Peter McEntyre was born on August 15th, 1917 on Metcalfe Avenue in Westmount to John M. McEntyre and May Gear. His early years were spent in the family home on Wood Avenue during which he attended Argyle School before going on to Bishop’s College School. He graduated from McGill University in 1939 with a Bachelor in Commerce in 1939, and two years later ranked first in the province in the chartered accountant exams. In 1941, he married Katherine Creelman, with whom he later had two children, David and Nancy.
During the war, McEntyre was a naval officer “of high distinction” according to dispatches quoted in the Westmount City Council minutes in 1945. McEntyre rose to the rank of lieutenant-commander in the Navy, and served on HMCS Burlington and HMCS Sioux.
Returning to Montreal after the war, McEntyre worked as a chartered accountant. He enjoyed a long and varied business career, during which he acted as chairman of the board of Canada Cement Lafarge for 14 years, as officer and director of St. Lawrence Sugar Refineries for 22 years, and as the president of Commercial Trust for 9 years.
McEntyre was also very active in local politics throughout his life serving first as alderman from 1962-1969 and as mayor from 1969 – 1971, an eventful period in Westmount’s history. He was the first mayor to serve on the newly-created Montreal Urban Community Council, and was outspoken on behalf of Westmount during the controversial police integration.
He presided over the construction of the Hillside Place public housing project which followed the expropriation of residents from Selby Street for the construction of the Trans-Canada Highway.
He was an alderman during the FLQ bombings in the early 1960s and was mayor during the October Crisis. Interestingly, McEntyre was Westmount’s first paid mayor, a decision made by the provincial government, which he opposed. As his daughter Nancy Wright explained to the Westmount Examiner in 2002, he decided to put the money “the City was imposing on him
” into a trust fund to encourage the youth of Westmount to become involved in and develop an understanding of their community. This endowment funded the McEntyre creative writing competition, which has awarded prizes annually for the past 32 years for essays written on specific topics by students from local elementary and high schools. In 2004, 895 student essays were read by 42 volunteer judges.
In 1984, McEntyre became a trustee of the Westmount Public Library
, and in 1986 he served as chairman of the Public Library Committee. In 1987, he received an honorary doctorate of laws from Concordia University, where he also served as governor. McEntyre was also a member of the University and St. James Clubs, and acted as chairman of the endowment fund and advisory board of the Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs of Canada.
Peter McEntyre died of a heart attack on March 5th 1989, at age 71. He had remained actively involved in community life during his later years: he served as a municipal councillor in Entrelacs, in the Laurentians, and he was vice-chairman of the board of the Montreal Neurological Hospital at the time of his death.