BECKET, JOHN C., printer; b. 14 May 1810 at Kilwinning, Scotland; married, but his wife’s name is not known; d. 5 Sept. 1879 in Montreal.
John C. Becket was trained as a printer. In 1831 he emigrated and followed his trade for some months in New York. In 1832 he came to Montreal, where he lived for the remainder of his life. In his Introduction of printing into Canada, Ægidius Fauteux* describes Becket and four contemporary printers as “ancestors of the profession” in Montreal, but not members of the true pioneering period, which closed by 1825. The importance of their craft in the growing metropolis (about 30,000 in 1832) is clear. Becket had an additional importance as an outstanding trainer of printers.
Until 1843 Becket was in business with a partner, Rollo Campbell; thereafter, by himself. He did job-printing, for example the annual reports of the French Canadian Missionary Society and of the Montreal Sunday School Union. He printed a number of periodicals, such as the French Canadian Missionary Record, the Canada Miscellany, and the Canada Temperance Advocate. He conducted a stationery and book store as well. When John Dougall* gave up the editorship of the Advocate and established the Montreal Witness in 1846, Becket printed that paper also (at a later time the Witness took over its own printing). Dougall and Becket shared the same interest in furthering moral causes.
Becket was deeply concerned in religious issues and in various charitable enterprises, for example the Montreal Protestant House of Industry and Refuge, of which he was a governor. He was a lifelong member of Erskine Presbyterian Church (whose pastor was William Taylor) and served as elder and clerk of session. “A prominent teetotaller,” he frequently lent his business premises for the meetings of temperance societies. He was interested also in national and fraternal organizations. A member of the St Andrew’s Society from 1835, he became its president in 1866. He was a founder of the first Montreal lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and for many years was a senior officer. “[His] kindly disposition and many charities prevented his ever becoming rich.”
St Andrew’s Society of Montreal, Minutes, 1834–79. Erskine and American United Church (Montreal), Erskine Church records, Minutes of the Board of Trustees, 1833–79; Minutes of the session of the church, 1833–79. The Presbyterian Record for the Dominion of Canada (Montreal), IV (October 1879). Dom. ann. reg., 1879, 384–85. Ægidius Fauteux, The introduction of printing into Canada, a brief history (Montreal, 1930), 110–11.