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Memorable Manitobans: Andrew Graham Ballenden Bannatyne (1829-1889)

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A. G. B. Bannatyne
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Fur trader, merchant, MP (1874-1878), MP (1875-1878).

Born in South Ronaldsay, Orkney Islands on 31 October 1829, son of James Bannatyne and Eliza Ballenden (daughter of John Ballenden), he entered the service of the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1846. He was stationed at Norway House for several years. According to Walter Traill, around 1850 he quit the Company to marry Annie McDermot, daughter of Andrew McDermot, since junior clerks were not allowed to wed. They had three children, the youngest of whom was W. M. Bannatyne. He was a brother-in-law of William Mactavish. Bannatyne went into business in the Red River Colony and, in 1857 he was arrested by the HBC for illegal trading. He was released by recorder Francis Johnson in a decision agreed with by the HBC’s London Committee. By 1858 he was in partnership with Alexander Begg, running what quickly became the largest merchant firm in Red River.

In 1861 he was appointed a Magistrate. In 1868 he became a member of the Council of Assiniboia. He sought to act as a conciliator during the troubled times in 1869-70, serving as postmaster in the Provisional Government of Louis Riel in 1869, on the condition that it seek terms with Canada. Although the English-speaking community was critical of him, he was appointed Winnipeg’s first postmaster in 1871. That same year he helped found the St. Andrew’s Society and an early lodge of Freemasons in Manitoba. He was the second President of the Manitoba Club. He was one of the founders of the Winnipeg Board of Trade, in 1873, and a founding member of the Manitoba Historical Society, in 1879.

In 1872 he was appointed a member of the North-West Council. For several years beginning in 1873, he supported Louis Riel’s political pretensions and helped seek the release from prison of Ambroise Lepine. He was elected to represent Provencher in the Federal House of Commons in 1875, but he devoted most of his attention to business and local philanthropy, helping to organize the Winnipeg General Hospital, for example. He also played in Winnipeg’s first curling match in December 1876. Although at first he became wealthy in the Manitoba land boom of the early 1880s, he held on too long and lost virtually everything. He subsequently became involved in dubious dealings in Metis scrip.

Bannatyne retired from politics in 1878 and died while on vacation in St. Paul, Minnesota on 18 May 1889. He is commemorated by Bannatyne Avenue in Winnipeg. A microfilm copy of his ledger book (1867-1869) is held by the Archives of Manitoba.

See also:

Andrew Graham Ballenden Bannatyne (1829-1889): First Citizen of Winnipeg by Ross Mitchell
Manitoba Pageant, Volume 11, Number 1, Autumn 1965

Andrew Graham Ballenden Bannatyne, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online

Sources:

Pioneers and Early Citizens of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Manitoba Library Association, 1971.

Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by J. M. Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

We thank Christine Buckley for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 17 August 2013

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