By Jim Hynes
McGill is in Andrew Hamilton’s blood. When the 22-year-old native of Pointe-Claire is handed his Political Science and Psychology diploma during Spring Convocation, he’ll be the first of a sixth generation of Hamiltons to graduate from the University.
“Given that McGill is so strongly linked to the history of our family, most of what I’ve heard of my ancestors is tied to the University to some degree,” Hamilton said. “McGill plays a key role in these stories, not only as the setting, but also as an actor – supporting my ancestors and forming them into the fascinating characters we still tell stories about today.”
Hamilton’s McGill family ties date back to his great-great-great-grandmother, Margaret McLean, who graduated from the McGill Normal School, the precursor to the Faculty of Education, with an Elementary teaching degree in 1858. The following year, McLean married Robert Hamilton, a native of Athlone, Ireland who at the time of his hiring as Groundskeeper and Supervisor of the Arts Building was one of only two full-time McGill employees, the other being Principal Sir William Dawson.
Robert Hamilton worked at McGill for 39 years, and he and Dawson are said to have planted the elm trees that once lined the road up to the Arts Building. The Hamilton family, which included their 10 surviving children, lived in the Gate House, close to where the Roddick Gates now stand. All five of their sons, including eldest son Edward Henry (Harry) Hamilton (B.A. sc. 1884), who served as captain of the McGill football team in 1884, graduated from McGill.
And so it began. Today, the total number of McGill graduates related by descent or by marriage to Robert and Margaret Hamilton is in the hundreds.
Through Sir William Dawson’s influence, Harry Hamilton entered into the field of Geology, which led him into the metallurgical field of mineral processing. He gained great renown for developing the mineral deposits of the western US and Canada. His sons Philip D.P. Hamilton (BSc ‘22) and Robert M.P. Hamilton (BSc ‘25) followed the family tradition and entered the field of metallurgy.
Philip Hamilton (Andrew’s great grandfather) married a McGill graduate, M. Evelyn Banfill Hamilton (BA ‘22). Their son, and Andrew’s grandfather, Philip Henry Banfill Hamilton, graduated from McGill with a BEng. in Metallurgy in 1954. He too married a member of his graduating class, Judy V. T. Patton Hamilton (BA ‘54). Their daughters (Andrew’s aunts) Margaret Maud Patton Hamilton (BA ‘88, Dip. Public Relations Management, ‘94) and Louise Edith Patton Hamilton (BA ‘90), make up the fifth generation of McGill Hamiltons.
Start them young
“We have always discussed the history of the family and our associations with McGill with our children and grandchildren,” says Andrew’s grandmother, Judy Hamilton, the family’s unofficial historian. “Our daughter Margaret remembers coming home from her first week of kindergarten and sitting at the kitchen table with a pad and pencil to figure out how many years it would be before she graduated from McGill.”
It’s too soon to say whether a seventh generation of Hamiltons will pass through the Rodddick Gates one day, but it seems a sure bet that Andrew will have some company from the sixth generation. His cousin Declan, then in Grade 2 and proudly sporting a new McGill cap and T-shirt on the first day of school, was asked by a schoolmate: “McGill, what’s that? Is it a sports team?”
“No, it’s a university,” Declan answered. “I am going to go there when I am older.”