Irvine’s Cigar Store: Guest article from Bob Carswell

The following post is from Bob Carswell.

[Note to Bob: Can you please let us know the source for the information.]

Irvine’s Cigar Store

William Irvine. I await word from Bob Carswell regarding photo credit.

William Irvine. I await word from Bob Carswell regarding photo credit.

There was a story reported in the Ottawa Citizen many years ago about the back room of Irvine’s Cigar Store located at 29 Sparks Street, one block south of the new Parliament Buildings. I know the story because William Irvine is my great great grandfather.

I also found the original document sent by his son to Sir John A. Macdonald in the Ontario Archives microfilms some years ago. It was a request by William’s son for the Prime Minister to find a position for his father in his later years.

Now, I also believe that William Irvine was an undertaker during his lifetime as he appears in different documents as a polisher and an upholsterer, both jobs of furniture manufacturers who in their day were also the local undertakers. Polishing and upholstering coffins was a big business back then.

Having reached the age of about 57, the work was getting difficult and the son thought an easier job in the government would make things more comfortable for his father as he headed for his later years. It was a day when patronage for deeds done was a certainty.

For many years, the back room of the Irvine Cigar Store was the meeting place of the Prime Minister, the Premier of Ontario and numerous other individuals there to discuss the business of Canada and make deals where necessary that could only be made outside the walls of the Parliament Buildings.

The back room was also special because it held a large potbellied stove in the middle of the room and the politicians could sit around, have a bunch of drinks and discuss the affairs of state in private. For many years it was Sir John A. Macdonald’s private meeting place.

Well, the deal was done, and William Irvine was appointed to the Sessional Staff of the House of Commons where he remained for the next 18 years. Born in 1925, he lived a full 75 years, the majority of which he spent in Ottawa.


A note from Jaan Pill regarding sources and citations

I have checked with Bob Carswell regarding sources and citations for his stories. From his responses, I have the sense that he has sound sources to back up his stories.  I will share some of the sources when time permits. As a rule, I like to ensure that when statements of any kind appear at this website, there is sufficient citation of sources to give readers a sense of the origin of the statement. In the case of photos, I make an effort to ensure that whatever is posted has a caption and a photo credit.

2 replies
  1. Bob Carswell
    Bob Carswell says:

    The photocopy of William Irvine was extracted from an original photo taken of him and his wife in later years, before her death in 1895. The original photograph was in the possession of my father’s late cousin, Elizabeth living in Guelph, Ontario at the time. She was a personal friend of the Astronaut Roberta Bondar whose special letter was read at her funeral in Guelph. I am guessing that photo is now with one of her four married daughters. Elizabeth Waywell who did a lot of this research into that side of the family died at the age of 60 in Guelph as a result of breast cancer. I have photocopies of various Ottawa newspapers announcing his death, popularity in Ottawa as a citizen and with the members of the House of Commons of the day. He worked in the House of Commons from 1878 to retirement in 1896 upon the death of his wife. Different articles and stories come from early and later editions of the Ottawa newspapers including two specific ones mentioning his death and appointment years earlier by the Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald, the Ottawa Citizen, of Tuesday January 16th, 1900, Pg.3 and the Ottawa Journal of the same date. I can confirm having personally found the original request for the appointment from William Irvine’s son to the Prime Minister in the Archives of Ontario, microfilm unit under the name Irvine, however specifically finding it again since the Archives moved to a specific building on the campus of York University would be difficult considering my age and infirmity.


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