Independent Schools


The Bishop Strachan School (BSS-IN)

Framed memorial with list of names
War memorial at Bishop Strachan School, Toronto, includes a rare listing of 16 WWII services in the key below the names. Photo courtesy BSS Museum & Archives

Location: 298 Lonsdale Road, Toronto, Ontario M4V 1X2 (north of St. Clair Avenue West; west of Avenue Road)

Opened: 1867

Pre-1998 municipality: Toronto

Type of school: Independent; all girls (Canada’s oldest day and boarding school for girls); Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12

School Motto: In cruce vinco—In the cross I conquer.

The Bishop Strachan School was based on English models of Junior, Middle, and Upper School, and on the principles of the Church of England. Church of England affiliation of students was not required, but chapel services and boarder attendance on Sundays at Grace Church on-the-Hill were a part of school life over the years. From the beginning, the school emphasized leadership qualities and volunteerism. The families with the oldest connections have had six generations attending the school.

1865: The Anglican Synod of Toronto appointed a committee headed by Rev. John Langtry to consider a school for the higher education of girls.

1867: The school opened on the west side of McCaul Street between Grange Road and Dundas Street West; near the Art Gallery of Toronto—now the Art Gallery of Ontario, taking over Mrs. Forster’s girls’ school “Pinehurst,” which had operated there from 1853 to 1866. The first Lady Principal was Mrs. Horton. Forty-six pupils from the ages of seven to 19 (day students and boarders) were enrolled. The school was named for Bishop John Strachan, first Anglican Bishop of Toronto, who died in 1867.

1868: The school was incorporated by the Ontario Parliament and moved to larger quarters at Captain Strachan’s cottage, part of the Bishop’s residence on Front Street.

1870-1915: The school, having purchased “Wykeham Lodge” at Yonge and College Streets in 1869, renovated and extended the house and operated on this campus (then called Wykeham Hall) for more than forty years. In the early 1870s, half of the students were boarders and half were daygirls.

1915: Urban growth around Wykeham Hall sparked a move to “College Heights,” the current Lonsdale site. A Collegiate Gothic style building of grey, Credit Valley stone, designed by Sproatt and Rolph, was erected. The chapel was added in 1926; the Junior School in 1933.

Ornate plaque mounted on stone wall.
Brass plaque at Bishop Strachan School, Toronto, to Frances E. Monro, the first Canadian nursing sister to die in the Great War. Photo courtesy BSS Museum & Archives

World War I (1914–1918): The school and its graduates were strongly involved in the war effort, with about 40 Old Girls serving as nurses and VADs (voluntary aid detachment workers).

1915 Sept 7: Frances E. (“Frank”) Munro, the first Canadian Nursing Sister to perish in World War I, died on the island of Lemnos. (See BSS-IN-a under “Memorials transcribed” below.)

1915 Nov: The federal government chose the vacated College Street building as a site for the Central Military Convalescent Hospital, for treating wounded soldiers of the First World War.

1918 Nov 29: A few weeks after the end of the war, Nursing Sister Ainslie Dagg died of Spanish influenza contracted nursing the sick and wounded in an English hospital.

1919 Feb 24: A brass tablet was erected in memory of Frances Munro by the C.A.M.C.

1919 July 8: Dorothy Miller, who had joined the Forestry Section of the Land Army in England, contracted tuberculosis in England, and died in Canada.

World War II (1939–1945): Students and graduates volunteered in the Red Cross, working hard for the war effort. Some 160 BSS Old Girls joined the women’s divisions of the three services, holding positions in such fields as intelligence, censorship, and radio operation. Some became members of the auxiliaries. Overall, BSS graduates served in Canada, the United States, England, Italy, Germany, Egypt, Algeria, and India.

1939 Sept 3: Three BSS teachers were returning from Britain aboard a civilian ship, SS Athenia. World War II was just 10 hours old when the ship became the first British casualty of a submarine attack. Dorothy Hutchings, aged 39, a popular teacher, died. (See: BSS-IN-c under “Memorials transcribed” below.)

