The house was two-and-a-half storeys tall, made of brick with wood floors, big closets, a dining room with a built-in china cabinet, and a fireplace. It was from this house that Phyllis’s siblings started their marriages and careers, and moved away. This was also the house where her niece (Muriel’s daughter) came in 1903 as a toddler, grew up and married, and emigrated to England. And it was in this house that both of Phyllis’s parents had grown old and died in 1935 and 1936.
Phyllis continued to live in the house for many years afterward, making her living as a music teacher, giving lessons and even holding recitals in the living room. To boost her income, she converted the second floor into apartments, and rented one of these to the famous university registrar, Jean Isobel Royce. The two women became fast friends.
A controversy erupted at Queen’s University in 1961, twenty-six years after the death of Archibald Patterson Knight.
As a scientist, Professor Emeritus, and former member of the university’s Board of Trustees, AP might have been in favour of the plan for a new physics building on the Queen’s University campus. But the Board had chosen a site that would destroy the last large green space on campus. Students and faculty protested, demonstrations were held, and the Board was forced to change its decision.
An alternative site was chosen on Queen’s Crescent, where most of the property owners had agreed to sell. Just one person held out. It was Archie and Cordelia’s daughter, Phyllis Knight, who had lived at 52 Queen’s Crescent for nearly 70 years.
In the backwoods of Ontario, a blacksmith named Fred LaRose was working on the new railroad when his pickaxe struck a rock. It broke off “a piece as big as my hand, with little sharp points all over it,” and a shiny vein running through its middle. He showed the rock to the owner of a nearby hotel.
“Some kind of damn metal,” they decided, and sent it away to be tested.
It was Cyril’s professor, W.G. Miller, who received the sample, and a lab report confirmed his suspicions. The rock contained silver. Lots of it. The race was on!
It was already October, and a Canadian winter would soon set in, making travel impossible. Professor Miller rushed to the site along with two assistants. One of them was Cyril Knight.
Soon after Freddie went to live at the asylum, and while his sister Muriel was living in the U.S. with the first of her many husbands, Cyril Knight was still living at home with his two younger sisters and their parents. The whole family was busy with music lessons, sports and studying, and their father’s schedule was crammed with teaching, writing, committee-work, travel and science experiments.
“I have oiled the thing on the roof,” Cyril wrote to him, “but you didn’t tell me how to make out the report.”
Cyril was a third-year geology student. He was also the captain of the Queen’s University hockey team, which had recently won the American intercollegiate championship. But in August 1903, just as the team was looking ahead to an exciting new season, something extraordinary happened to Cyril.
Toward the end of Archie’s life, he told the story about a speech given by his headmaster at the Renfrew School who “wished to make special mention of a boy who had made wonderful progress in his studies…Archibald P. Knight.”
Archie said “I am quite certain that I was the most astonished pupil in the school. I dropped from my chair to the floor below my desk and obstinately refused to show myself.”
Archie’s keen mind and self-effacing nature lasted until the end of his life. When he died in 1935, a colleague said “Queen’s never had a greater teacher than Dr. Knight. His mind was crystal clear.”
The Royal Society of Canada added, “Modesty and sincerity were his outstanding characteristics.” Beyond all his personal and professional achievements, it’s Archie’s kindness and integrity that stand out as his real legacy.
Archie’s next big interest was marine research. He helped to set up first a floating laboratory and then a permanent one at St. Andrew’s, New Brunswick. Some of his research helped the lobster industry to recover from overfishing, to stop the practice of dynamiting fish, and to prevent fish from being poisoned by sawdust from the lumber industry.
Even when he was well into his seventies, after he retired from teaching, Archie served on the university’s Board of Trustees, and as chair of the Biological Board of Canada, and as president of the Royal Society of Canada.