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History Corner: Justice John Idington

John Idington’s grandparents, John Idington and Margaret Johnstone, natives of Berwickshire,
Scotland, emigrated to Puslinch with their grown family in the fall of 1833. They settled on lot 36,
rear of concession 8, in the Badenoch section of the township, where the family remained until
1853. Their third child was Peter Idington, who was born in Westruther, Berwickshire in 1806.

Peter Idington married Catherine Stewart of Flamborough in 1839 and on October 14, 1840, a son,
John, was born in Puslinch. In 1853, the family moved to Waterloo County, near Fisher’s Mills and
remained there until 1879.

A brilliant scholar, John Idington attended primary school in Puslinch and secondary school at
Galt Collegiate, under the renowned Dr. Tassie’s tutelage. He studied at the University of Toronto,
graduating with an LLB in 1864. After being called to the bar, he joined Robert MacFarlane, M.P.
in his practice in Stratford, Ontario, commencing a long, distinguished career. Robert MacFarlane
died in 1872, leaving John Idington with a large practice.

John was appointed a Provincial Crown Attorney in 1876. He served as a Crown Attorney and
Clerk of the Peace of Perth County from 1879. In 1885, he was created a Dominion Crown

He was elected President of the Western Bar Association in 1894-1895. On January 18, 1886, he
became solicitor for the City of Stratford. In 1887, he was elected the first President of the Perth
County Law Society.

john idington
Justice John Idington

He was appointed a Judge in the Ontario Supreme Court in March 1904. Only eleven months
later, on February 10, 1905, he was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada, where he served
for 22 years. He came to be recognized as an outstanding legal authority and adjudicated on
nearly all of the most important cases in the country. His work was marked by industry and
individuality. He took stands for the rights of women and racial minorities and opposed
conscription to the armed forces in 1918, during World War I.

Aside from his illustrious legal career, when Stratford was incorporated as a city in March 1885,
John Idington was chosen to deliver the keynote speech at the banquet held on July 22nd. He
served as a director of the Western Ontario Trusts Company and a member of the Stratford
Hospital Trust Company. An active member in the Reform Party, he was also President of the
North Perth Reform Association.

On Sept. 25, 1866, while practising in Stratford, he married Margaret “Maggie” Colcleugh of Mount
Forest. They had eleven children: Peter Stewart (1867); George A. (1871-1871); Flora Colcleugh
(1871); John J. (1872-1872); Janet (1876); Margaret (1878); twins, Walter and Malcolm (1880);
Agnes (1882-1882); Catherine (1883) and John (1887), who became a barrister in Toronto.

Justice Idington retired on March 31, 1927, after Parliament passed a law to legislate the
mandatory retirement and pensioning of judges of the Supreme Court at 75 years of age. He died
Feb. 7, 1928 at age 87 and was buried in Avondale Cemetery in Stratford.

For more detailed information on the career of Justice John Idington, see the writing of Gordon
Bale on the website, “Dictionary of Canadian Biography”.

by Marjorie Clark

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