Peter Laing. Courtesy of Elgin County Archives.
Peter Laing was among the last of a vanishing breed. Emigrating from Scotland as a young boy, he found his first jobs in the railway industry. Having a long service record with the Michigan Central and New York Central Railway, he was a gifted machinist, who worked on the massive machinery involved in railway operations. He was especially proud of his life membership in the International Association of Machinists Union.
In his younger years, he was a boxer of considerable fame and boxing remained a lifelong interest. Even in his 80’s, he was known to travel a considerable distance to be at ringside for an important fight and was privileged to meet many champions of the ring because of his record in boxing.
Many believe his greatest achievements were in municipal politics. His political career ended in 1988 when he retired after fifty years of continuous service to his community. He only lost one election in fifty years, and during that time year out of office, was elected to the local hospital board.
Serving as Mayor of St. Thomas in 1939 and in 1956, he was proud of many of the accomplishments that were made by Council in his tenure. He was instrumental in establishing the first pension plan in the City of St. Thomas. This happened when the old gas plant on Mondamin Street was closed and sold to Dominion Gas Company. Some of the workers were long past modern retirement age (i.e. 70 years) and a small pension of $10.00/month was taken out of the proceeds of the plant sale.
In 1989, Peter Laing was recognized and feted by the City of St. Thomas for his fifty years of service to the city. A search of the records for province and country could produce no one with a longer record.
In 1990, not long after his retirement, Peter Laing passed away.