People of our Past: Peter McLaren
Peter McLaren is third from the left.
A member of many organizations, and a unique man, Peter McLaren was definitely one of the great people of early Gull Lake. Born in Scotland in May of 1877, he was the seventh of ten children. As a child, he worked with his father, who was a carpenter, and would eventually join the Royal Scots Guards.
As a young standing guard at Buckingham Palace, he had the honor of meeting Queen Victoria herself, even if it was only in passing. In a story he told time and time again, McLaren related how on one day he was coughing and the Queen herself ordered him to go home and have a day of rest.
He fought in the Boer War and, after returning to Scotland, he worked on the railroad and met his future wife Elizabeth Herd. While still a member of the Royal Scots Guard Reserve Army, he came to Canada in 1906 where he continued to serve with the Guard until 1910. Upon arriving in Canada, he worked for the railway and eventually filed for a homestead on June 6, 1906 in the Eston Area. Spending the winter in Maple Creek, where he tended bar in a hotel, he made his way to his new homestead in the spring of 1907. He would never get his homestead, because as he made his way there he found the river was impassable.
Getting in on a card game to pass the time, he ended up betting his homestead and losing it. As a result, he returned to Maple Creek. By 1908, he had become the proprietor of the Caledonian Restaurant in Gull Lake.
Elizabeth would come to Swift Current on April 22, 1910, joined by her sister Kate. Peter met them both at the train station. They walked immediately to the manse (clergy house) and were married. They had not seen each other for four years at the time. Upon arriving at the hotel, they found only one room was available so Kate and Elizabeth stayed in the room while Peter played cards in the lobby.
On Oct. 3, 1910, Peter filed for a homestead and he built a frame house on the property for him and Elizabeth to live in. They moved in on March 28, 1911. They would divide their time between Gull Lake and the homestead, living on the homestead in the summer. A new house was eventually built. The old house became a coal shed, and the shack they had lived in, which was located in Gull Lake, was moved to the homestead and would become the pigpen.
Both Elizabeth and Peter were well-known in the area. Peter served as the reeve of the RM of Gull Lake from 1928 to 1935, and he was also the chairman of the Valley Centre Rural Telephone Company.
Active as a Mason, he became a Master Mason in Scotland and was a life member. He was also a member of the Orange Lodge and served with the Elks Lodge for many years. He was chair of the committee that built the Elks Community Hall, which he helped to rebuild during his time. A big fan of curling, he had his own set of curling rocks that were sent in from Regina. An excellent public speaker, many remember him reciting Robbie Burns poems straight from memory.
As has been mentioned, he enjoyed playing cards but what he enjoyed more was politics. Appointed as a homestead inspector in 1912, the same month as the provincial election, a warrant was issued for his arrest. The Gull Lake Advance headlines read “The Government Will Punish All Election Crooks” and “McLaren Keeps Low”. Reporting that McLaren had gone fled the area, little did anyone know that McLaren was actually hiding under the floorboards of his house while police looked for him. On Election Day, he came out of hiding to cast his vote, and no one bothered to arrest him once his vote was cast.
The ruling Liberals (who had a hand in putting out the warrant for his arrest), were re-elected to a third term. As a result, Peter had a lifelong hatred of the Liberal Party.
Together, Elizabeth and Peter would have three children, two of which lived past infancy (James and Grace). Their son John died after only a month of life.
Elizabeth passed away on Nov. 6, 1941, and Peter passed away on Oct. 14, 1953. Both are buried in Gull Lake Cemetery.