1939 Sept: Eighty British girls in Toronto on a cross-country tour became stranded by the outbreak of war; BSS took in 65 of them. Although many returned to England, a steady stream of other war guests arrived to replace them. The school paid for many; others were housed and supported by the school community. The war guests were allowed to wear their English uniforms. Fundraisers, such as the sale of Christmas cards designed by an Old Girl in 1941 and 1942, helped with expenses. Home after the war, the guests began a British branch of the Old Girls Association.

1966–2014: The school building was expanded several times in this period, beginning with a new academic and gymnasium wing in 1966. The Rogers Wing, built in 1987, provided multiple classrooms, libraries, and a theatre. The most recent construction, in 2004, saw the creation of a new Junior School, a second gymnasium, and facilities for fitness, dance and music.

1993: Old Girl war veterans re-dedicated the refurbished the WWII memorial, after revisions and corrections by Jane McGillivray ’35 and Margaret Foulds Coburn ’38. (See: BSS-IN-c in “Memorials transcribed” below.)

Published history (selected):
[Calendar] Bishop Strachan School, Wykeham Hall, Toronto. Toronto: T. Hill & Sons, 1871.

The Bishop Strachan School for the higher education of young ladies, Wykeham Hall, Buchanan Street, Toronto, Canada. Toronto: Bishop Strachan School, July 1877. microfiche [6] p.; 20 cm.

The Bishop Strachan School, founded A.D. 1867, College Heights, Toronto. Toronto: The School, 1948, 32 p. : ill., ports.

The BSS Magazine. (Midsummer, 1943)

The Link. The Bishop Strachan School Community. Published two times per year. (2005)

Film: BSS Girls in WWII Services. Old Girls Committee, 2009. 56 minutes. Oral history project by Grade 12 BSS student Emma Hughes. Reminiscences of 17 Old Girls who volunteered for active service in the army, navy, and air force.

Stained glass window depicting Elizabeth Barrett Browning and lamp of learning.
Memorial window at Bishop Strachan School, Toronto, to teacher Dorothy Hutchings—a civilian casualty in the early hours of WWII. Photo courtesy BSS Museum & Archives


Memorials transcribed:
BSS-IN-a: (WWI): Brass plaque: In loving memory of / Nursing Sister / Frances E. Munro, C.A.M.C. / Died on active service / Lemnos, September 7th 1915. / “He that loseth his life for my sake / shall find it.” / Erected by the Officers and Nursing Staff / of Nos. 1 and 3 Canadian Stationary Hospitals. (Lemnos is an island in the Northern Aegean Islands of Greece, about 50 km from the Dardanelles.) The memorial was dedicated February 24, 1919 by the Anglican Bishop of Toronto. The school’s chaplain, Rev. J.S. Broughall, Miss Munro’s sister, two nephews, school students, and school administrators attended. Also dedicated to Frances Munro were two furnished rooms (the Frances Munro Wards) in the new convalescent hospital at the old College Street site. Except for Frances E. Munro, BSS graduates who served in the First World War do not have memorials.

BSS-IN-b: (WWII): Stained glass window: Elizabeth Barrett Browning / A.M.D.G. and in loving memory of / Dorothy Clara Hutchings. On the staff, 1931-39 / Lost on the Athenia. September 3rd 1939 / The gift of relatives and friends. The window is one of 16 in the organ alcove of the chapel, with figures symbolizing “holy and noble women from scripture, history and romance.” Miss Hutchings’ memorial shows Elizabeth Barrett Browning holding a book; white doves, flowers, and rays to symbolize her spiritual voice that speaks through her songs; below is a lamp, symbolic of the light of inspiration.

