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History of Judge Robert Harold McCllelland

Robert Harold McClelland grad of Law School - University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon - 1948

History of Judge Robert Harold McClelland (Page 2)


Ethel Wayling and I were secretly married on April 10, 1937. Ethel had arrived in Herbert one cold day in January 1936 to work as an operating nurse at the hospital in Herbert. We went together almost from the time she arrived. Accompanied by our friends, Floyd Corothers, and Margaret Hammond, a Herbert schoolteacher, who was going with Floyd at the time. We went to Waldeck, a small village between Herbert and Swift Current, where Reverend Graham, the local United Church Minister, married us.

In retrospect our marriage then was an impulsively foolish act, but one for me that worked out extremely happily. When we were married, Ethel was making $25.00 per month plus room and board. She lived at the hospital, a large family home that had been converted to hospital use. Ethel worked seven days a week and being the operating nurse, was on call all the time. Quite often she worked the clock around.

I was working for Dad who had joined Herb Wiebe. Herb was the father of our present Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan, Jack Wiebe. Wife Ethel delivered Jack when he was born. Dad and Herb were in the real estate, insurance and collection business. I got room and board and spending money. I was looking for something better but had no real hope of finding anything.

Toward the end of April, I landed a temporary job as assistant to the secretary-treasurer of Morse municipality. Morse is 8 miles east of Herbert and I traveled to work by bicycle, or skating in the winter, or Dad's car. I took my lunch. Regulations had just been enacted requiring that municipal secretaries pass examinations in accounting, municipal law and secretarial duties before qualifying. I studied these subjects during my lunch hours. The exam took place in early June. Before I knew whether I had passes my exams, the secretary of the municipality of Neidpath was fired. Word of this reached me at Morse where the municipal auditor was in the process of auditing the municipality's books. The auditor recommended me to the reeve and councilors of Coulee municipality who learned from the department at Regina that I had successfully completed my exams before the results were published.

I was hired on June 12, 1937, as secretary of the Rural Municipality of Coulee No. 136 at a salary of $100.00 per month, me to be responsible for paying any help I might need from my own salary. I also received $40.00 per month from the Government of Saskatchewan for looking after welfare payments to our residents. That year the crop was a total failure and almost everyone was getting monthly assistance from the Government. During the drought, it was often necessary to distribute seed, feed and tractor fuel to the farmers.

Ethel and I decided that Ethel would quit her job at the end of August and that I would pick her up at Neudorf where her folks were then living, in early September and take her to Neidpath. We got out of an embarrassing situation by telling the folks at Neudorf we were married in Herbert and the folks at Neidpath and Herbert we were married in Neudorf.

Most of the furniture, including the bedroom suite we now have, we bought from a young banker at Herbert whose wife had died suddenly a few months after their marriage. We paid somewhat under $300.00 for the bedroom suite, a dining table and four beautiful Windsor chairs, and an easy chair and assorted pots and pans.

We found a bungalow in Neidpath. We had electricity, and a bathroom but no running water. Ethel did all our washing by hand, using two tubs and handwringer. The house was heated by a kitchen stove and by a heater in the front room. The fuel was coal and it was often necessary to get up during cold winter nights to stoke the heater. We lived in this house for a year and then moved into a house that had modern plumbing but which was heated by stoves.

Neidpath came into existence in 1923 when the railway line was extended from Hodgeville to Swift Current. Although completed to the outskirts of Swift Current, no trains ran on this portion of the line. Neidpath grew rapidly. There were soon five-grain elevators, two hotels with cafes, two general stores, a hardware, poolroom and barbershop, blacksmith shop, bank, garage, lumberyard, livery barn, post office, telephone office, and school and community hall. The town reached its peak in 1928. After that it began to decline. When we arrived, the bank had closed, one hotel and cafe had closed and everything else was just hanging on by the skin of its teeth. There were about 100 people living in town then. While we were there, a fire burned a general store, the hotel that had been converted into our municipal office, the poolroom and barbershop and a vacant adjacent building. These places were never rebuilt, and after the war, Neidpath's decline gathered momentum. At present, other than grain elevators, there are no business places left at Neidpath. They have all been removed and only a few farmers and retired farmers occupy the remaining houses. Neidpath was 16 miles straight south of Herbert, and 30 miles southeast of Swift Current. The municipal office has been located in Swift Current for many years.

