Fonds MG 4314 - Timothy Porteous Fonds

Title and statement of responsibility area

Title proper

Timothy Porteous Fonds

General material designation

  • Textual record
  • Graphic material
  • Sound recording
  • Object
  • Multiple media

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  • Source of title proper: Title supplied by the creator.

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Reference code

CA MUA MG 4314

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Statement of scale (cartographic)

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Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

Dates of creation area


  • approximately 1933-2012 (Creation)
    Porteous, Timothy

Physical description area

Physical description

5 m of textual records
19 certificates/graphic material
154 photographs
1 transparency
32 -35mm slides
625 m of reel tape
1 cassette
8 CDs
4 records
3 medals
26 pins/nametags
2 objects
1 mixed media

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Archival description area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Timothy Porteous (full name John Timothy Irvine Porteous), born August 31, 1933 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, was the only son of John Geoffrey and Cora Ann Porteous (nee Kennedy), and brother to Jennifer Marriott and Camilla Ross. He married Wendy Elizabeth Farris on June 28, 1968 (div. December 1986); they had one child, Vanessa Bell Porteous. He then married Beatrice Donald on February 7, 1987; they too had one child, Nicholas William Porteous.

Educated at Bishop’s College School in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Timothy Porteous demonstrated his affinity for both the arts and the law at an early age. He completed his Bachelor of Arts at McGill University in 1954, his Bachelor of Civil Law at McGill in 1957, and his postgraduate degrees from Université de Montréal, 1957-1958, and Université de Paris Institute de Droit Comparé, 1958-1959.
Additionally, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws from Trent University, Ontario in 1986.

During his time as a law student at McGill, Timothy Porteous – along with Erik Wang and Donald MacSween – edited The Fig Leaf, a McGill University humour magazine. In his 1956 review of the McGill Graduate Society’s annual Red and White Revue for the McGill Daily, Timothy Porteous complained that there was little comment on Canadian content. Seeking to remedy this, Porteous – along with friends Wang, MacSween, James de Beaujeu Domville, and Brian Macdonald – wrote, choreographed, and produced My Fur Lady; Timothy also served as the principal lyricist. A satirical take on Canadian identity, My Fur Lady premiered February 7, 1957 at Moyse Hall in McGill’s Arts Building. The show was an immediate success, with four additional performances being added to the original seven, all of which sold out. The show was such a hit it inspired Porteous, Wang, Domville, Macdonald and MacSween to form the production company Quince Productions and My Fur Lady was professionally remounted later that year, backed by the McGill University Graduate Society. The show then toured much of Canada, playing 402 performances in 82 towns and returned a sizeable profit, including sales from the original cast recording made by McGill’s own Recording Services.

Called to the Quebec Bar in 1958, Timothy Porteous served as an Associate at the Montreal law firm Bourgeois, Doheny, Day & Mackenzie from 1958-1966. In 1966 he took a two-year leave of absence from his law practice to move to Ottawa and serve as Executive Assistant to then Minister of Industry, The Honorable Charles Mills Drury.

Timothy Porteous met Pierre Elliott Trudeau in 1957 when, as student delegates, they travelled to West Africa for a World University Service of Canada; Timothy was representing McGill University, Trudeau the Université de Montréal. Timothy Porteous and Pierre Elliott Trudeau remained friends and in 1968 he became a speechwriter for Trudeau’s leadership campaign for the Liberal Party of Canada. When the Liberals won the 1968 election, he became Prime Minister Trudeau’s Special Assistant, a position he held until 1973. Additionally, he was appointed as the Prime Minister’s Executive Assistant in 1970. His chief duties included speechwriting and public statements. He was largely responsible for fashioning the “Trudeau-mania” phenomenon and was given the honour of writing Canada’s message to the moon in 1969; Porteous left the Prime Minister’s side in 1973, although they continued to be close and personal friends.

He was appointed as Associate Director of the Canada Council from 1973-1982 and Director from 1982-1985. He then served as Associate Director for the Canada Centre for Architecture in Montreal from 1986-1988 before being appointed President of the Ontario College of Art in 1988. Timothy Porteous retired in 1995 and shortly thereafter relocated to Vancouver, British Columbia, with his wife, Beatrice Donald.

He has served as a member on several advisory councils, including the Cooperative Programme in Arts Administration, the Laidlaw Foundation, the Society Authors, Composers & Music Publications Canada, the Canada Conference of the Arts, the Toronto Arts Council (board of directors), the Council Ghanaian Canadians (chair, honorary board governors), and, more recently, as a board member for the Vancouver Art Gallery, 2002-2004.

Timothy Porteous was appointed Member of the Order of Canada in October 2003 in recognition of his public service, both as a top level political strategist and as a dedicated champion of the arts. He was also awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.

Custodial history

The records were kept by the creator until donated to the McGill University Archives.

Scope and content

The fonds consists of documents, ephemera, memorabilia, photographs, cassette tapes, video reels, and electronic media relevant to the personal and professional history of Timothy Porteous. The scope predominately covers the period from 1957 to 1987, and includes the speeches that he wrote for Prime Minister Trudeau, diaries and ephemera from his travels (both personal and professional), campaign memorabilia, personal diaries and scrapbooks, letters, photographs, My Fur Lady ephemera (including first drafts and other versions), and his work with the CC, CCA, and OCA.

This fonds is divided into four series. The first series contains his personal papers, the second materials related to his career, the third contains materials created when he was a student, and the fourth contains anything related to My Fur Lady.

Notes area

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

Deposited by Beatrice Donald, 30 March 2016


For the most part, the fond had a natural arrangement which was preserved. Very little was artificially arranged, as there is a lot of crossover between Porteous' personal and professional life. Some series had no formal title and a title was imposed by the archivist based upon the content of the series.

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Language and script note

Some French.

Location of originals

Availability of other formats

Restrictions on access

Personal information is restricted under the An Act respecting Access to documents held by public bodies and the Protection of personal information (R.S.Q., chapter A-2.1).

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Finding aid available

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No further accruals are expected.

General note

Inventory list available

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Dates of creation, revision and deletion

Rachel Black 16/10/2018

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