BSS-IN-c: (WWII): Illuminated list designed by A.J. Casson. “For King and Country / Members of / The Bishop Strachan School / who have volunteered for active service / with / Canada’s fighting forces.” Four columns. Given names followed by surnames. Key: The numerals 1 to 16 note the service in which each person served. The indicating numeral is to the left of the girls’ names. Lower right hand corner: Margaret Reale scripsit—November 1993. Affixed to the bottom of the frame is a brass plaque: This roll of honour commemorates the names of BSS Old Girls who served during WWII. It was begun in 1943 and hung in the / front hall for many years. The frame is made from the wood of the original Great Hall benches “upon which they have sat on / so many occasions. After 1994 research by Jane McGILLIVRAY ‘35 & / Margaret FOULDS Coburn ‘38, the plaque was rededicated / with a more complete list of names and calligraphy done by Past Parent Margaret Reale.

NOTE: All women on this memorial appear under their “school” or maiden names (which by BSS tradition are written in upper case). We have made one exception in our indexing. Kathleen Gilmour appears on the memorial as Kathleen Ritchie, her school or maiden name. She is the only Old Girl known to have served under her married name. We have therefore indexed her as Kathleen Ritchie Gilmour. Mrs. Gilmour was Lady Superintendent-in-Chief (1943-1946) for St. John Ambulance, Canada. She recruited VADs (Voluntary Aid Detachment field nurses) from across Canada, set up the brigade’s headquarters in London, England, and was active in the organization all of her adult life. Anyone researching her, or St. John Ambulance, would look under her married name, Gilmour.

St. Michael’s College School (SMC-IN)

War memorial rock garden at St. Michael’s College School, Toronto, photo courtesy SMCS Archives

Location: 1515 Bathurst Street, Toronto, Ontario  M5P 3H4 (east side of Bathurst Street; north of St. Clair Avenue West)

Opened: 1852

Pre-1998 municipality: City of Toronto

Type of school: Independent; Catholic; all-boys; Grades 7 to 12

During the French Revolution (1787-1799) the number of Roman Catholic seminarians diminished because of persecution. In 1800, two priests founded a secret school in the remote mountains of central France. By 1802, after a change in French laws, ten priests from that school openly bound themselves into a religious community near the city of Annonay. In 1822, they chose St. Basil, a 4th-century teacher, bishop, and doctor of the Church, as namesake of their Congregation of St. Basil (Basilians) which would train new members to continue after the founding fathers’ retirement.

1852 Sept: Msgr de Charbonnel, Roman Catholic Bishop of Toronto, recalled his own Basilian education at Annonay, France, when considering Catholic schools for the young people of his parish. At his invitation, French Basilians opened St. Michael’s College School in the basement of the Bishop’s Palace on Church Street. The school offered, in the French style, a combination of what we would call high school and university education.

1856: School moved to Clover Hill—property donated to the Basilians by the Honourable John Elmsley, Legislative and Executive Councillor of Upper Canada. Clover Hill was outside the city at the time, in an area now bounded by Bay, St. Joseph, and St. Mary Streets.

1881: Affiliated with St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto for post-secondary education.

1902: New wing added to the original building to accommodate the rapidly expanding high school section. (The college section developed more gradually.) The high school remained in this building until 1950.

1932: Yearbook name changed to The Thurible.

1950 Sept: New building on current Bathurst Street site. (The property was previously owned by the Sisters of St. Joseph, who bought it in the 1920s from the estate of R.J. Fleming, a businessman and mayor of Toronto. The Sisters had built a convent and St. Clare House orphanage south of the Fleming house.) Monochrome beige Belden brick, finely-finished concrete and glazed concrete block of the same colour. The lantern tower situated directly over the chapel’s altar was originally designed to be an illuminated beacon at night. Architect: Ernest Cormier (1885-1980) whose designs include the Supreme Court of Canada building, the exterior doors of the United Nations building in New York (Cormier was the sole Canadian consultant for that design) and his own Art Deco home in Montreal, later owned by former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. St. Michael’s is “a scaled-down version of the University of Montreal main building.” Cormier’s only Toronto designs were those done for the Basilians. Later additions to the school reflect Cormier’s style. The 1902 Gothic Revival archway— engraved “Students’ Entrance”—was moved from the old building when it was demolished in 1971, and installed on the grounds on the Bathurst Street side, aligned with the new building’s entrance. A 1903 stained glass window from inside the arch of the old gate was also preserved. (See 1992 comments.)