We enjoyed our stay in Neidpath. It was a small community and we soon became a part of it. There were no doctors in Neidpath and Ethel sometimes went to see people who were ill, especially in the winter. As payment, we often got gifts of meat and poultry.

We made many friends, friendships, which have lasted until this day. Oliver and Beulah Olson were in Neidpath when we were. Their lives seemed to parallel ours. They lived in Swift Current when we did and moved to Regina shortly after we did. They now live in Swift Current but we still visit back and forth. There were other young couples who farmed and the Griffins and Greiners. Art Griffin and Noble Greiner bought grain in Neidpath. Both retired to British Columbia years ago. Noble and Art are dead but we call on Ann Griffin and May Greiner whenever we go to the coast.

Our first car was a Model A Ford coupe, which we bought second-hand in 1937 for $225.00. It had lots of pep and stood high above the ground making it a good car for driving over roads covered by snowdrifts. In 1939 we bought a second-hand Ford V8 coach, 1935 vintage. We paid $550.00 for it and it was a lemon. In the spring of 1940, we traded it off on a brand-new 1940 Ford coach. We paid $1,028.00 for this V8. Its only equipment was a heater but this was usual for those days. We enjoyed this car immensely. We went to Banff in it twice. We kept this car until I joined the army and then sold it to my Dad. After the war, when we were in Swift Current, he gave it back to us.

McClelland Family Christmas in Swift Current in 1951

Our son Robert James McClelland (Bob) was born in the Swift Current Union Hospital on October 2, 1939. He was a beautiful baby with big blue eyes and curly hair. We were real proud and happy with him.

World War II had broken out September 1, 1939. At first, the war made little difference to our way of life but gradually things began to change. There were Air Force training schools all over Saskatchewan and one just out of Swift Current. My brother Dick had joined the Air Force as a navigator and was soon to graduate as Pilot Officer. He was sent to England where he did many a bombing mission and afterwards was a pathfinder sent out to mark targets in Germany and Italy for the night bombers.

Brother Jack joined the Army as an Army Service Corps Lieutenant. Like me, he did not get out of Canada. Frances joined the Women's division of the Air Force and served in England. Young brother Jim joined the Air Force. He did not get out of Canada. Ethel's brother, Charlie, had joined the Navy as a boy seaman before the war broke out. He served throughout the whole war in the Navy convoy duty and must have spent many an unpleasant trip. Mavis and Hilda both joined the Army in the women's division and served in Canada. Bernie Heintz, Mavis's husband, was a pilot in the Air Force. He served over two tours of duty as a bomber pilot. Hilda's husband, David Muirhead, was in the administration of the Air Force and served in Canada.

I joined the Army in 1942 at Regina. The Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps had advertised for officer candidates with accounting experience. I was accepted along with many others and was one of the fortunate ones who did receive a commission.

When I joined the Army, we went to live with Ethel's parents at 2342 Retallack Street in Regina. This house has since been torn down to makeway for an apartment complex. We sold much of our furniture, stored some at Herbert and took some of it with us to Regina. Ethel's dad and mother charged us a nominal sum for keep, and Ethel worked and Mother Wayling looked after Bob.

Although we were in Neidpath for less than five years, the time we spent there occupies a disproportionately large part of my memory, possibly because of our youth and the newness of the experience.


When I joined the Army as a private in April of 1942 I was paid $39.00 a month and Ethel received $35.00 for herself and $12.00 for Bob as dependant's allowance. We also received a living allowance of $51.00 per month. I cannot remember what we paid Dad and Mother Wayling but it was nominal.

After spending from April to November at the District Ordnance Depot on Dewdney Avenue sweeping floors, piling stores and all kinds of roustabout jobs I was sent to the Officer's Training Camp at Brockville. It was winter. The ground was frozen. Training was strenuous for me who had never had any basic training. We were up at five in the morning and often were kept out until after 6:00p.m. In March, I went to Kingston for special training as an Ordnance officer. Afterwards I was posted as assistant accounting officer to London, Ontario, a beautiful city. As soon as I could, I found a house and sent for Ethel and Bob. We enjoyed living in London, so much so that we thought of returning to London after the war. The neighbors on either side were young folks and we got along well with them.

