Leslie Gault (1787 - 1843):
Leslie Gault was in his day one of the most prominent businessmen in Strabane, County Tyrone, whose atrociously bad luck later in his life was perhaps made up for by his even more successful sons, one of whom became one of the richest men in Canada.
Leslie Gault was originally intended for the church but eyesight problems impelled him at the age of sixteen into a five-year apprenticeship with Gerry Irvine, the leading merchant in Strabane. Two years after the expiration of this apprenticeship Gault bought Irvine’s house and business, which gave him the control of a large proportion of the general business not just of Tyrone but, naturally enough, into adjacent counties. He then branched out into the transatlantic shipping business, similar to the Buchanans amongst others, providing a shipping line for emigrants to North America, while importing grain and timber in the other direction, back to Ulster. Not only was he one of the leading tradesmen in east Ulster, admired for his success, energy and hard work, he was held in high esteem personally and was awarded a variety of civic honours and distinctions.
But in the 1840s, Gaul’s business took some downturns due to a variety of factors. Some of these were market-based: Gault suffered severe losses in the grain trade, and further, from the removal of the duty on Baltic timber. Others were maritime, a perpetual peril at the time: several of his ships were lost completely, the Fenwick Keeting, the Repeal and even the Leslie Gault, while the well-stocked vessels Carongi, Timandra, Marquis of Abercorn, Sir Allan McNab and Mary Hamilton had their cargos placed on a very depressed market (Mary Hamilton was his wife’s name). Gault suffered considerable losses, corporate and personal. In 1842 he decided to take the same route to North America as many of his and others’ passengers had and set up in Montreal, the commercial centre of Canada, but luck was no more favourable there – in fact as bad as it could get as within a year he died of cholera. Poignantly, he did not live to see the successes of sons, one whom in particular, Andrew, was a considerably high achiever, eventually earning himself the sobriquet, “Cotton King of Canada”.
The family dedicated a memorial window to him in St. George's Church, Montreal, and they erected a monument in Mount Royal Cemetery in the city.
Dictionary of Canadian Biography; Biographical Archive, Mellon Centre for Migration Studies, County Tyrone; www.freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com
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