Brits Blue granite war memorial at St Michael’s College School, Toronto. Photo courtesy SMCS Archives

1957: Artificial ice installed.

1960 Nov 7: A capacity crowd watched an NHL All-Star team composed exclusively of St. Michael’s alumni play the school’s senior team, the Majors. The Majors won, and went on to win that season’s Memorial Cup.

1967: School entered into partnership with Metropolitan Separate School Board of Toronto to educate the Board’s students in Grades 9 and10. This made St. Michael’s both a public and an independent school (until 1985).

1984: Establishment of archives requested by Fr Norm Fitzpatrick, CSB, principal. The school’s first archivist, Fr William O’Brien, CSB, began organizing documents and searching records relevant to the school’s history.

1985 Sept: The Basilian Fathers refused provincial aid, returning St. Michael’s to its roots as a fully independent Catholic high school.

1986: Fr O’Brien, a Second World War veteran, as well as the archivist, began planning a war memorial honouring former students.

1990: Dedication of WWI and WWII framed list of war dead.

1992: Installation above entranceway of stained-glass window preserved from Clover Hill building. Depictions of the old and new schools; religious symbols; Basilian motto, among the additions to the original arched window.

1995: New east wing included: modern classrooms; new library; music and visual facilities; design and technology facilities; a 50-seat lecture hall; expanded gymnasium. Building Fund Campaign for a major renovation of the school included funding for a full Memorial Wall listing the names of all alumni killed in the two World Wars, Korea, and peace time, in the service of Canada.

1998 Sept: Academic program expanded to include Grades 7 and 8.

2000 June: Memorial wall dedicated.

2002 Sept 15: Celebration of 150th anniversary.

2004 Sept: Stadium retro-fitted with artificial turf for the athletic field, an electronic score board, stadium lighting, and an air-supported structure to cover a third of the field for use during winter months.

2008: Archives moved to second floor of the arena. When the protective vertical blinds in the controlled climate museum segment open, there is a clear view of the famed St. Mike’s hockey rink. CBC’s annual Hockey Day in Canada, on January 5, 2007, featured the school’s celebration of 100 years of hockey. More than 200 St. Michael’s alumni have played in the National Hockey League. The fourteen Hockey Hall of Fame inductees (a record unmatched by any school) include Bobby Bauer, Red Kelly, Tim Horton, Dave Keon, and Frank Mahovlich. Many descriptive photos hang in the arena. The arena is 185 feet by 80 feet; can seat 1,140 fans, with standing room for another 500. The “double-blue” (light blue and navy blue) colours are worn in a full range of sports programs: football, baseball, basketball, track and field, tennis, swimming, lacrosse, etc. The school competes with other independent, Catholic, and public schools in the GTA.

2010 Apr 10: Centre for the Arts opened with a gala performance featuring St. Michael’s Alumni Orchestra, the Nylons, the Three Sopranos, and the casts of Phantom of the Opera, and Twelve Angry Men. Designed by C.S. and P. Architects, the Centre is situated where the priests’ residence was, and where Cormier indicated in his late 1940s design an auditorium should be located. The stage is the size of Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theatre on King Street. Used by the school and rented to performing groups.

2012 May 26: St. Michael’s took part in Doors Open Toronto.

Published history:
St. Michael’s College School: Doors Open Toronto at St. Michael’s College School: Saturday, May 26, 2012. Toronto, St. Michael’s College School, 2012.

