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Dictionary of Miramichi Biography

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AITKEN, WILLIAM CUTHBERT (1834-1913)

AITKEN, WILLIAM CUTHBERT, Presbyterian minister, Newcastle, 1880-1902, and Nelson, 1882-1902; b. Silvermine farm, near Torphichen, Linlithgowshire, Scotland, 28 Feb 1834, s/o Robert Aitken and Anne Anderson; m. 1867, Jane Noble, of Maple, Ont.; d. Newcastle, 13 Dec 1913.

William Aitken's family were the occupants of Silvermine farm, as tenants of the Marquis of Linlithgow, as early as 1613 and until the tenancy was relinquished by one of Aitken's brothers in 1884. The family was sufficiently well-to-do when Aitken was growing up for him to attend Bathgate Academy to age sixteen and the University of Edinburgh for a total of eight years, studying arts and divinity. He was examined for the ministry by the Presbytery of Linlithgow in 1858 but was not called to a parish until 1864, when he was ordained and sent to Cobourg, Ont., under auspices of the Church of Scotland. The following year he went to Maple, near Toronto, where he ministered for fifteen years. He then accepted a call to St James Church, Newcastle, and was inducted in 1880, as successor to the Rev. James Anderson. There were five children in the family at this time, the youngest of whom was W. Maxwell Aitken. Five more children were born in Newcastle, one of whom died in infancy.

As the father of Lord Beaverbrook, Aitken has been profiled in several biographical works. Typically he is depicted as having been a "formidable man of God," a reclusive, scholarly figure, out of touch with family and flock and the mundane demands of everyday life. His wife, by contrast, is said to have been a "wonderful manager" who held both the Aitken family and the St James congregation together. It is usually acknowledged, however, that in spite of tendencies towards austerity and dogmatism, Aitken had a sympathetic side and often rendered wise judgments.

Aitken was the minister of St James Church for twenty-two years, making his term second in length to that of the Rev. William Henderson. On 26 February 1882 he conducted the opening service at St James Presbyterian Church at Nelson, and he assumed pastoral responsibility for that church as well. He retired in 1902. As the manse was to be vacated to his successor, the Rev. Henry Arnott, who was inducted in April 1903, Aitken had to find other accommodations for himself and his wife. His son Max solved the problem by having a new house built for them in Newcastle, which Aitken named "Torphichen," after the village near his former home in Scotland.

Aitken was seventy-nine years of age when he died in Newcastle in 1913. His widow, Jane Noble, who was more than ten years his junior, died in 1927 while travelling in Britain. Besides R. Traven Aitken and W. Maxwell Aitken, there were a number of accomplished children in the family. Both the eldest daughter, Rahno Aitken, the wife of Dr Horatio Walker, and her sister Annie Aitken, were hospital superintendents in the United States. J. Magnus ("Mauns") Aitken was a Toronto banker and businessman who served in the ranks in the South Africa War and as an officer with the Canadian forces in France in World War I. Allan A. Aitken was a Montreal stockbroker who also served in the war and was decorated with the Military Cross. Arthur N. Aitken, the youngest son to live to adulthood, was a physician in Lockport, N.Y.

Sources

[b/m/d] FES / Advocate 21 Apr 1880, 16 Jun 1880, 16 Apr 1902; 17 Dec 1913; Aitken; Aitken family data; Driberg; Hoddinott; McLeod; Taylor; Walkington; World 22 Feb 1882


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