Robert Reford (1831- 1913), merchant, capitalist
Robert Reford was born at Moylena, near Antrim, and at the age fourteen came with his family to Canada. They arrived at Quebec and after a brief stay in Montreal they settled in Toronto, where Robert completed his education. He lived there until 1865, doing business as a wholesale grocer, importer and shipping agent under the name of Reford & Dillon. In 1865, the firm opened a branch in Montreal for the extension of the same business, and work of ocean shipping. About 1870 the Toronto business was sold off and some year later, after Dillon retired, the present company of the Robert Reford Company, Ltd. was established.
The new firm, since its formation, has confined itself almost entirely to ocean shipping, being agents and part owners for many ocean lines of steamers between ports in Canada and Great Britain, with a regular service from French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Greek ports and also West Indies and South America.
In the past the company was the pioneer company in opening up trade between Canada and Avonmouth and Cardiff, also the Atlantic and Mediterranean ports of France, Bordeaux, Charente, Havre and Marseilles, and Rangoon, Burma. Whilst resident in Toronto the firm despatched the first cargo ever shipped of Canadian produce to South Africa. The venture not proving profitable, owing to native wars and disturbances in Africa, was dropped.
In 1911 Robert Reford was rated as a millionaire by the Montreal Star. He gave significant sums of money to the Montreal General Hospital, McGill University and Montreal Y.M.C.A. He also founded the Robert Reford prize of $90 given annually, at the Montreal Diocesan Theological College in 1905. He was a councillor on the Montreal Board of Trade 1890-1, on the Harbour Commission for Montreal, Chairman during the years 1904-5 of the Royal Transportation Commission 1901-5 and a frequent contributor to the press on commercial subjects.
Since the establishment of the company in Montreal in 1866, Robert Reford’s family had continued to own and manage the business.