NOTE: Many of St. Mike’s publications are available online through and linked from the school’s web page including the following:

  • School “calendars” from 1905. These are much like yearbooks—containing team pictures, curriculum information, etc.
  • Yearbooks from 1910. Early issues are called: The Year Book of St. Michael’s College. In 1932, the name was changed to The Thurible. (A thurible is a metal vessel suspended from chains, used for burning incense during solemn services of the church. A server swings the thurible, releasing the fragrant smoke. The new name had a three-fold significance for the school: a thurible appears on the Basilian coat of arms; at High Mass, St Michael is mentioned as “standing at the right hand of the altar of incense;” and incense smoke symbolizes prayers rising to Heaven.) Yearbooks around the war years contain more information about honour rolls. For example, 1919, p. 58 lists “The Fallen” (28 deaths); p. 59 has the photos of the fallen; pp. 63-66 have five columns of names on each page. The Thurible 1945 refers to a memorial to be erected after the war, and on pp. 8-9 tells the branch of service (including some American) and details such as “lost at sea,” “died in camp,” “died of wounds,” and “killed.” Also, The Thurible 1946, p. 81 has a memoriam of World War II deaths (92 names) and includes the years of graduation. The 1948 issue comments, “More than 500 alumni hastened to join the armed services.”
  • Blue Banner, the twice-yearly alumni magazine— current and archival information on graduates’ contributions to politics (particularly federal), academia, the arts, media, sports, and business.
  • The school’s archival holdings include: most school newspapers back to 1944; school marks registers from 1875 to 1919; videos and thousands of images of teams, clubs, and school activities; artifacts such as a football helmet from the 1920s and autographed hockey pucks.
War memorial (SMC-IN-a) now in St Michael’s College School musem, Toronto. ©Toronto Branch, Ontario Genealogical Society

Memorials transcribed:
SMC-IN-a: (WWI and WWII) large framed listing of all of the school’s known war dead. Hand-written (copper plate style). Six panels (church window shape). Panel one: (school crest) St. Michael’s / College School / Honours its students / who gave their lives / in war. Panel two: hand-drawn plain cross above “World War I.” Panels three to five: hand-drawn plain cross above “World War II.” Panel six: (Greek writing) “In place of lamentation / there is remembrance, / and pity is become praise.”

SMC-IN-b: (WWI; WWII; Korea; Peace Time) memorial wall made of Brits Blue granite from South Africa, dedicated in June 2000. The company that made the memorial also did the police memorial at Queen’s Park and the firefighter’s memorial in Ottawa. “In the image and likeness of God / (school crest between two crosses) / St. Michael’s College School / Defenders of Freedom / SMCS honours its students who gave their lives in war and peace time / World War I / (25 names) / World War II / (92 names) / Korean War / (one name) / Peace Time (one name) / Requiescant in Pace. (Ongoing research in the school archives suggests that the figures, especially for the First World War, are likely higher.)
NOTE: The school discussed whether the memorial should be inside the building or outside where it could be seen by the public. When planning for major renovations began in 1995, it was decided to place it here, on what had been the outside wall of the chapel. Above the memorial are the Stations of the Cross originally painted for the Basilian chapel on Strawberry Island, near Orillia, Ontario, by Fr Robert McKinnon, the school’s art and drama teacher in the early 1970s. Fr O’Brien died before the June 2000 dedication. Kimm Bailey, Director of Advancement, finished the project.

SMC-IN-c: Rock garden (“Tulip Garden”): Inscribed on small rocks: (cross) Pray / for / Our War Dead / in World War I / and / World War II. Fr O’Brien initiated creation of a special tulip garden in the school’s courtyard to commemorate the 50th anniversary (1995) of the end of World War II. This was part of a cross-Canada “Canada Remembers” project. Garden composed of a small statue of Saint Francis holding a bird in his right hand, rocks, driftwood, small evergreens and seasonal plants. Maintained by Fr Cecil Zinger, a teacher at the school. Archivist Richard McQuade continues (2013) to work on details of the military records of any former SMCS students—many of whom joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. He is compiling details such as service numbers, data from government files, cross references, etc. and welcomes further information.

There is no peace—
Only post-war
-Pius XII