In November I was transferred to Quebec City. Living accommodation was very difficult to obtain and Ethel and Bob returned to Regina to live with her mother and dad. In April, I found a suite and Ethel and Bob joined me again. Quebec is a colorful city, quaint and European in character. There were quite a few English officers in the Quebec depot. We all got along well but it was next to impossible for me to get a promotion there. I was moved to Montreal in the late fall of 1944 where I soon got my captaincy. Montreal was much more cosmopolitan than Quebec City. In Quebec, French was spoken everywhere but in Montreal, English was the language used in most of the department stores. We lived in Westmount, an English-speaking section of Montreal. We had an officer's mess in the depot at Montreal and spent much of our free time there.

The war in Europe ended while we were in Montreal. Shortly after the end of the war in Europe, I was posted to the Central Mechanization Depot in London, Ontario. We found living accommodation in an old fraternity house, which we shared with another couple, who had one child. When peace was declared in August, I thought I might continue in service until all supplies were returned to Canada from Europe, possibly for a year, as I could not claim that it was essential that I return to my job as municipal secretary.

Our lease of the fraternity house expired in early September. We were expecting Val in February and with the future being so uncertain, Ethel and Bob again returned to Regina to live with Mother and Dad Wayling.

Soon after Ethel left, an order came down from headquarters advising that all military personnel accepted at universities were to receive immediate discharge. I had not given serious consideration to going back to university but with the prospect of an immediate discharge from the Army, I thought I would do well to study law. Dad McClelland arranged for my acceptance at the law school in Saskatoon. By late September, I was on my way back to Regina for discharge.

On February 14, 1946, Valerie Jean McClelland was born at the Regina Grey Nun's Hospital (today known as the Pasqua Hospital). I was attending university in Saskatoon when Ethel went into labor. Mother Wayling called me and said Ethel felt it was not necessary for me to come, as university exams were fast approaching. However, I decided that it was important to be in attendance so I left for Regina and made it in time. Val was a healthy, fine baby and we were proud and happy to be her parents.

Later in 1946, the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (P.F.R.A.) moved Ethel's father to Moose Jaw. Dad sold us the house in Regina for a very reasonable price. Ethel kept four people to whom she gave room and breakfast. It kept her very busy. With the Veteran's Allowance we received, we made ends meet.

In many ways, the war years were beneficial to us. We saw much of eastern Canada, met a host of people we otherwise would never have met and then got the opportunity for me to become a lawyer. The war changed our lives for the better.


We arrived in Swift Current in the summer of 1948. I had articled (apprenticed) to George F. Roth, Q.C., and intended to spend the year with him until I could pass my Bar exams in the spring of 1949. Then we would make up our minds as to where we wanted to spend the rest of our lives.

We bought a house in Swift Current at 256 6th. Avenue East. It was a large, story and half home with three bedrooms upstairs, two downstairs with kitchen, dining room and living room. Swift Current then had a population of about 6,000 people and was growing rapidly. When I passed my Bar exams, Mr. Roth asked me to buy a partnership in his law practice. I was pleased.

Bob completed his public and high school in Swift Current and Val finished all but her grade twelve in high school. We made many friends in Swift Current. Ethel worked as a nurse and supervisor at the hospital for several years and belonged to the Lions Ladies Club. They put on annual shows. Ethel acted as Master of Ceremonies and was a very good one.

I was elected to the city council in 1949 and served to 1953. I was president of the Kiwanis Club, the Legion, and chairman of the Library Board for many years, on the executive of the Boy Scouts Association and the Golf Club. I was one of the organizers of Prairie Pioneer Village, a large complex designed to look after the senior citizens of Swift Current and adjoining municipalities. I was also a Director of Frontier Day's (Fair) in Swift Current.

