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Last of the Clippers2021 01 15 220326
The Thermopylae’s Canadian Odyssey

Speaker: Alexandre Reford, historien
When: Thursday, April 15, 2021, 19:30 to 21:00

Where: In virtual mode

Lecture in English followed by a bilingual question period.


2021 01 15 220539



Scouring for a ship that could get a ready supply of rice to their recently opened mills in Victoria, British Columbia, Robert Reford tasked his partner John Dillon to find the right vessel. Dillon was told about the Thermopylae. “Dillon is having much trouble to get tonnage for Victoria,” Reford wrote his son, “and has as a dernier resort about made up his mind to purchase a sailing ship. He cabled me the names of several he was offered and we finally decided to bid on one called the Thermopylae…she is in fact one of the famous Aberdeen clipper tea ships…”
So began Robert Reford’s odyssey as the owner of the one of the fastest and most famous sailing ships ever built – the Thermopylae. Rival of the Cutty Sark, she was beautiful, sleek and fast, built to get the finest teas from China to the teacups of Britain’s aristocracy. Decades after her launch, Robert Reford bought her to transport rice to his new rice mill in Victoria. It was a short-lived and most disastrous investment. It brought Reford and his Montreal shipping agency and rice milling firm fame if not fortune. Historian Alexander Reford will tell the story of this fascinating episode in maritime history of the last of the clipper ships.



Alexander Reford is the I 04720z 1director of Les Jardins de Métis / Reford Gardens. Educated at the University of Toronto and Oxford University he is the author of several books on Quebec history and gardens. He is a frequent contributor to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography and is the author of the biographies of Lord Mount Stephen and Lord Strathcona and his great great grandfathers, Robert Meighen and Robert Reford. Some of his publications:

Des jardins oubliés 1860-1960
Guidebook to the Reford Gardens
Au rythme du train 1859-1970
Elsie’s Paradise – Reford Gardens
Treasures of Reford Gardens - Elsie Reford’s Floral Legacy
The Metis Lighthouse