Hamar Greenwood: His Remarkable Career
G. B. VanBlaricom
FROM stranded actor to member of the Imperial House of Commons, from an amateur ’longshoreman to Parliamentary Secretary of a British Cabinet Minister, from a cattle drover to a Barrister-at-Law of Gray’s Inn—all within the period of thirteen years—reads more like the stirring romance of a twentieth century novelist than a stern recital of fact.
In tabloid form, this is the career of Hamar Greenwood, senior M.P. for the City of York, England, since 1906, erstwhile resident of the peaceful Town of Whitby, Ontario. His life has been filled with more outstanding features than that which characterizes the lot of the average young man who has to fight his way to the front inch by inch. At school young Greenwood developed many things, among them a liking-for English history and a decided aversion for mathematics. In the athletic arena he was a leader, and, as a long-distance walker and expert cricketer, won more than local repute. His pedestrian propensities resulted in his holding the one mile championship and capturing first place in a six-day contest. Of a naturally optimistic and cheerful temperament he develop-
ed public spirit along with physical agility and self-reliance. When a student at Whitby Collegiate Institute he was president of the Literary Society, captain of the Cadet Corps, and the leader in other organizations. The genius to get on was in the lad ; it found expression on all sides. Well liked by his associates for his manly qualities, his sense of honesty and fair play, he was fond of adventure, of coming close in contact with human nature, of investigating things for himself, and then drawing his own conclusions. He believed in the results of actual experience.
Securing a third-class certificate and passing the matriculation examination, he entered the Whitby Model School, which he attended for one month. Learning one day that the trustees in the village of Manchester were looking for a teacher, he secured the position at a salary of $350 a year, and, obtaining a permit, began to impart knowledge to the young. The reason lie gave for not continuing lectures at the Model School was the plausible one of illhealth. However, at the end of the term he presented himself for examination, passed, and all was forgiven. He taught school
in Manchester, eighteen miles north of Whitby, for three or four years, and then determined to take a university course. He polished off the examinations of the first term without being present at a lecture, carrying on his studies while teaching. In 1895 he graduated in Arts, with honors in Political Science. His father, the late John Hamar Greenwood, was a lawyer, the oldest practitioner at the Bar in the County of Ontario, and a Welshman; his mother, of Scotch extraction, bearing the family name of Churchill. “Spencerhouse” was their homestead. A rather remarkable coincidence is that Hamar Greenwood to-day— in his thirty-ninth year—is Parliamentary Secretary to the Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer Churchill, President of the Board of Trade —a rare combination of names, although the two men are in no way related.
If there is one ancient and honorable pastime that English gentlemen prize it is cricket. As a boy the batting and bowling of Hamar Greenwood was phenomenal. Charles Logan, Sam Ray, James Lang, and other famous Canadian exponents of the game were his instructors, and he was a proficient pupil. At sixteen years of age he was one of the Canadian eleven that did battle with visitors from across the border in an international match.
With the money earned by teaching, Hamar Greenwood made his own way through college. At the close of the third year he was one of a theatrical troupe composed of ambitious amateurs and semi-professionals, who started out with high hopes but light pockets, to furnish entertainment for several towns and villages during the fall fairs season. F. E. Karn, now a Toronto druggist, was business manager, and Greenwood took the leading role. He was the heavy villain, although his weight never exceeded 160 pounds. The venture of the amateur aggregation was not remunerative, and at Goderich the business manager deserted. The organization was promptly re-organized, and Mr. Greenwood made manager. For a few nights the company played to bumper houses, and for the first time the salaries of the cast were paid in full. Fortune is fickle, and often plays pranks upon her pursuers. At Kincardine disaster overtook the Thespians and left them all stranded. Greenwood had only a few cents to call his own, and wired
home for money. Now Mr. Greenwood, sr., was a strict churchman, and had little or no sympathy for the stage or its votaries. •His son’s escapade was up to this time unknown to him. Back came the laconic reply: “Hamar Greenwood, Kincardine:
The walking is good. Better walk.” The love of a mother had been aroused, and she sent her impecunious son enough cash to enable him to get back to Toronto. Thus ended the career of Hamar Greenwood on the stage of dramatic art—just a few years prior to his entering the political stage of which he is now such an aggressive and distinguished member.
