William Renwick Riddell | The Canadian Encyclopedia


William Renwick Riddell

William Renwick Riddell, lawyer, judge, historian, publicist (b at Hamilton Twp, Canada W 6 Apr 1852; d at Toronto 18 Feb 1945).

William Renwick Riddell, lawyer, judge, historian, author (b at Hamilton Twp, Canada W 6 Apr 1852; d at Toronto 18 Feb 1945). The son of a comfortable Scottish Presbyterian farming family, Riddell attended Cobourg Grammar School and Victoria College, earning a BA (1874), BSc (1877) and LLB (1878) at the latter. After winning the Law Society of Upper Canada's gold medal and being called to the bar in 1883, he began a successful law practice in Cobourg and by 1893 had moved to Toronto. Elected a bencher of the Law Society in 1891 and named a QC in 1899, he was appointed to the bench of the Supreme Court of Ontario in 1906 and promoted to the appeal division in 1925.

Although an able judge who served on several important public inquiries and ROYAL COMMISSIONS, Riddell left his greatest mark as a Canadian historian and publicist. He published some 1258 articles, reviews, lectures, pamphlets and books in the fields of legal, constitutional, medical and social history. A life-long student who mastered 8 languages, Riddell was a meticulous researcher and engaging writer with a penchant for copious footnoting. His major works include biographies of William KIRBY and John Graves SIMCOE and The Bar and the Courts of the Province of Upper Canada or Ontario (1928). Although the recipient of 12 honorary degrees and numerous other distinctions, he never achieved the recognition he craved. In his final years, he unsuccessfully lobbied Liberal Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie KING for a chief justiceship, an Imperial Privy Councillorship and a knighthood. When Riddell died in his 93rd year, he was still serving on the bench and publishing articles.

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