Hartland de Montarville Molson, (May 29, 1907 – September 28, 2002) was an Anglo-Quebecer statesman, Canadian Senator and a member of the prominent Molson family of brewers.
Born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada to a wealthy brewing family, Hartland Molson was educated at Selwyn House School in Montreal and at Bishop’s College School in Lennoxville, Quebec before attending the Royal Military College of Canada at Kingston, Ontario where he played ice hockey for the Kingston Juniors team that made it to the 1926 Memorial Cup finals. An all-around athlete, Molson also played first string football, made it to the college’s boxing finals twice, and was a member of the track and field team. After graduating in 1928, the bilingual Molson was then sent for training in finance as an employee at a bank in Paris, France. On his return home, he earned his Chartered Accountant designation and in his spare time took flying lessons.
In 1931, he married Helen Hogg with whom he had a daughter, Zoe. She married Henry Nicholas Paul Hardinge, 5th Viscount Hardinge and moved to live in Jersey.
Following Helen’s death, in 1990 Molson married Peggy deLancey Robinson, the widow of former Senator Theodore Meighen. He remained married to Peggy until her death in 2001. Through his marriage to Peggy, he was also a stepfather to Senator Michael Meighen
He enlisted in Montreal, Quebec on 21 September 1939. With the onset of World War II, Molson became a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), serving in England with the No. 1 Fighter Squadron. He earned his wings on 11 April 1940. During 1940, he flew on 62 missions during the Battle of Britain. After being wounded in action, he was repatriated to Canada. He continued to serve in a variety of administrative positions until the end of the war and commanded several RCAF stations. He commanded No.8 SFTS and the Directorate of Personnel, AFHQ, 16 July 1944. Discharged in September 1945, after the 1945 German surrender, the following year he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.
At home in Montreal, in 1948 Hartland Molson was named Governor of McGill University, a position he held for the next twenty years. In 1953, he was appointed President of the family’s brewing empire, Molson Breweries. He served as President between 1953 and 1966, then Chairman until 1974 and Chairman emeritus until 1983, retiring completely in 1988. During his tenure, the company experienced substantial growth, expanding operations across Canada. Outside of the Molson family businesses, Hartland Molson served on the Board of Directors of a number of major Canadian companies including the Bank of Montreal and Sun Life Assurance.
In 1955, Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent appointed Hartland Molson to the Canadian Senate. Hartland Molson retired from the Senate in 1993 at the age of 86—one of the last Senators to serve past the mandatory retirement age of 75 as he was appointed prior to the institution of the limit in 1965 and thus exempt. John Michael MacDonald was the last Senator to serve past the age of 75 (He died in office in 1997).
In 1957, in partnership with his brother Thomas Henry Pentland Molson (1901–1978), he purchased the Montreal Canadiens ice hockey team. As a member of the Board of Governors of the National Hockey League, Molson was instrumental in raising the profile of both the league and his brewing company through sponsorship of the Hockey Night in Canada television broadcasts. As head of the Montreal Canadiens team, he helped develop the personnel to end the Detroit Red Wings dominance, building one of the greatest dynasties in all of sport. After winning the 1968 Stanley Cup Hartland retired, and David, Peter, William Molson took over control of the Canadiens. The team was sold in 1972 to Edward and Peter Bronfman. Senator Hartland Molson name was engraved on the Stanley Cup 6 times 1958-59-60-65-66-68. In 1973, he was inducted into the builders category of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
His high profile image made him a prime target for the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ), a terrorist organization dedicated to Quebec sovereignty. During the 1970 October Crisis, when British diplomat James Cross was kidnapped and Pierre Laporte, the Vice-Premier of Quebec, was kidnapped and murdered, Hartland Molson’s name was found on a terrorists’ list of future victims.
Hartland Molson was involved with a number of a philanthropic causes. He co-initiated the Molson Foundation in 1958, with his brother Thomas Henry Pentland Molson, which has contributed to a broad spectrum of areas, including the arts, sports, infrastructure projects, the Molson nature reserve and several faculties. Renamed the Molson Family Foundation in 1981, it has dispersed over $120 million in grants. It has also made major gifts to the Montreal Neurological Institute and Montreal General Hospital, the Canadian Paraplegic Association, the Douglas Hospital Corporation, and the Boy Scouts of Canada.
Awards and recognition
In 1995, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and in 2000, the Ordre national du Québec, the highest civilian honor of his country and his native province. Hartland Molson Hall at Bishop’s College School is named for him. 438th Tactical Helicopter Squadron in Saint-Hubert named their hangar and a cenotaph after him on August 28, 2009. In 2009, 1800 Honourable Hartland de Montaville Molson, OC, OBE, OQ, DCL, FCA (1907–2002) was added to the wall of honour at the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario.
Hartland Molson was a well known salmon fisherman on the Bonaventure River; in Gaspesie.