of Kirkcaldy, one of the highest honours of Scottish citizenship. In 1884 he received the honorary degree of LL. D. from St. Andrew's University; in 1886 he was awarded the Confederation medal by the Governor-General in Council as an acknowledgment of his eminent services as an engineer, and in 1888 he was elected President of the Royal Society of Canada.. These are but a few of his public and academic honours, of which there is a long and highly distinguished list. This brief sketch cannot be better closed than in the words of Lord Strathcona: "He is a man who has done great and good work, not alone for Canada, but for the Empire as a whole."

The engraving accompanying this article is from a photograph which was reduced from an instantaneous full-size photograph taken by an amateur in Kirkcaldy some years ago. It was taken without Sir Sandford's knowledge, while he was standing in conversation with a friend in a drawing-room. Some think it the best ever taken of him.


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