Andrew Irving, the pioneer school teacher in what is now the town of Pembroke, and registrar of the county of Renfrew since 1866, is a native of the Province of New Brunswick, his birth being dated at Miramichi, December 14, 1820. His father, Andrew Irving, senior, a second cousin of the celebrated Edward Irving, was born in the parish of Middlebee Dumfriesshire, Scotland; came to New Brunswick in 181; was a farmer many years at Miramichi, and died in 1864. His mother, whose maiden name was Margaret Henderson, also a native of Dumfriesshire, came to this country in 1820, and died in 1871. Her grandfather John Henderson, owned Cleugh Brae. He married Clarinda Douglas, the daughter of Sir Archibald Douglas, of Castle Milk, and had the Cleugh-Brae farm presented to him by Sir Archibald on the day of the marriage. He died at the age of about fifty-five years. His will was made only eight days before his death, and was declared by the courts to be illegal. It appears by the laws of Scotland that the testator must attend both kirk and market after the making of his will, and be alive six weeks. When the eldest son, Dr. John Henderson, arrived, home from Antigua, in search of health, he discovered the mistake about the will, and commenced a suit to break it, and enter upon the possession of the estate himself, which was eventually sold and eaten almost wholly up in costs, each of the family receiving only one hundred pounds. The Doctor died about a month after the sale of the estate so he did not live long enough to enjoy the satisfaction which his conduct was so well fitted to produce.
Mr. Irving was educated in the grammar school of his native town; there studied medicine three years with Dr. Key, but, finding that so close application to mental pursuits did not agree with him, abandoned the idea of becoming a physician; came to Pembroke in the summer of 1842, and offered his services as a teacher. A log school house was put up for his use, about 14 by 16 feet, the logs being chinked instead of plastered; and tradition has it that on his entering the house the first morning he found sixteen children there, the younger half of whom immediately commenced crying. On questioning them, he ascertained that they were afraid of him 1 He was the first school master they had ever seen; had probably been told about the stinging qualities of the ferule and the cruelty of some Wackford Squeers, and were almost as much frightened, no doubt, as though some white bear had ventured down from hyperborean climes, and entered the forest college for his breakfast. Doubtless Mr. Irving was “monarch of all he surveyed; “but the annals of Pembroke contain no record of his being a cannibal or even a tyrant. He taught three years; then became manager of the business of Peter White, lumber merchant, and the first white settler in Pembroke, being appointed registrar of the county, as already mentioned.
Mr. Irving has been clerk of the Division Court since 185; was a school trustee for fifteen or sixteen years, and has been chairman of the Board of Education the last three years; was local superintendent of education for a district embracing four or five townships for some years, and has been intimately connected with the educational interests of this place from the date of his settlement in this county. In this particular department of public work his labors have been invaluable, and the people are not insensible of the debt of obligation which they owe him.
Mr. Irving has been an ardent politician a Reformer of “the strictest sect,” and, before becoming a county officer, had few peers as a worker for the party in the county of Renfrew. He has written a good deal for Canadian newspapers, and when anything spicy appears any where in print, dated at Pembroke, it is attributed to his facile pen.
Religiously he inherits and warmly cherishes the faith of his forefathers, being a staunch Presbyterian, and having held the office of elder and been a delegate to the Synod. He takes much interest in the progress of christian enterprises.
Mr. Irving was first married, in 1844, to Miss Jane Reid White, daughter of Peter White, deceased, already mentioned. She had four children, and died in 1852, only two of her children surviving. His second marriage was in 1860, to Miss Mary Cannon, daughter of Dr. William Cannon, of the Royal Navy, having by her four children, and losing one of them.
Mr. Irving is one of the best posted men in the county, and has the happy faculty of communicating matters in a racy manner. He embellishes his conversation with choice bits of poetry, and pat and sparkling anecdotes, and is a sumptuous entertainer at the conversational board.