We moved to 532 Grey Street in 1956. We knew the move would be temporary, as we wanted to build a home of our own in the newly opened north hill section of the city. In 1959, we bought a lot and built a moderately large split-level home at 827 10th Ave. N. E. By the summer of 1962, we had the landscaping all done and were thinking of adding a garage. It looked as if we had found our permanent home.

In the meantime, Mr. Roth and I had taken in another partner (Lloyd Grant), and had another young lawyer working for us. We had a bookkeeper and three other secretaries. We had built a new office building beside the bus depot and the future looked promising.

I took a month's vacation each year. At first, we spent it at Regina Beach and then later, turned our attention to Clear Lake in Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba.

I had never shown much interest in politics but had acted as Official Agent for Jack McIntosh, who was elected to represent Swift Current in Ottawa during the Diefenbaker years. I did not ask Jack to secure a judicial appointment for me but Jack had decided "they" would ask me to be a judge and I could decide for myself.

One morning in October of 1962, at 7:00a.m., the telephone rang. Val answered the phone and when the operator told her that the Prime Minister of Canada, John Diefenbaker, wanted to speak to Harold McClelland Val said, "Look lady, this is no time for jokes!" and hung up the phone to return to bed. I met her in the hallway and asked her who had called. Val related the conversation. In a few minutes the phone rang again. I did not let Val answer it the second time although she had started to. Val thought some of her friends were playing a practical joke.

Queens Court Judge McClelland - rendering a decision

When I answered the second call, it was John Diefenbaker and he wanted to congratulate me on my appointment as a District Court Judge. He would not tell me where I would act - he told me it might be Regina or Melfort. I told him I would have to think things over. He seemed disappointed. At that time judges' salaries were low and I was certain that I did not want to exchange Swift Current for Melfort. I discussed the matter with Mr. Roth. He told me he had been doing his best to get an appointment as a judge for years and although he did not want to lose me as a partner, he thought I was foolish to turn down the appointment. Mr. Roth was approaching 70. He was going to retire in a few years. On being assured that the appointment would be in Regina, I wasted no time in accepting.

* * *

At this point in the writing of Robert Harold McClelland, my father had cancer. He became so ill that he was not able to continue the writing and was soon hospitalized.

last photo Harold McClelland allowed after he had cancer

He was not able to write about our family's move to our home at 1746 Uhrich Avenue in Regina, Saskatchewan or his appointment to a higher Court as a Judge of the Queen's Bench on July 1, 1981.

My parents owned the above home until 1983 when they sold it to Dennis and me. Dad knew he did not have long to live and wanted to see Mom settled into a smaller home that she could manage. This is the home that Dennis and I still live in, in the year 2001.

My mother continues the story of the lives of Harold and Ethel in her notes.

Dad passed away on Aug. 27, 1984 in Regina. His funeral was very large with many provincial and community dignitaries of this province attending.

Ethel and Harold McClelland with their daughter Val Anderson's daughters,

I am so honored to have been his daughter. He was a very kind and thoughtful man. It never fails, that when someone realizes I am Harold's daughter, they have only kind words to say about him.

I promised my father, that when I had time, I would continue the work he started and share it with our McClelland and Wright families. In fulfilling this obligation, I have entered about 1800 names into the computer program, Family Tree Maker by Broderbund. This includes my father's paternal grandfather's and maternal grandmother's sides of the families. There are still a few people to enter. I am now extending my search into the past of William (1833-1911) and Elizabeth (Wright) McClelland (1846-1931) and then hope to discover the family history in Ireland and England respectively. I only wish my father could be here to share with me the information that has already been gathered. He would find such enjoyment in my discoveries and conversations with relatives.

The extended McClelland, Wright, Plumb and Bouvette families have been generous and co-operative in sharing their family information. I have met so many wonderful family members over the telephone and through the e-mail. Now Dennis and I will begin the journey to meet many of them personally. I look forward to this and fulfilling my father's dream, to find our Irish roots in Ireland. This promise to my father was accomplished in November of 2000 when my husband Dennis and I visited our McClelland ancestors in the County of Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.

Val Anderson- July 24, 1999
1746 Uhrich Avenue
Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
S4S 4R5

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