Hospital built by Scots philanthropists set for transformation

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A Canadian hospital built by a pair of immigrant Scottish philanthropists to celebrate Queen Victoria’s fiftieth year on the throne is set to be transformed into an academic centre for climate change.

The Queen Victoria Hospital in Montreal - built in 1887 by a $1 million (£550,000) grant from Lord Strathcona Donald Smith and his cousin Lord Mount Stephen - would become a $690m centre for climate change, sustainable development and public policy, under plans unveiled by the renowned McGill University.

The pair of Scots, who emigrated to Canada in 1838 and 1850 respectively, had made their fortunes in business, co-founding the Canadian Pacific Railway among other ventures. During 1897 and 1898, the duo donated another $1m between them in Great Northern Railroad securities to establish an endowment fund to maintain the hospital.

Moray-born Lord Strathcona was also commissioner, governor and principal shareholder of the Hudson’s Bay Company and president of the Bank of Montreal, while Lord Mount Stephen became the richest man in Canada before moving back to the UK in his retirement.

A spokesman for the university said the transformation of the 50,000 sq metre site could begin by 2021. The historic hospital, which was created to provide health care to people who could not otherwise have afforded it, has lain empty for the past three years since the creation of a new “super hospital” in the city.

Yves Beauchamp, vice-principal of administration and finance at McGill University, said: “While the decision for McGill University to acquire the Royal Victoria Hospital site is still pending, should it decide to move ahead with its acquisition, efforts will be made to integrate the existing historical buildings with more modern structures.

“All the buildings on this iconic site, old and new, will host academic functions in line with the academic plan envisioned for the
site which focuses on sustainability and public policy.”

He added: “Should McGill become the owner of the Royal Victoria Hospital site, it shall determine how best to recognise the site’s
long and rich history.”

Previous suggestions that the site could be turned into flats were opposed by descendents of Lord Mount Stephen and Lord Smith, saying that they attached one caveat to their financial contribution to the project, that the hospital’s land and its buildings must only ever be used for ‘healing’.

Speaking to a Canadian newspaper in 2010, Elspeth Angus, whose grandfather was a nephew of Lord Mount Stephen, said the family would like the hospital to be turned into a research facility to honour her ancestors’s request.

She said: “In the deed of gift to the foundation of the Royal Vic, it was stated that they wished this property be used for ‘hospital only’. And what the family is after is to have that will respected.”