On October 10, 2002 the law firm of McMaster, McIntyre & Smyth celebrated the centenary of W.A. McMaster's arrival in the Junction to begin the practice of law. The event was hosted by the current partners in the firm, W. A. (Sandy) McIntyre, W. A. McMaster's grandson and namesake, and James A. (Jim) Smyth, the husband of W. A. McMaster's granddaughter Mary. Except for overseas service during World War One, W. A. practiced law for almost 58 years, residing in the Junction from 1902 until his death in 1961. The law practice he founded continues to be a thriving general practice and a vital part of the present-day Junction business district. William Alexander McMaster was born in Ekfrid Township, Middlesex County, Ontario, on February 7, 1879. He completed high school at Glencoe, southwest of London, going on to read law with Glencoe lawyer, Alexander Stewart. He then completed his legal education at Osgoode Hall in Toronto, where one of his teachers was John King, the father of future Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King. He graduated and was called to the Bar in 1902.His first job was with the office of lawyer Donald L. Sinclair at 76 Dundas St. W., Toronto Junction, later at 26 Dundas St. W. This was apparently a branch office for Sinclair, whose main office was in the prestigious Canada Life Assurance Building on King Street West in downtown Toronto. It's likely that he operated the office on his own for the most part and, according to the city directory W. A. McMaster was practicing on his own at 26 Dundas St. W. within three years.
W.A. found lodgings a short distance away on Annette Street, west of Keele and, like many single men of the period, continued to live in boarding houses in a variety of locations close to the office until his marriage. He involved himself in biggest local issue of the day by becoming secretary of the citizens' committee that supported the passage of the "local option" to prohibit the sale of liquor in Toronto Junction. Shortly after the amalgamation of West Toronto with the City of Toronto in 1909, W. A. joined lawyer A. J. Anderson in a practice located at 936 Keele Street, "the fourth door north of Dundas" according to the firm's advertising. Anderson, who also came from Middlesex County, was sixteen years older than his new partner and had practiced law in various partnerships since 1894. He had served on the Toronto Junction Council 1899-1902 and was also Solicitor for Toronto Junction and the short-lived City of West Toronto. A. J. Anderson would later serve as the Conservative Member of Parliament for York West and High Park from 1925 until 1945.
Ten years into his legal career, in August of 1912, W. A. married Elsie Louise Whitmore, a native of Edgeley, Ontario, and the couple settled into the handsome house at 144 High Park Avenue, which was designed by architect H. G. Paull and built by Mather & Fogg in 1909. It remained home for rest of their lives together. By 1913, Anderson & McMaster had moved to the Rowntree Building at the southwest corner of Dundas and Mavety. The offices were located on the second floor above Rowntree and Sons Grocers and Butchers. Although the official address was on Dundas Street, the main entrance to the office was probably at the side of the building at 225 Mavety Street.
April of 1916, W. A. McMaster was 37 years old. He had been married less than three years and he had two very young children, sons Donald and William. However, at that time he enlisted with the 109th Regiment in the militia and volunteered for overseas service with 204th Infantry Battalion in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). The 204th Battalion left Canada for England on March 26, 1917. McMaster was assigned to the 2nd Reserve Battalion on arrival. Although he held the rank of Major, he reverted to the rank of Lieutenant when he assigned to the to the 3rd Battalion in the 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade (CIB) in early August of 1917 A year later in August 1918, McMaster's battalion was involved in the "Hundred Days" campaign that ended World War One and in which the Canadians were key participants, achieving some of their greatest victories of the war. However, the successes came at great cost. The Canadians suffered 45,835 casualties, almost twenty per cent of the casualties suffered by the CEF in the entire war.
The "Hundred Days" began on 8 August 1918 at Amiens, north-east of Paris, with a surprise attack on the German lines that was spearheaded by the Canadian Corps and the Australian Corps. The victory at Amiens was the Allied breakthrough that marked the beginning of the end for the German Army. As German General Erich Ludendorff would later write: "August 8 was the black day [der Swartze Tag] of the German Army in this war ". It was at the Battle of Amiens that Lt. W. A. McMaster earned the Military Cross.
