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George William Allan, administrator and politician, was born 9 January 1822 in Little York, Upper Canada (now Toronto, Ontario). He was the son of William Allan and Leah Tyreer Gamble. Allan was educated privately and at Upper Canada College, Toronto, Ontario. He spent a portion of 1837, the year William Lyon Mackenzie headed a rebellion in Upper Canada, as a private in the "Bank Rifle Corps." He then finished his studies at Upper Canada College and decided to pursue law, passing his law examinations in 1839. He was articled to the office of Gamble & Boulton in Toronto. He was called to the bar of Upper Canada in 1846. Before entering into practice, he travelled abroad, through Europe, parts of Africa, Syria and the Middle East, Turkey and Greece.
Allan was deeply involved in the political life of the city of Toronto, serving as mayor in 1855. He presided over a number of institutions including the Royal Canadian Institute, the Toronto Conservatory of Music, the Historical Society, the Ontario Society of Artists, and the Horticultural Society of Toronto. From 1877 to 1901 Allan served as Chancellor of Trinity College and from 1867 to 1901 he was a Senator (Speaker 1888-1891), sitting as a Conservative. He was a great collector of art and historical objects and in 1848 bought the entire collection of 100 paintings that Paul Kane had painted on his travels throughout the west. In 1858 Allan donated a portion of land in Toronto to the Toronto Horticultural Society which became the Allan Gardens.
Allan married Louisa Robinson, daughter of Sir John Beverley Robinson, then Chief Justice of Upper Canada, on 16 April 1846. Louisa Allan died in 1952 while the couple was in Rome. In 1857 Allan married Adelaide Harriet Schreiber at St. James' Church, Piccadilly, England. They had seven children, Maude, George William, Mary Adelaide, Charles S., Arthur Campbell, Frederick Gamble Bingham, and Audrey Elizabeth Schreiber. George William Allan died on 24 July, 1901 in Toronto.