Lord Beaverbrook: A Canadian Hero

Lord Beaverbrook: A Canadian Hero
Condredge Dole
Prof. Smith History 203-01
November 18, 1998
Lord Beaverbrook was a great contributor to the Nationhood of Canada and to the freedom of the world. Though many only know him for the school named after him, he did much for Canada and the British Commonwealth. The role he played in both world wars changed the course of history. As Canada's 'Eye Witness' and Britain's Minister of Information in the First World War and their Minister of Aircraft Production and Supply in the Second World War, Beaverbrook was instrumental in the war efforts and the preservation of freedom. As a man of personal success he was also able to help bring success to Canada early this century through his business investments and his political involvement. His education, firm religious foundation and his drive for success during his early life put him in the position to affect positive changes and influences on the British Empire.
William Aitken, a Presbyterian minister, immigrated to Canada from Scotland and had his third son, Max Aitken, in Maple, Ontario on May 25, 1879. Shortly after the family moved to Newcastle, New Brunswick where the boy grew up in the local parish manse with his eight brothers and sisters. Though academics were never his strength, the boy loved to read old books from his father's library. His favourites were 'English Seamen in the Sixteenth Century' by J.A. Froude and R.L. Stevenson's many books. He claims to have even skipped school to read them in his hayloft! The boy's education thus was largely based on the tales of the high seas and adventure. Some would say that that era would have suited him best. He would have been a Magellan or a Drake had he been born in the sixteenth century. But instead Max turned his energy and passion to the cut throat world of business where he conquered a many 'Spanish Armadas'. Even at the early age of eight, the boy began his entrepreneurial exploits. He began in the egg business selling eggs from his own chickens to his neighbours. On one occasion Max received an order for extra eggs and so he 'borrowed' some from his mother's pantry. The following day his customer asked, Were those eggs fresh? Why, weren't they?, Aitken replied. His customer then said, Well, they were the first fresh-laid eggs I have ever seen arrive hard boiled! Ah, said Max, I was frightened the thunderstorm we had yesterday would affect the hens! The mischievous side of Max never left him. Those who knew him often mentioned his child-like mischief and his 'impish smile'. In fact 'impish' seems to be the word most authors use to describe the man. His smile was very characteristic, it stretched across his face and was very contagious. Many enjoyed his company and could not help but laugh with the man and his childish nature. Wood once wrote of him in the Picture Post, 'He will never grow old: the reason is that he has never grown up!' It was not immaturity that attracted others, but his charm. In fact his friends were often much older and greatly respected by the public, these included Bonar Law, Rudyard Kipling and Winston Churchill. John Buchan also wrote about him saying, Beaverbrook is not a bad man: he is only a bad boy.
William Aitken spent his savings on the education of his oldest son, leaving his other children to fend for themselves. Thus Max, at the age of sixteen, began to seek his fortune. He began at a job with the local druggist but soon dreamed of being a lawyer. He worked for awhile as a clerk for a lawyer but became impatient with that knowing that he would never become a lawyer that way. He entered a secondary institution to study law and rediscovered that his aptitude for academics was still rather limited. He followed his entrepreneurial background and got involved in business. After only five years he had become a millionaire from nothing. He derived most of his fortune from the cement industry here in Canada. He was also involved in rail roads and electricity, but especially journalism. Lord Beaverbrook, as he was called after being raised to peerage in 1916 , is widely known for his newspapers.