André Duquenne: back to where it all began
André Duquenne lives on de la Commune Street, at the corner of McGill Street, in Old Montreal. His windows look out onto the river and provide an excellent vantage point for watching cruise ships as they arrive at the Iberville Passenger Terminal.
André Duquenne disembarked at Alexandra Pier in the Port of Montreal 53 years ago after
sailing from Le Havre, France. He still lives in Montreal and is a Neighbour of the Port.
“Each time I see a ship dock, I look back and see myself arriving in Montreal. It was May 29, 1962, and I was 24 years old,” Mr. Duquenne says. By moving across from Alexandra Pier three years ago, Mr. Duquenne has returned – in a sense – to where his North American adventure all started.
After returning from the Algerian War, there was little to keep this military fighter pilot in France in the 1960s. He thought about moving to Australia. But his friends who had returned from Canada had nothing but good things to say about life in this country. That convinced Mr. Duquenne and his young wife to board Cunard Line’s Saxonia for the voyage to Montreal. The crossing took 11 days. “While we were on the ship, we looked at each other and wondered what we had done. We had to have been crazy, leaving our parents, our friends … everything! We had a wicker suitcase and $15 in our pockets. And we knew nothing about Quebec or Montreal!”
André Duquenne : "This postcard best represents the radical new direction
I took after the Algerian War. This ship, which was majectic at the time, is
Cunard Line's Saxonia. When I look at this, I see myself embarking in
May 1962 - my heart pounding - to sail across the Atlantic with my wife."
Everything was so different, and seemed so big. “The St. Lawrence is so large that it makes European rivers look small. I thought we were still out in the middle of the ocean when, in fact, we had sailed well into the Gulf.”
A successful gamble!
He finally disembarked at the Iberville Passenger Terminal, on Alexandra Pier, on Tuesday, May 29, 1962. It was the beginning of the love affair between André Duquenne and Quebec.
Unfortunately, things started off poorly. Upon arrival, he learned that he could not work as an airplane pilot, contrary to what he had been told.
No matter, the young Frenchman turned to his profession as a machinist. At the Department of Immigration table set up in the passenger terminal, he was given the addresses of two factories where he could look for work. The second address was the one. The young immigrant suggested to his future boss that he work there for one week, without pay, as a test. He was hired after two days! A successful gamble, indeed!
This young Frenchman was 24 years old and
had the determination and energy to start anew.
Shortly thereafter, the couple gave up their small room on Saint-André Street that they been renting for $5 a week for better accommodations. A hard worker who was determined to improve his life, Mr. Duquenne returned to school for courses in mechanics and business administration. He followed that up with a master’s in public administration and a teaching certificate. He taught and worked as an industrial designer at Domtar and at the Seigneurie des Mille-Îles School Board where he finished as director. “I like to move,” he says. And how!
Disembarking in Montreal on a Tuesday, André Duquenne went
to work the following Monday morning at Arell as a machinist
specializing in precision parts manufacturing.
Mr. Duquenne then turned to business financing, most notably at Innovatech Grand Montréal, where he became senior vice-president, and then at T2C2 Capital as vice-president, technologies, before starting his own business, T2ic, in 2004. “I helped about 60 businesses get off the ground in Quebec,” he says proudly.
This Port of Montreal neighbour will finally retire for good this year, at the age of 77. But there will be lots to keep him busy. He loves fishing and the great outdoors. One thing for certain is that he is not ready to move. “I love living in Old Montreal!” he says. “I jog and bike along the Seaway, the locks and the Lachine Canal, near the river and ships. Old Montreal has so many good restaurants, with all kinds of cuisine – better than in Paris!”
André Duquenne : "Five years after our arrival, we became owners of a house in the suburbs of Montreal
and I drove my first American car: a Chevrolet. That same year I finally became a Canadian citizen.
My American dream had become a reality."