Biography – Margaret Cuddy Corley

Wedding portrait, Notman Collection, McCord Museum of Canadian History
Wedding portrait, Notman Collection, McCord Museum of Canadian History

Margaret Cuddy Corley (1858 – 19 January 1952) was the daughter of John Patrick Cuddy and his wife Jane O’Sullivan. She was the third of eight children. John Patrick Cuddy was a dry goods merchant and landlord in Montreal.

Margaret was baptized at St Patrick’s Church on the 13th of April 1858. Some members of the family give her middle name as Mary, however she was baptized, married and buried as Margaret.

Margaret grew up on St Mary’s Street (now Notre-Dame East) where her father operated a dry goods store. She received a traditional catholic girls education at Villa Maria, which was a private boarding school run by the Congregation Notre-Dame. She graduated in 1876.

Family stories have it that Margaret was an exceptionally good student, and the apple of her father’s eye. Upon graduation, and after being awarded some sort of academic award for math, she was given by John Cuddy, a trip to Ireland. The trip included a visit to her father’s hometown of Swinford. While there it is said, she heard or saw Timothy Anthony Corley whose family owned the Corley Hotel, and it was love.

While this is a rather romantic story, and it is obvious that Margaret met Timothy in Ireland on one of his father’s frequent trips back to Ireland. Timing however is off. Margaret graduated from Villa Maria in 1876, but only married in 1886 in Montreal. It is possible that they had a ten year engagement, but unlikely. Two stories might have merged, or a story embellished.

That being said, Timothy Corley came to Montreal in 1886, where they married. Around this time they posed for a portrait by famed Montreal photographer William Notman. The couple then moved Swinford, where Timothy ran the family hotel.

There they had two children: Margaret Mary (14 January 1888 – 25 April 1973) and John Kevin (14 May 1890 – 1 March 1969). By 1894 the Corleys had settled in Montreal, near Margaret’s family. Timothy first had a grocery store, then became a commercial traveller. They had another two children in Montreal: Timothy Patrick (27 March 1896 – 4 September 1972) and Irene Virginia (31 July 1898 – 3 October 1964).

It is not clear how well the family did financially. Tim’s grocery store went bankrupt in 1895. Just prior to her father’s death in 1896, during a court trial concerning his sanity, her father testified to giving his “poor Maggie” a large sum of money. On his death in 1896, it is assumed that she inherited 1/7th of his estate, or perhaps in 1909 when her mother died. Timothy also appears to have enjoyed some success as a commercial traveller and agent.

When her youngest daughter Irene came of age, Margaret took a voyage with her to Australia. They first went to San Francisco where in August 1916 they boarded the Ventura. Throughout the rest of her life she took a number of long trips.

The family moved to Winnipeg, this time to join Timothy, who had strong business interests. He died there in 1920. She appears to have moved back to Montreal, but she is not on the 1921 census, nor does her daughter Irene appear. There are two glamorous images of the ladies taken in Paris, by Sabourin. The fashions were of the 1920s.

After Irene’s marriage in 1929 to Hugh James Leitch, Margaret moved in with them. She died in their home in Hamstead in 1952, and was buried next to her husband at Cote-des-Neiges.

Her death made the papers; she was described as “the oldest living Villa Maria graduate.”


Villa Maria archives

Paroisse de Notre Dame de Montreal – registers

Last Will and testament of Margaret Cuddy

McCord Museum of Canadian History – Notman Collection

Obituaries for M Cuddy – Montreal Gazette, Montreal Daily Star

Cuddy v Sullivan – court records, BANQ-M

Passenger lists –