Almonte’s James Bond and Bank of England connection

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This view of Almonte High School, with a cornerstone dated 1876, is from about 1905. Photo provided by Jim Lowry through the Lanark County Ontario GenWeb website at http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~onlanark/scrapbook/PicOfPast.htm.

by Neil Carleton

Media stories that have captured international attention recently include the 50th anniversary of James Bond movies, and the recent appointment of Mark Carney as the Bank of England’s first Canadian governor.  What is not widely known, however, is that both news items have a connection with Almonte.

Under the tutelage of principal Dr. Peter C. McGregor (1842-1916), Almonte High School gave the world some giants, including:

Dr. James A. Naismith, inventor of the game of basketball;

Dr. Robert Tait McKenzie, renowned sculptor, surgeon, and pioneer of rehabilitation;

Dr. James Mackintosh Bell, geologist (Director of the New Zealand Geological Survey), explorer, soldier and author.

Another remarkable AHS graduate distinguished himself in the world of finance.  This was Sir Edward Robert Peacock (1871-1962), head of the banking firm Baring Brothers (1929-54), a director of the Bank of England (1921-24, 1929-46), and a trusted advisor to the Royal Family.

 Photo portraits of Sir Peacock by Bassano can be viewed at the website of the National Portrait Gallery in London, England, at http://www.npg.org.uk/.  Click on collections and search for Sir Edward Robert Peacock.

Just before World War II, Sir Peacock was instrumental in recruiting Ian Fleming into Naval Intelligence.  Fleming is best known for his James Bond series of spy novels, which rank among the best-selling series of fictional books of all time.  2012 marks the 50th anniversary of James Bond movies, from Dr. No in 1962 to the newly released Skyfall.  Would there have been an agent 007 if Sir Peacock had not recommended Ian Fleming as personal assistant to Admiral Godfrey, Director of Naval Intelligence?

Both Dr. Naismith and Dr. McKenzie have streets named after them in Amonte.  The Peacock family name is also on the town map.  Peacock Crescent can be found on the south side of Gemmill Park in town, between Naismith Drive and Shipman Drive, named after Almonte’s founder Daniel Shipman.

Wouldn’t it be great to have some scenes of a James Bond movie shot in Almonte?  Perhaps an international monetary crisis, organized by evil forces to control the planet, threatens to ruin the economic stability of the world.  Anticipating the possibility of such a calamity last century, Sir Peacock created a sophisticated code to open the Bank of England’s ultra-secret vault for a global rescue.  The code, it’s revealed from a lost diary, is based on his early life in Almonte.  The race is on to crack the code and 007 has been dispatched to the valley.  More than one enemy agent is hot on his trail.  Any volunteers for a screenplay?