McGill University

September 5, 2009

When James McGill died in 1813 he left his Burnside country estate and an endowment for the foundation of a college to be called after him.

This being frosh week I’d like to take you on a virtual stroll through campus.

We will enter campus through the main Roddick gates on Sherbrooke Street.

The Roddick gates were built on the site of the original gatehouse, donated in 1924 by Lady Amy Redpath Roddick in memory of her husband, Sir Thomas George Roddick, a renowned doctor who began the regular practice of sterile surgery using antiseptics. Because punctuality was important to him his wife decided a fitting memorial would be an entrance gate with a clock tower with chimes. Ironically, the clocks and chimes occasionally stop with each of the four faces telling a different time.

On the left we pass the McLennan and Redpath Libraries. On the wall of the library at the McTavish Street entrance between the McLennan and Redpath Libraries is this quote

“Beholding the bright countenance of truth in the quiet & still air of delightful studies.”

In front of the library is the flag football field & across from it on the right is a statue commissioned to celebrate McGill University’s 175th year. The statue is of Mr. James McGill. He is looking hale & healthy with coat tail flowing out behind him as if he weree having a stroll through campus. Behind him are various building; Burnside Hall, Mac Donald Stewart Library, MacDonald Harrington Bldg, and the McDonald Engineering Building.

Further up on the left is the wonderful sculpture of three unclad males that staff members often refer to as the three bares. Forming a backdrop for the sculpture is the Redpath Museum and the Arts Building. Inside the museum you will find a very old and very interesting mummy.

In front of the oldest of the university buildings, the Arts Building stands a monument. If you were to stop to read the inscription you will no doubt be surprised because it is the resting place of the wonderful Scot himself, Sir James McGill.

“Peacefully he slumbers there, blissful though we’re on the tear”

After Mr. McGill death in 1813, his remains were interred in the Protestant Burying Ground on Dorchester Street. In 1873, the city expropriated the cemetery to make room for a public square. The University arranged for removal of the monument and the remains of James McGill to the current site in front of the Arts Building. In 1875, the new site was consecrated by the Church of England.

When a gingko tree, a gift from Japan died in 1967 it was replaced with a commemorative garden dedicated in grateful remembrance of the sacrifices made by members of McGill University in the 2nd World War. Today you will see red and white flowers planted there.

Frosh week is always an exciting time on campus. Last night the atmosphere was alive with activity. My daughter reported that the grounds were decorated with small white lights and flowers were seen everywhere. Musicians were packing up their instruments and a long line of students were waiting to buy hot dogs and hamburgers as the concert drew to an end

A group of 10 or more students sitting on the stair were having a wonderful time singing. They really did a fine job of “California Dreaming…with lovely harmonies and all…

Thank you Mr. James McGill.


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