John Ross Robertson (1841 to 1918)
The Sash Our Forefathers Wore
John Ross Robertson, a Canadian newspaper publisher, Orangemen, politician and philanthropist was a member of Brunswick Loyal Orange Lodge No. 404.
John was born on December 28th, 1841 to John Robertson and Margaret Sinclair was educated a Upper Canada College, a private school in Toronto, Ontario. As a young man, he started a newspaper called "Young Canada" and a satirical weekly magazine called "The Grumbler".
The Grumbler was published in 1864 in a building on the corner of King Street and Toronto Street in Toronto. The Grumbler was one of John's more well known publications.
John was hired as a report and then city editor at "The Globe" in Toronto but left this newspaper to found "The Toronto Daily Telegraph" in 1866. John then returned to the "The Globe" as a reporter and went to England. In 1876 John returned to Toronto to launch the Toronto Evening Telegram, which became the voice of working class, conservative, Orange Toronto. In the Toronto Evening Telegram he wrote a recurring column on Toronto landmarks. Eventually these columns were published in a book called "Robertson's Landmarks of Toronto" which consisted of six volumes.
The Toronto Evening Telegram was the first paper in Toronto to announce the Fenian Raid of 1866 at Ridgeway. John's groundbreaking journalism was apparent in his breathless eyewitness account of the Red River uprising of 1869-70.
With Globe correspondent Robert Cunningham, John travelled to the northwest by rail, steamer and for the last arduous 400 miles by horse-drawn cart. When John arrived at the Red River settlement in January 1870, Louis Riel promptly had him arrested and imprisoned in Upper Fort Gary, Winnipeg. After an interview with Riel, John was expelled as a "dangerous character"
He was elected to the House of Commons of Canada for the electoral district of Toronto East in the 1896 federal election defeating the incumbent Conservative MP, Emerson Coatsworth. An Independent Conservative, John did not run for re-election in 1900.
The world of sports was also a focus for Robertson's public spiritedness. A fervent advocate of amateur sport, he served as president of the Ontario Hockey Association from 1899 to 1905, which was a critical time period in the history of the sport.
His battle to protect hockey from the influence of professionalism caused him to be called the "Father of Amateur Hockey in Ontario. During his term as president, the OHA was able to set rules defining professionalism in hockey. He worked especially hard to rid hockey of increasing violence both on and off the ice. Robertson's donation of silver trophies to hockey, cricket and bowling further encouraged amateur competition. The championship trophy of the Ontario Hockey League, the "J. Ross Robertson Cup" is still named in his honour. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1947.
John passed away on May 31st, 1918 at the age of 76 in Toronto, Ontario.
He had bequeathed his considerable book collection to the Toronto Public Library, founded a children's home and left a large annuity to the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children.
The John Ross Robertson Public School, an elementary school within the Toronto District School Board is named after John and is located at 130 Glengrove Avenue West in Toronto.
With information from the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.