Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sir Samuel Tilley Building

Here's a bit of (old) news.

The Sir Leonard Tilley Building was -- briefly -- the Sir Samuel Tilley Building.

CSE's home for the last half century was, as we all know, named after one of Canada's Fathers of Confederation, Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley.

Tilley went by his middle name, Leonard, not by his first name. But that little detail was apparently unknown to the Minister of Public Works when he announced the name of the new building in 1962 ("Federal Project 'Tilley Building'," Ottawa Citizen, 10 January 1962):
The new $3,000,000 National Research Council "hush hush" communications research branch, Confederation Heights, has been named by the government "the Sir Samuel Tilley Building."

The government's action, announced by Public Works Minister David J. Walker, is in line with its policy of naming the present and future $32,000,000 cluster of government buildings on Riverside Drive as "Confederation Heights."
Now, I know what you're all thinking -- a minister of the government who doesn't know what he's talking about? Impossible!

But that's only half the story. Minister Walker wanted the blessing of Tilley's only living grandson for the naming of the building. So he contacted Leonard Tilley, a Toronto janitor, who, although previously unaware of his famous ancestry, delightedly agreed.

All of which would have made for a fine ceremony except that Tilley's actual descendant, Toronto advertising executive S. Leonard Tilley, then decided to speak up.

The Calgary Herald picks up the tale ("Minister names wrong man as 'heir' to political honor," Calgary Herald, 6 March 1962):
The bona fide grandson can trace his family back to the first United Empire Loyalists to arrive in Canada. His given names are Samuel Leonard and he is the only living direct male descendant of the eminent politician.

As did his famous ancestor, Mr. Tilley uses his second name.

And that brings up another point he wants to discuss with the works minister. He understands the building is going to be called the Sir Samuel Tilley Building rather than the Sir Leonard Tilley Building.

"It's as bad as calling Sir John A. Macdonald Sir Alexander," he said.

Mr. Walker replied he had been told by authorities in the Maritimes that Sir Leonard was known as Samuel.
He then announced a seven-point plan to relaunch the naming process from scratch.

Or something like that.

In any case, as we all know, the building has ever after been known as the Sir Leonard Tilley Building.

The Calgary Herald story had some inaccuracies of its own. It placed the Tilley Building in Confederation Square rather than Confederation Heights. And, more intriguingly, it said the building belonged to the Defence Research Board.

The latter is a very interesting error, as CBNRC's at-the-time highly secret mission was a lot more closely related to the DRB's than it was to the NRC's, and it has been claimed elsewhere that much of CBNRC's budget was hidden within the DRB budget.

Did the media know more than it let on at the time?

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