In 1900, a young entrepreneur from London Ontario, described by his contemporaries as a “born merchant with an alert sense of promotion”, took over a Hamilton department store and renamed it G.W. Robinson – so began a retail success story. The flagship store on James Street South at King Street West is now a parking lot, but the family’s legacy lives on in its substantial support of the Hamilton Community Foundation.
Away from his demanding business life, Mr. Robinson enjoyed many leisure pursuits through his memberships at such clubs as The Thistle, the Hamilton, the Caledon Mountain Trout and the Hamilton Golf and Country Clubs. As well, he belonged to the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, the Scottish Rite and Barton Lodge.
Mr. Robinson and his wife Esther, had a daughter, Kathleen Lenore and a son, Lieutenant George Victor, who died in 1916 during the First World War. In 1917, Kathleen, also known as Kitty, married Robert Pickard McBride. Their match was a balance of Robert’s gregarious, open personality and Kathleen’s quiet reserve.
Robert Pickard McBride was admitted to the Ontario Bar in 1911 and later appointed Queen’s Council and practiced corporate commercial law at the firm Lees, Hobson and Co. until 1924, when he left to establish the law firm of Peat & McBride. Later he became a senior partner in the firm of McBride, Hickey, Green & McCallum. The firm lives on today under the name of Ross & McBride.
Robert’s community involvement included a fraternal affiliation with the Barton Lodge, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, as well as memberships in the Murton Lodge of Perfection, the Hamilton Club and the Hamilton Golf and Country Club. He was also a lieutenant in the Reserve Battalion of the Royal Hamilton Regiment.
Mr. McBride also served as one of The Hamilton Community Foundation’s earliest Directors, being elected to the Board of Directors in 1958. He was also a long-time member of the Board of Hamilton Sanatorium.
Miss Melba Johnston, who worked with Mr. McBride as a secretary for over 40 years, recalls her boss as a gentleman who was well-liked by all in the office. “I could not have worked for a better man. Kathleen was an excellent woman who was generous wherever it was needed.”
The McBrides’ acts of generosity, both public and private, were done with an eye to the good their money could do for those in need. To that end, the family bequeathed the residue of its estate to the Foundation and is invested in the community in which it was created for the benefit of future generations.
Robert P. McBride and Kathleen Robinson McBride’s legacy to their community lives beyond their own lifetimes.
Excerpts from 1986-1987, 1988-1989 and 1992-1993 Annual Reports