UCT member to remember…Major Duke West

Duke West #1Duke West, an infamous club member, in my mind at least, and part of a small group of bachelors that lived on the club’s bedroom floor. Current member Bob Rumball tells it best, as written in the club’s centennial book “The University Club of Toronto, Its Life, Its Times”….see excerpt below.

“Most of the “permanent residents”- bachelors all, naturally – had been members for a very, very long time, several of them having served the Club in some significant role. They were the arbiters of appropriate conduct in a gentlemen’s club and they brooked no interference from – nor association with – less august specimens of the membership. They had their own table for meals – and anyone who attempted to trespass on their sacrosanct preserve was promptly given the benefit of a sharp reprimand that few ever forgot, laced, as it invariably was, with a mischievous sarcasm that bordered on humour for those with the wit to appreciate it. The most notable of the permanent residents was W.R. “Duke” West. He moved into the Club’s top floor when the new building opened in 1929 and left it only when he died in 1975 at the age of 85. He is reputed to have been dining one evening when another member approached him and asked:”Are you alone?” Duke looked up and replied sternly: “I hope so”.
“Duke West was a self-made man. He grew up on the a farm in Ontario and walked every day from his home to the one-room schoolhouse. He was the first person in his family to get his degree from university, graduation from the University of Toronto before World War 1. He joined the army as an artillery gunner and went to France, where he became a lieutenant. He was wounded three times and won the Military Cross.”
“Duke West retained his own batman for many years after the war ended and he revered all things British, especially gentlemen’s club, of course, but also elaborate graciousness with women, elegant clothes, billiards, the art and folklore of hunting and fishing and a refined palate for wine.”

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