His university, as well as his political career, have been full of interest and incident. He was one of the ringleaders in the famous “students’ strike” as it is called. In the memorable year of 1895 he stood shoulder to shoulder with the late James A. Tucker, W. L. Mackenzie King, and others. At the student mass meetings he was a power in debate. He had courage, conviction and ideas to which he was not afraid to give utterance. For the principles in which he believed he vigorously contended. Summoned one day to the office of the then President, he there found Mr. Loudon and another member of the professorial staff. Mr. Greenwood made a remark and the professor interjected that it was not true. His tone and attitude intimated that the young man was lying. In a second young Greenwood had peeled off his coat and stood facing his accuser in a menacing manner. “What I said is true and, you know it,” he exclaimed. “Now, take back your words or I will throw you out of the window.” President Loudon was dumbfounded, but finally managed to pour oil upon the troubled waters. The result was the offending professor promptly apologized and took back the statement.
In the pursuit of knowledge and the study of political economy, Hamar Greenwood was resolved to learn conditions first hand—to get an accurate acquaintance with things as they were, and betook himself to Buffalo during his student days, where he found employment as a ’longshoreman. He hustled freight on the docks and shipped in a lumber barge on the Great Lakes as far as Duluth. Having learned of this and the somewhat radical reforms which “the strikers” desired in connection with the
conduct and administration of university affairs, Hon. S. H. Blake put a pointed question to him during the memorable investigation.
“Are you an Anarchist?” thundered the renowned K.C.
“No, sir. I’m an Anglican,” answered the witness. The totally unlooked-for sally created much merriment at the expense of the celebrated lawyer, who, for many years has been the most prominent layman in the councils of that great religious body.
After graduation in 1895, Hamar Greenwood, who was captain of a company in the 34th Battalion, spent a couple of weeks in camp, and while there determined he would add to his stock of experience by once more coming in direct contact with common, every-day conditions. A good deal of discussion was going on in the press relative to the British embargo on Canadian cattle. He was anxious to learn more of the question and secured a place on a cattle ship. Roughly attired, he crossed the Atlantic and landed in Liverpool with just five dollars in his pocket. To Radnor, in Wales, he made his way, intending to visit some of his father’s relatives at Knighton. An election contest was then in full swing and within twenty-four hours after reaching Radnor he was in the throes of the campaign. His ability as a speaker, his genuine grasp of political problems, made his services invaluable in support óf the Liberal candidate who was placed at the head of the poll. A few days later he journeyed to London, where he found work in the office of a broker. At Y.M.C.A. gatherings Mr. Greenwood, who had always been a staunch advocate of temperance, gave several addresses. The cogency and pointedness of his remarks soon attracted the attention of the late Robert Rae, who was president of the National Temperance League. Mr. Greenwood was appointed organizer. In that capacity he visited numerous towns and cities throughout Great Britain and Ireland, organizing temperance societies and delivering lectures on Canada. He spent two years or more on the lecture platform, and early cast in his lot with the Colonial Club. Later he joined the National Liberal Club, and, finally, became a member of the Eighty Club, the biggest Liberal organiza-
tion in Great Britain. Thus he came in close communion with the Liberal party and was engaged as one of the speakers in several bye-elections. For three or four years he rendered excellent service, being valiant, vigorous and progressive. In England it is not unusual for a Parliamentary representative to reside beyond the bounds of his constituency. Mr. Greenwood was offered the Liberal nomination in Grimsby, but declined as the riding was hopelessly Conservative. In 1906 his splendid work on the platform had won such recognition that the Liberal organizers in London requested him to go up to the City of York and speak in the interests of a retired Indian general, who was anxious to secure the nomination and a seat in the House. He complied. The convention after listening to his virile address, said, as with one accord: “It is the young fellow we want, not the old.” The nomination was then offered Mr. Greenwood. So suddenly was the honor proffered he thought the party had been momentarily carried away with excitement and was inclined to look upon the whole affair in the light of a joke. He returned to London, but York Liberals would not let him rest. The next day they chartered a special train and one thousand of the stalwarts boarded it “bound for London town.” They were deadly in earnest, and would not take no for an answer. The army officer seeing the trend of events, approached Mr. Green wood: “Take it, man, take it, I can secure another constituency,” he said. Mr. Greenwood finally yielded to persuasion and accepted the honor. The constituency had been Conservative, and had sent men like Lord Charles Beresford, Sir Christopher Furness and others to Parliament. In a strenuous contest, Mr. Greenwood was one of the two members elected, capturing York in the Liberal interest and heading the polls. This is how the plucky young Canadian became senior member for York in the Imperial House of Commons.
Meanwhile, during his political pilgrimages in the interests of the Liberal party, he had engaged in newspaper work and studied law, being admitted a Barrister of Gray’s Inn. He has appeared frequently before the Privy Council and has been engaged on a number of leading cases, particularly those of the Commercial Cable
Co., the C.P.R., the Provinces of British Columbia, Quebec and Manitoba.
Mr. Greenwood was one of a party of English M.P.’s, under the direction of Sir Alfred Jones, who visited Jamaica a couple of years ago. Ele was there during the terrific earthquake, which destroyed a large portion of the City of Kingston. He had left his hotel for a few minutes, and was in the act of returning when the cataclysm occurred and the building was shattered. His journalistic instinct was at once aroused ; instantly he knew the value of such news as an earthquake doing millions of dollars worth of damage and costing many lives. By resource and diplomacy he managed to land one of the biggest newspaper scoops of modern years, whereby the London Daily Mail beat the whole world in the tidings of the awful catastrophe. All telegraphic and cable communication had been sundered, the earthquake cutting ofif every line. A United States man-of-war way lying in the harbor and alongside it a swift cutter. Going down to the man-ofwar Greenwood addressed the captain in official tones : ‘T am a representative,” he
declared, “of the Imperial Government and must get an important despatch through at once to the Under-Secretary of State (Mr. Churchill). Elave this conveyed to the nearest cable station at once.” The cutter set sail for Cuba, the nearest station, where the message was forwarded to home office. The Daily Mail thus got the first story of the earthquake—'about three hundred words—many hours ahead of any of its American or European contemporaries, although correspondents representing all the leading journals were on the scene, madly endeavoring to get ofif a few words to their papers. Thus llamar Greenwood scored a record scoop by foresight, tact and good headwork.
Fond of riding, shooting and fishing, the M.P. for York comes to Canada for a holiday every year. As a Parliamentary repre-
sentative he has made his influence felt. The Colonies have no sturdier representative or more gifted champion than he in the Imperial House. He believes on all questions affecting their welfare and interest that the greatest measure of liberty should be accorded them, being convinced that the men on the spot more adequately appreciate and comprehend the true condition of affairs than do the Imperial lawmakers on Downing Street. In the recent discussion regarding Natal, Mr. Greenwood spoke strongly against the course of *the Government upholding the right of free action on the part of that colony. Canada has not a more spirited or watchful friend in Great Britain than the senior M.P. for York. By nature optimistic, exuberant and broacl-minded, he has always displayed decision and judgment in all his actions in the House, while his epigrammatic utterances on quesions of statecraft leave no doubt as to the soundness of his views or the clarity of his vision.
An illustration of the deep interest Mr. Greenwood takes in all matters Canadian was furnished in the movement headed by him to erect a suitable stone as a tribute to Mr. Franklin McLeay, a native of Woodstock, Ontario, the foremost Canadian actor, who was associated with Wilson Barrett in many of his master productions. He was determined that the splendid genius of McLeay should not go unrecognized, and to-day a modest monument marks the grave of this brilliant Canadian.
Hamar Greenwood has never lost his zeal in matters military, and was for many vears a lieutenant in the Canadian militia. To-day he is a major in the King’s Colonials. He is a bachelor. A prominent English newspaper circulated the report some time ago that he was about to wed. In answer to a query from an ardent Canadian admirer, he cabled: “Report untrue.
Am still a monk.”