QUEBEC Montreal McGill University Shakspere 44.6mm bronze subscribers medal 45.55g by J.S. & A.B. WYON (Leroux 672, Breton 120, McLachlan 165)
Obverse: William Shakepeare facing left, SHAKSPERE 1564- 1616 / J.S. & A.B. WYON SC.
Reverse: ornamented cross with the top and bottom of the cross rounded and the sides pointed, MCGILL COLLEGE MONTREAL / SHAKSPERE / TERCENTENARY / 1864, at the top are the arms and motto of the College, and below is a ribbon inscribed FOR ENGLISH LITERATURE
Alfred Sandham writing in his 1872 publication, McGill College Medals
It has often been said, though little followed in practice that when we are called on to celebrate the memory of the mighty dead, we do this in the most rational and most fitting way by helping and succouring their living representatives and successors, by promoting the ends to which they devoted their lives, and by striving ourselves and stimulating others to imitate whatever was good or great in their examples. These were evidently the views of those citizens of Montreal who founded the "THE SHAKSPERE MEDAL"
Later Robert W. McLachlan wrote in his 1886 publication, Canadian Numismatics that those "citizens of Montreal" was really Mr. Thomas Davies King. McLachlan described him as,
An enthusiastic admirer of Shakespere. He advertised a meeting for the purpose of striking a medal, in honor of Shakespere's tercentenary. Finding himself the only one present at the meeting, he constituted himself Chairman and Secretary, passed a series of resolutions, and carrying out these resolutions, soon had sufficient funds collected with which to defray the expenses connected with the founding of this medal.
The Montreal Gazette for April 21, 1864 (p2) shares the full story of what transpired from the initial efforts of Mr. King.
THE SHAKSPEARE MEDAL
Yesterday a meeting of the subscribers of the Shakspeare Medal was held at the Board of Arts Room, Mechanics Hall. Mr. W.H.A. Davies was called to the chair, and Mr. T. D. King acted as Secretary.
Mr. King announced he had obtained 150 subscribers of $10. each, besides some twenty subscribers of smaller amounts.
Prof. Cornish moved, seconded by A. Wilson, Esq., a vote of thanks to Mr. King for his energetic exertions to obtain the number of subscribers necessary to carry out the proposition, originally Mr. Kings own, of endowing a Shakspeare Medal.
It was then moved and resolved, that a committee should be appointed to make the necessary arrangements for the presentation of the medal and to have the deed of gift prepared. The said committee to be composed of Messrs. Wm Workman, W. H. Davies, A. Wilson, Prof. Cornish, T. K. Ramsay and T. D. King.
It was also resolved that the deed of the gift should set forth the object and occasion of the donation, the manner in which the funds collected should be distributed: (1st the sinking of the dies; 2nd, for the procuring of a bronze copy of the medal for each subscription of $10.; and 3rd, for the investment of the balance in Government securities to produce the revenue required for the annual gold medal); the terms upon which the medal should be given, and the disposition of the proceed of the invested funds in any year in which no student should gain the medal. In that case the income for the endowment, for such year, shall be expended by the Board of Governors for McGill College in prizes for proficiency in English Literature, or be otherwise disposed of for the promotion of the cultivation of the said University departments, subject to such regulations the Corporation may from time to time appoint. It was also resolved that the deed should specially stipulate that no other copies of the medal should ever be struck, except the original copies for subscribers and the annual gold medal.
The successful competitor must pass an examination in an Honour Course, comprising the works of Shakspeare and the literature of England from his time to the time of Addison inclusive, and such other accessory subjects as the Corporation may from time to time appoint.
That the general design of the medal is to be, on the obverse, the head of Shakspeare: on the reverse an English inscription indicating the objects of the Donors and the occasion of the donation.
Immediately after the general meeting the committee proceeded to make arrangements for performing the duties assigned it; and it is intenned (sic) that the presentation shall take place on the 23rd, at an hour which will be notified to the subscribers.
This is an award that is still being offered today. If a gold medal was awarded every year since its introduction then there should be more gold medals than the 150 bronze distributed to the subscribers of the award.
Thomas Davies (Rex) King (Bristol UK 1819 - Montreal QC 1884) He was a Bristol optician and manufacturer of microscopes and other scientific and engineering apparatus. He exhibited microscopes at both the 1851 International Exposition in London and the Paris International Exposition in 1855. He went bankrupt in 1856 which may have been a precursor for his immigration to Canada in 1858 to make measurements of the expansion and contraction of the tube of Victoria Bridge and make meteorological observations for Grand Trunk Railway. He was a charter member of the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society, a respected Shakespearian scholar and seemed to be connected with every Montreal society that promoted the cultivation of art and literature.