The 3rd Battalion was part of the second wave of the Canadian attack. The 3rd Battalion had great difficulty in reaching the jump-off point for its part of the attack and it found itself in great difficulty facing formidable German opposition on difficult terrain. Over fifty percent the officers of the 3rd Battalion were casualties. Lt. McMaster took over leadership of "A" Company after its commander was killed, kept the company together, and achieved the company's battlefield objective.
Within the month the Canadian Corps was again on the attack. From Amiens, the Corps had moved north to a position near the city of Arras facing the entrenched German positions that comprised the Hindenburg Line. The Canadian objective was to breach a particularly heavily-fortified portion of the Hindenburg Line that was known as the Drocourt-Queant (D-Q) Line. The Battle of Arras began on 26 August 1918. The 3rd Battalion, with W.A. McMaster now serving as a company commander, went on the attack on 30 August and the Canadians were through the D-Q Line by 2 September.
The 3rd Battalion was in the thick of the action on September 27, 1918, the first day of the operations at the Canal du Nord. The partly-finished canal acted as a dry moat and was a key part of the German defenses to the west of the city of Cambrai, an important transportation hub in north-east France. The German force would defend Cambrai ferociously For his actions in leading his company across the Canal du Nord to a position north of Bourlon Wood, A/ Capt. McMaster was awarded a Bar to his Military Cross, one of only 294 Canadian officers to achieve this double award. The citation for this decoration read: For marked gallantry and good work in command of a company during the Bourlon Wood operations on 27th September, 1918. Under point-blank fire from an enemy battery he pushed a platoon forward on either flank and captured the guns with their crews. Later, by good leadership, he silenced a machine-gun post. On reaching the final objective he ably consolidated. His company captured nine guns. Ironically, he survived some of the fiercest fighting of the war only to come close to losing his life to influenza in Belgium at the beginning of March 1919. He was hospitalized in England for almost a month before returning to Canada for demobilization.
In April 1919, returned to his family in Canada and to his law practice. He and his wife had three more children, daughters Dorothy and Margaret and another son, Angus. He continued his law practice with A.J. Anderson until the partnership was dissolved in the mid-1920's. The breach with Anderson was a serious one, so much so that W.A. McMaster would not take another law partner for the remaining 35 years of his legal career, even though he practiced with his sons and a son-in-law for the most of that period.
W.A. established his new office above the Bank of Montreal at 2958 Dundas St. W., corner of Keele. The practice would remain at this location for over fifty-five years. W. A. McMaster was a vigorous, life-long proponent of temperance. McMaster lived the principles of temperance and his example made a lasting impression on others. Dorothy (McMaster) McIntyre recalled that, at the time of her father's death in 1961, men who had served with her father in the Great War over forty years earlier were moved to remark to her that they admired her father because he "never took a drink". This might not appear to be remarkable unless one bears in mind that a tot of rum was part of daily rations at the front.
In 1916, the sale and service of alcohol in Ontario was prohibited through the passage of the Ontario Temperance Act. The decade that followed saw varied efforts to circumvent the O.T.A. that included bootlegging, the production of moonshine and the issuing of hundreds of thousands of prescriptions for medicinal alcohol. The Conservative government of Premier Howard Ferguson proposed to address these problems and to advance "the interests of temperance and of the moral welfare of the Province" by replacing prohibition with the government-regulated sale of alcohol. The provincial election of 1926 became a referendum on the future of the Ontario Temperance Act. In no provincial riding was that more the case than in High Park. The Conservatives nominated Toronto Alderman (and former West Toronto Mayor) W. A. Baird. The Liberals chose not to field a candidate and Baird went so far as to advertise himself as the "Liberal-Conservative Candidate". Although he was a committed Conservative, W. A. McMaster chose to oppose his party's candidate on this matter of principle. He accepted the nomination of the High Park Temperance Union to run as an independent candidate and he made a highly creditable showing by receiving 6,809 votes to Baird's 10,653.
