Biographical sketch of the Very Rev. Dr. Malcolm A. Campbell, after whom Malcolm Campbell High School is named
I recently asked Graeme Decarie, who taught history at Malcolm Campbell High School in the early 1960s before going back to school for his Master’s and Ph.D. in history and a subsequent (and celebrated) career teaching history at Concordia University, to share a quick biographical sketch highlighting the career of Malcolm Campbell.
As well as teaching at Concordia, Dr. Decarie also worked as a commentator with CBC and CJAD for many years.
Dr. Decarie was a close observer on an occasion in the early 1960s when Dr. Campbell visited the MCHS school office (the female staff at the office quickly becoming, as I have learned from Dr. Decarie in email conversations over the years, unpleasantly aware of his presence) and subsequently gave a rousing, well-received speech to an assembly of students and staff.
Those of us who attended Malcolm Campbell High School, as I did in the early 1960s, know a lot about Malcolm Campbell, the high school, but may know a little less about the Very Rev. Dr. Malcolm A. Campbell, after whom the school is named.
I did not know much about Malcolm Campbell, as an individual, but over time I have gathered a few details, here and there.
Having made a few presentations about local history over the years, I have learned it’s good to add a few judicious, evidence-based tidbits of information, here and there, as I have done at the current post, to ensure the full attention of the audience. Otherwise, people start to fall asleep.
I will begin by referring to a previous post entitled:
At the latter post, you can get access to a recording – courtesy of Tim Hewlings (MCHS 1963) – of the MCHS school song, which refers to Malcolm Campbell as the school’s Patron, whom “we take as our example.”
An additional post of interest is entitled:
At that post, Steve Lesser (MCHS 1973) notes that the version of “The Scarlet and the Silver” recorded in 2000 “is actually not the original version of the song. According to Mr. Smith, who was a great mentor to me, the original ‘sounded like a dirge.’ He told me that he changed the tempo and the tune to make it sound more upbeat.”
March 1959 Montreal Gazette article
A March 25, 1959 Montreal Gazette article is entitled: “New School Name Honors Senior Member Of Board.”
The article (I have kept the American spelling intact and have corrected one typo) reads:
The Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal yesterday conferred an unprecedented honor on the board’s senior member.
The board unanimously approved the name “Malcolm Campbell High School” for the projected high school to be erected on Dudemaine St. in the north end of the city.
It thus honored for the first time in this manner an active member of the board.
The Very Rev. Dr. Malcolm A. Campbell has been active in education since his first appointment to the Protestant Board of School Commissioners in 1927. Four years later he was elected chairman of the regional board and has served in that capacity ever since.
The school will accommodate 1,200 pupils in the 51 teaching rooms. The three-storey building is expected to be ready for use by the fall of ’61 and will have a cafeteria, double gymnasium and auditorium.
As well, a previous post, featuring the dramatic low key lighting which was a trademark of a photographer named Gaby, is entitled:
Brief biographical sketch, courtesy of Graeme Decarie
Dr. Decarie, who now lives in Ottawa, has shared the following biographical sketch regarding Malcolm Campbell, the school board official after whom Malcolm Campbell High School was named:
Reverend Malcolm Campbell was from a Presbyterian church in Montreal that stood at the north end of Fletcher’s Field. That, about the 1890s, had become part of the home ground of wealthy anglos.
(Earlier, they had settled in what is now the business district of Notre Dame. But by World War 1 and even earlier, they were more likely to be found along St. Catherine and Sherbrooke and above – and down to Windsor Station. You can still see their very well preserved homes.)
And the churches were highly regarded. At the corner of St. Catherine and University is an Anglican Church (Christ Church) whose ministry included the virtues of playing golf. The minister of that church founded The Royal Montreal Golf Club in 1873. It was the first golf club in all of North America. Nor was it unusual for a clergyman to see golf as a part of his ministry. Golf was a recreation to raise the spiritual level of the congregation. It was common for some games to be seen as spiritual. Hockey, then being invented on Dorchester just a short walk West of Phillip’s Square, was in that category.
The games of the working class did not count as inspiring Christian virtues.
This area was the centre of English Montreal. The Molson family, for example, attended Christ Church – and from it they controlled a local regiment, The Grenadier Guards. But during World War 1, they would quarrel, and move themselves and their patronage to the Black Watch. And it, too, had a church – St. Andrew and St. Paul on Sherbrooke St. near the art gallery. I expect the Molsons also moved themselves to the Presbyterian church.
The rich English spread over McGill. And that’s how a baby named Christopher Plummer was born just above McGill. That brought him to Montreal High School just two years ahead of me. Montreal High School was the city’s prestige anglo school.
(It still had that prestige in my time when kids in my district were sent to MHS. Alas, I would not be one of the elite. The principal kicked me out in grade 11. To this day, I still don’t have a high school certificate. But I really wasn’t in the great, wealthy tradition of Plummer who used to be brought back to school after he graduated to perform in the annual Shakespeare play. I was just a north end kid.)
One of the keys to the social and civic power of the wealthy was their churches. So the minister often was a key figure in social issues – like sport, the art gallery, like education.
And one of those key figures was the minister at the Presbyterian church that stood (and still stands) at the north end of Fletcher’s Field. But it is no longer a church. By 1920, wealthy anglos were already several decades into moving west to Westmount, and relying on the train to get to work.
And, somewhere in that flitting time of a dying era, Reverend Malcolm Campbell was posted to that church. And, as was common at the time, the schools were seen essentially as religious institutions. And that’s why a young Malcolm Campbell was soon seen as chairman of the Montreal English Protestant School Board.
And that’s why I learned in grade 1 to become a socially modelled child. Every morning we saluted the union jack and chanted “I pledge allegiance to this flag, and the Empire for which it stands.” Then we said the Lord’s Prayer and sang a hymn. Every morning – because that’s what school was all about.
(The church sign on the building is no longer there, and the building is now apartments. But it still looks very much like a church. I was the speaker at its closing meeting. Alas, Reverend Campbell had died some years before.)
Was he a dynamic and exciting chairman? Well, no. Through his time the school board was, like all school boards, something to be kept quiet and conventional. Things are still much like that. Now dominated by business leaders, you have the same problem – people whose knowledge of the world and what it needs is pretty well limited by their social outlooks and by their lack of any knowledge of education. I found the same sort of thing when the Concordia Board of Governors was chaired by Eric Molson. That’s why school boards are weak in innovation – and why university boards are dominated by the ranks of zombie dead.
Oh – you wanted some dirt? Well, yeah. He was fond of whiskey – and had brought his own for the day at MCHS. He also goosed the secretary while waiting. (I think it’s recommended in the New Testament according to Presbyterians.)
And, oh, he could handle an an audience. He said nothing, really. But he had that high school audience eating out of his hands.
“Our Patron’s life we take as our example”
In preparing this post, I’ve encountered a comment from an MCHS grad which reads:
Hmm re: our school song & goosing:
“Our Patron’s life we take as our example”
These days his ‘pinches’ may have led him to being a jailbird…quite an example to follow! LOL”
I’m pleased that is has been noted that there is an aspect to the man’s life that is indeed “touching”!
A subsequent post is entitled: