The birthplace of ‘evil’?
Magazine selects Maple’s own Lord Beaverbrook as one of 10 worst Canadians
Successful? Sure. Ruthless? Perhaps. But evil?
William Maxwell Aitken, the first Lord Beaverbrook and Maple’s most famous son, is among the recent class of inductees into Canada’s Hall of Infamy as selected by an expert panel in the August/September issue of The Beaver.
“Even Beaverbrook’s most friendly biographer, A.J.P. Taylor admits: ‘Many people regarded him as an indescribably wicked, evil man,’ ” writes historian Michael Bliss in the magazine, which is devoted to Canadian history.
Beaverbrook was born in Maple in 1879 to Rev. William Aitken, minister of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. The Aitken family left Maple for New Brunswick in 1880.
Rev. Aitken has recently been immortalized in a tree sculpture carved by Peter Mogensen on the grounds of the church he once led.
In 1910, after a few corporate merger deals and the building and selling of a cement monopoly, the future Lord Beaverbrook left for England. Some say his departure helped him avoid securities fraud charges surrounding the sale of his Canada Cement company.
He quickly found his way into Britain’s halls of power, becoming a Member of Parliament that year. He was knighted the following year. In WWI, the Canadian government asked him to create the Canadian War Records Office. He was granted a peerage in 1917, upgrading him from merely Sir Aitken to Lord Beaverbrook.
“He contributed substantially to the corruption of British politics – specifically, the habit of buying titles and influence,” Bliss writes.
Despite his political achievements, Beaverbrook is perhaps best known as a media baron, whose empire included the London Evening Standard, Daily Express and Sunday Express.
During WWII, Lord Beaverbrook once again found himself close to the heart of British political power.
“Although a personal confidant of Winston Churchill, he served without distinction in senior British cabinet positions during World War II,” Bliss writes.
His life was not all business and politics, though. By the time of his death, in 1964, Lord Beaverbrook had given back to New Brunswick; many buildings there bear the names Aitken or Beaverbrook in recognition of his philanthropy.
Still, Bliss dismisses this as simply “morsels of patronage tossed to New Brunswick”.
The dubious honour bestowed on Lord Beaverbrook by The Beaver is shared with nine others, including a homegrown Hitler-wannabe, a pair of prime ministers and some folks with particularly nasty ideas about Canada’s native populations.
Vaughan Today Friday, August 31, 2007 Page: 2 Byline: Philip Alves