In 1928, W.A. was appointed King's Counsel. By the end of the 1930s, his two eldest sons, Donald and William, had followed him into law and joined him in the firm which was renamed McMaster and McMaster. In later years his third son, Angus McMaster, also joined the practice.
Donald McMaster joined the RCAF after the outbreak of World War Two. In 1943 the family received the terrible news that Donald had been killed in action over North Africa. His name is carved in stone at Soldiers' Tower, Hart House, with that of other men from the university who died in the world wars.
W.A.'s daughter Dorothy qualified as a teacher and took a position in Maple Grove, east of Oshawa. While there she met Roy McIntyre and they were married in 1942. Alexander Roy McIntyre hailed from Elora, Ontario. After graduating from Victoria College in 1939, he had gone to work for General Motors. Then in 1942 he joined the War Services department of the YMCA of Canada, serving with "Y" in Canada, England and in Europe. At the end of the war he took a position with the Dominion Life Insurance Company for a time, but found himself drawn to a career in law. After graduating from the University of New Brunswick Law School, he joined his father-in-law and brothers-in-law in the family firm which was renamed McMaster, McMaster and McIntyre. On the retirement of A. J. Anderson, the Progressive Conservatives in High Park riding nominated W.A. McMaster as their candidate for Parliament. On June 11, 1945, he was elected to the House of Commons. High Park had been a safe Conservative seat for many years, but during the 1930s the political balance began to shift towards the Liberals. W. A. managed to substantially increase the margin for his party in that election. W.A. was sixty-six years old when he took his seat in the House.
He stood for re-election in June of 1949 but was defeated by less than 500 votes. In July 1957, the West Toronto Weekly ran a profile of W.A. McMaster for its readers. "First in the office every morning, and last to leave at night" was the way the daily routine of the 78-year-old lawyer was described, a man of "keen mind, strong convictions, leadership and highest regard for the true ideals of life" highlighting his service to High Park United Church and to the High Park YMCA. W.A. McMaster died on March 4, 1961 at the age of 82. He continued to practice law until a few months before his death, more that 58 years after he arrived in the Junction as a young, newly-qualified lawyer.
After W.A.'s death, the practice was continued by William McMaster and Roy McIntyre until the sudden death of William in 1968 left Roy McIntyre as the sole principal in the practice. In the same way that Roy McIntyre's father-in-law lead him to make a career change and go into the law, so too did he inspire his son-in-law, Jim Smyth, to make such a change. Jim had qualified as a Charted Accountant before he decided to make the change to the law. What motivated him, he said, was the example of how Roy McIntyre related to people and how he conducted himself in his professional life. Jim enrolled at the University of Toronto Law School a year before his brother-in-law, Sandy McIntyre, began his law studies at Queen's University. Before Jim and Sandy completed their studies, Roy McIntyre's health failed and he died in January of 1978. After their admission to the Bar, Sandy McIntyre and Jim Smyth became partners in the law firm of McMaster, McIntyre and Smyth. Shortly after they taking over the over the practice, Sandy and Jim were faced with the need to look for new premises as the Bank of Montreal had tripled their rent.
The firm purchased a modest commercial building down the street at 2777 Dundas St. W. which had been used for a variety of purposes including a kitchen cabinet shop, a laundry, and a plumbing supply shop. It was completely renovated before the firm moved in 1984. In the revitalization of the Junction Business District along Dundas Street , McMaster, McIntyre and Smyth were clearly "ahead of the curve". It is interesting to note the chambers over the Bank of Montreal have remained unoccupied for almost twenty years. Sandy McIntyre also followed his father and grandfather in his involvement with the YMCA. In 2002, after over two decades of volunteer service in the Toronto YMCA, Sandy became Chair of YMCA Canada, the YMCA's national organization.