The Naming of Maberly, Ontario

Maberly is a small hamlet located in the southwest corner of Lanark County in East Ontario, Canada. It lies alongside the Transcanada Highway some 25km from Perth and about an hours drive from Ottawa in an area known as the Land of Lakes which consists of rocky granite outcrops with lakes, swamp and forest. Although very unfriendly to farmers the area finds favour with summer visitors for its wild scenery, its rich fauna and its excellent fishing and with winter sports enthusiasts during the cold winters.

Lanark County was first settled by immigrants from Scotland and Ireland in the early 19th century which is reflected in its culture and place names. The small community of Maberly was first named Maberley in 1865 by the Canadian Post Office Department Secretary William Dawson LeSueur in honour of his counterpart in the British Post Office, Lt-Col William Leader Maberly. The spelling was revised to Maberly in 1976 to agree with the spelling adopted by the former Canadian Pacific Railway. Note that there is another Canadian community called Maberly on the island of Newfoundland.

William Leader Maberly St Albans church, Maberly

William Leader Maberly (1798-1885) was the eldest son of John Maberly, the "Father of Maberly Street". John Maberly (1770-1845), after whom Maberly Street in Aberdeen is named, made his fortune as a contractor to the army with premises in London and Aberdeen and amassed enough money to buy Shirley Manor in Croydon and become a Member of Parliament, initially for Rye and thereafter for Abingdon. Unfortunately an unsuccessful attempt to introduce British banking techniques into Scotland led to his downfall and ultimate bankruptcy after which he retired to France.

William Leader joined the British Army at 17 as a lieutenant in the 7th Foot Regiment, was promoted to captain in the 9th Lancers, then to major in 72nd Highlanders, before becoming Lieutenant-Colonel of the 96th Foot (1826-27) and the 76th Foot (1827-32). He remained attached on half pay until his retirement from the army in 1881.

His military career didn't prevent him becoming the MP for Westbury (1819-20), for Northampton (1820-30), for Shaftesbury (1831-32) and for Chatham (1832-34). He also found time to serve as Surveyor-General of the Ordnance (1831-32), Clerk of the Ordnance (1833-34) and a commissioner of customs (1834-36).

His best-known rôle started in 1836 with his appointment as joint secretary to the General Post Office where he vigorously opposed the ideas of the liberal reformer Rowland Hill. In 1837 Hill had presented a petition to Parliament proposing the Uniform Postal Rate, whereby mail could be sent regardless of distance at a pre-paid penny rate. After Parliament had passed a bill supporting the proposal Hill was given a temporary position in the Treasury to supervise the progress of his reforms which marked the beginning of a long power struggle between the two men. Hill gained the advantage with the introduction in 1840 of the hugely successful penny post but lost his job two years later following a change to a more conservative government. Hill was back in 1846 when the reforming Whigs were re-elected but this time with more power as Secretary to the Postmaster-General. Eight years of bitter and costly feuding between the two ended with Maberly's transfer in 1854 to the Board of Audit and Hill's appointment as Permanent Secretary to the GPO.

William Leader finally retired in 1866 and died at his London home in Portman Square in 1885. He had married in 1830 the Honourable Catherine Prittie, a Tipperary born authoress who wrote a number of published novels. Maberly himself owned considerable estates in Tipperary. They had one son, William Anson Robert.

During his time at the GPO one of his principal assistants had been another internationally known novelist, Anthony Trollope, who described him in unflattering detail in his autobiography. In fact it was largely to escape from the Colonel-Secretary's malign influence that Trollope took up the post in Ireland where his literary career really started. He later caricatured Maberly as Sir Boreas Bodkin in his novel Marion Fay.

With thanks to Michael Dawber of the Lanark County Genealogy Society.