Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Redpath, Peter

654142Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 47 — Redpath, Peter1896Charles Alexander Harris

REDPATH, PETER (1821–1894), Canadian merchant and philanthropist, son of John Redpath, was born at Montreal on 1 Aug. 1821. His family was of Scottish lineage, and settled in Canada at the beginning of the century. He was educated at St. Paul's school, Montreal, and then sent to be trained in Manchester for business. Returning to Montreal, he entered first the firm of Dougall, Redpath, & Co., and later his father's sugar-refinery. When the firm of John Redpath & Son was turned into a company, Redpath found a wider sphere for his energies. He became in 1866 a director of the Bank of Montreal, and soon afterwards of the Montreal Rolling Mills, Montreal Telegraph Co., several mining companies, and the Intercolonial Coal Company; he thus identified himself with the encouragement of most Canadian industries, but took special interest in the development of the North-West territories with particular reference to their coal supply. In 1879 he resigned most of his directorates and settled in England, making frequent visits to Canada. In 1882 he still further limited his connection with business, thenceforth remaining only on the London board of the Bank of Montreal. He found occupation, however, for he became a member of the Middle Temple, was on the council of the Royal Colonial Institute from June 1886 till his death, and took an active interest in the establishment of the Imperial Institute.

Redpath is remembered by a series of munificent donations to the McGill College and University at Montreal. He endowed the Peter Redpath chair of natural philosophy in 1871. In 1880 he gave the Redpath Museum, which was opened in 1882, as a centre for the study of geology, mineralogy, palæontology, zoology, and botany. In 1891 he gave, at a cost of some 75,000l., a library for the use of students in arts, science, medicine, and law; he personally spent much time in examining libraries in England and on the continent, and the Redpath library was arranged on his own plans, with the result that it affords more accommodation for its size than any other similar building. It was opened on 31 Oct. 1893 by Lord Aberdeen. He also gave the library some three thousand volumes for an historical library. And at the college he instituted various prizes and medals. Besides encouraging liberal education, he was a large subscriber to works more strictly charitable, and was for some years president of the Montreal General Hospital.

Redpath died on 1 Feb. 1894, at his residence, the Manor House, Chislehurst. He married, on 16 Oct. 1847, Grace, daughter of William Wood of Bowden, Manchester, who survived him. He left no children.

[Toronto Globe, 3 Feb. 1894; Times, 3 Feb. 1894; In Memoriam Peter Redpath, by Sir J. W. Dawson, Montreal, 1894.]

C. A. H.