Description Hon Sen Thomas Cantley, Obituary

The Eastern Chronicle, New Glasgow, NS, Thursday, 1 March, 1945.

Senator Cantley Passes

Dies At Home in New Glasgow After A Long Period of Ill Health

New Glasgow lost its Number One citizen on Saturday, when Hon. Senator Thomas Cantley, died at the age of eighty-eight years.  He was born in this town and here spent all his home years.  From his early days he was a factor in the life of the town, and while he never aspired to Municipal honors he was more energenic and interested in the civic welfare than many who did.  His whole life was marked by activity and his accomplishments were many and on a major scale.  He could well be termed a community builder and looking back down the years you find his impress on many of the chief enterprises that helped create the prosperity that this section enjoyed.

And during his life his unbounded energy marked his career and when he believed he was right he threw himself into the task wholeheartedly.

Our first recollection of Thomas Cantley was as a merchant, when he conducted a tea, crockery, brick and lime business in the store now occupied by MacCarron's restaurant.  The old advertisements in this paper of that date indicate that it was a business of considerable proportions.  Personal merchandising not giving him scope enough for his activities he joined the staff of the Nova Scotia Steel Company as sales representative and he marketed the product of that industry in Upper Canada in great quantities.  The industry hummed under his salesmanship and on its list of eager customers where particularly the leading manufacturers of agricultural implements.  His co-operation with Graham Fraser and especially Simon A. Fraser, the chief engineer enabled the concern to grow to huge proportions. 

Mr. Cantley along with the late R.E. Chambers, shared in acquiring the iron areas at Belle Isle and from then on the future of the industry was on secure footing. On the retirement of Mr. Graham Fraser, Mr. Cantley became the President and General Manager of the Steel company and for several years he was chief moving factor in all the enlargements of that industry. 

To him must go the credit for the first manufacture of shells in the First World War.  This was a personal triumph and while he became a member of the Shell Committee it was under his direction at Trenton that the first Canadian Shells were made and manufactured. 

In fact his foresight and initiative marked his activities.  It will be recalled that at Trenton during the First War were built the first Canadian steel ships.  The young shipbuilder Levy MacMillan came here surcharged with the idea that he could build ships at Trenton that were so badly needed.  He interviewed some of the heads at Trenton, Colonel Cantley was not at home.  Mr. MacMillan did not get much encouragement.  So he took the train for Cape Breton and met Colonel Cantley in Antigonish. On the return trip to New Glasgow he laid his plans before the Colonel, who at once seized with the idea, told MacMillan to go ahead.  Seven steel vessels were launched from that yard and they were the handiwork of Nova Scotians.  One thing that distinguished Colonel Cantley was his loyalty to the local workmen.  He never in public lost an opportunity to extol the ability of the Pictou County workers as mechanics and men to be depended upon.  The men in his employ reciprocated and it is not on record that any strikes or tie-ups featured his operations. 

From the start of Aberdeen Hospital he was one of its most indefatigable supporters and for twenty years president of the Hospital Board.  He was a staunch member of the Presbyterian Church and during the days of strife for its continuance, he was one of the outstanding supporters of the Church of his Fathers, and remained so.

Colonel Cantley first entered the political field in 1921 when he contested this County as Conservative candidate but was unsuccessful.  He was elected in 1925, 1926 and in 1930 and in 1935 he was appointed to the Senate.  That was an especial tribute to him.  For Pictou County already had a Senator, but Prime Minister Bennett of that day deemed that Colonel Cantley was more worthy of the appointment than any of his Nova Scotia supporters, and called him to the Senate.  The Eastern Chronicle, not a political supporter in tendering its sincere congratulations to the new Senator, declared that it was one of the acts of Premier Bennett deserving of highest commendation.  In his political life, Senator Cantley carried no personal animus.  He never parted friendship with those who opposed him.  He had few as warm friends in Pictou County as Hon. E. M. Macdonald and James A. Fraser, both of whom opposed him in a federal election, and both reciprocated his friendship.  They like the Colonel were to big for trivialities.

As a representative at Ottawa, Colonel Cantley was splendid and had the confidence of all his constituents regardless of their politics.  And now passes into reverred memory this loyal Pictonian and one who exercised a notable influence upon the place of his birth, which he loved above all other and for which he spent his great talents and energies.  The place will know him no more but he will long be kindly remembered.  He was married in 1883 to Maria, daughter of Donald Fraser, Pictou.  She died in 1930.  Surviving children are: Howard, superintendent of Trenton Steel and now convalescing in Florida; Donald, in the lumber business and Marian, Mrs. W. T. Hayden.  There are a number of grandchildren.

Two children predeceased him - a daughter Helen in 1911 and a son Charles L. in 1935.  Predeceasing him a year ago was a sister, Mrs. A. C. Fife, formerly of Trenton.

File Location

micro film, #38 #49

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