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Local historian passionate about sharing Brantford’s past

Community ProfileLocal historian passionate about sharing Brantford’s past

Murray Angus has always been fascinated by Brantford’s history ever since he was a child.

Angus, who was born and raised in Brantford, spent the bulk of his teens downtown, which presented an unexpected opportunity to learn about Brantford’s long and deep history.

“When I was about 13, I went to work at my dad’s jewelry store. He taught me how to fix clocks and I would just help out,” explained Angus. “I ended up going to watchmaking school after high school and became a licensed watchmaker and worked in the family business for 20 years.”

Angus gained a strong fascination with Brantford’s history because of his father’s business.  

“We were in an old building on King Street, and it had a history and I was always just kind of fascinated by the fact that our jewelry store used to be an old Cigar Factory,” said Angus. “But when I walked around downtown looking up all the time at these old buildings. And I used to wonder what was in there [and] who [had] lived there…[there] were fancy buildings like the old Esquire theater and…remember being taken by the fact that there was this old history and thinking that it’s over 100 years old.”

Here is another photo with Angus at the same presentation. He is looking forward to doing more presentations in the New Year. Photo courtesy John Pacsuta.

However, those early years shaped Angus’ view of Brantford’s history, especially with an opportunity to experience it firsthand.

“My dad had the contract to wind the old clock that used to be on the corner of Market and Colburn. It was originally the Bank of Hamilton and then eventually that became the Bank of Nova Scotia. And then they moved across the street when they tore that big old building down. That old bank had a clock on the outside of the building, a big old wind-up clock on the third floor which you would be wound from inside. The weights in this clock used to run up and down inside the wall from the third floor down to the bottom floor. And once a week, we would have to go up and lift to the third floor and wind it,” Angus explained. “That clock was taken off the building and it is now hanging inside the Scotia Bank across the street from where it was originally located. It has an electric movement in it now so nobody has to wind it.”

Murray Angus is very active in preserving and sharing Brantford’s rich history through various projects and initiatives, especially through the Brantford Historical Society. He is pictured here with several friends from the area including the late Walter Gretzky. Photo courtesy Murray Angus.

This fascination would lead Angus to find out more about Brantford’s history.

“Whenever I had the opportunity, I would go to the library or the museum…I would also talk to the older gentleman around town, the old businessmen, and they would tell me stories,” said Angus.

Angus, also recalled even at an early age, in looking at the finer or background details of old photos.

“I used to love old newspapers and old pictures [and] I would look at a picture sometimes differently than most people. I would look in the background [and the], looking for business names and street signs. The background of the picture is [sometimes] more interesting than the reason it was taken… because it shows the real-life going on behind there,” explained Angus.

On the right is the Scotia Bank, located on the Southwest corner of Colbourne and Market Street. It was torn down when they closed Market Street in order to build the parking garage. The photo to the left is of the building just before it was demolished. You can see where the clock was removed. Photo courtesy Brant Museum and Archive.

Nevertheless, during the midst of the Pandemic in 2020, Angus decided to do something with his collection and his historical knowledge.

“I collected many old photographs and got a hold of around 2,000 negatives that were underneath Dr. Ronald Scott’s dental office right on the corner of West Street and Albion around the Telephone Memorial …I developed a lot of them, most of them being from around the 1920s, and found them quite fascinating. I have since donated them all to the County, Museum and Archives,” Angus continued. “During COVID I thought to myself that I should share some of these old photos online. So, I started posting old pictures …I’d research and get a story to go with the picture…And people were responding positively to it…so, one thing evolved into another and I ended up starting the Vintage Brantford Group on Facebook where people could post old pictures or stories from a newspaper.”

This is a photo taken from ‘Brantford…A Passage Through Time.’ It depicts Market Square around the late 1870s on market day. Photo courtesy Brant Museum and Archive.

Angus would also become involved with the Brantford Historical Society, which is part of The Brant Museum & Archives, around this time as well, volunteering to help sort through and organize the photo archives. Angus also started doing lectures as part of the BHS and earlier this year, did one about multi-generational family-owned businesses in Brantford.

“I find that it’s a fun and interesting topic because I was part of a business downtown; we were two generations, my dad and myself. But J.H. Fine Young’s Jewelers is in the fifth generation of people from the same family. They’ve been around for 123 years. And Ludlow’s [Men’s Wear] has a fourth-generation family member to be running it,” he said. “Just to think that Young’s is one of the oldest jewelry stores in Canada…it’s a fascinating history when family members would have the same interest for five generations.” 

Murray Angus is pictured here holding up ‘Brantford…A Passage Through Time,’ a popular book detailing Brantford’s history through photos and stories. It was published by the Brant Museum and Archives a number of years ago. Photo courtesy Murray Angus.

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