Sir Robert Gillespie Reid - Encyclopedia

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SIR ROBERT GILLESPIE REID (1840-1908), Canadian railway contractor, was born at Coupar-Angus, Scotland. When a young man he spent a few years in Australia goldmining, and in 1871 he settled in America, where he began his career as a contractor. He built one section of the Canadian Pacific railway, and was responsible for the erection of the international bridge over the Niagara river, the international railway bridge over the Rio Grande river and the Lachine bridge over the St Lawrence. In 1893 Reid signed a contract with the government of Newfoundland by which he undertook to construct a railway from St John's to Port-aux-Basques and to work the line for ten years in return for a large grant of land. In 1898 he further contracted to work all the railways in Newfoundland for fifty years on condition that at the end of this time they should become his property. This bargain, which included other matters such as steamers, docks and telegraphs, was extraordinarily favourable to Reid, who, by further enormous grants of land, became one of the largest landed proprietors in the world; public opinion was aroused against it, and at first the governor, Sir Herbert Murray, refused to ratify it. After the premier, Sir James Winter, had been replaced by Mr (afterwards Sir) Robert Bond, the terms of the contract were revised, being made more favourable to Newfoundland, and Reid's interests were transferred to a company, the Reid Newfoundland Company, of which he was the first president (see Newfoundland, Roads and Railways). Reid was knighted in 1907, and he died on the 3rd of June 1908.

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