Memorable Manitobans: Robert Maxwell Dennistoun (1864-1952)
Born at Peterborough, Ontario on 24 December 1864, one of twelve children born to James Frederick Dennistoun and Katherine Adele Kirkpatrick, brother-in-law of Alexander Bain, he graduated from Queen’s University (Kingston) in 1885. He articled at Toronto then was called to Ontario Bar in 1888, commencing a legal practice at Peterborough that year. He served as a Bencher of the Law Society of Upper Canada from 1906 to 1907. He came to Winnipeg in 1907 as western counsel for the Canadian Bank of Commerce, becoming solicitor for the bank two years later.
A specialist in corporate law as a partner in the firm of Machray, Sharpe & Dennistoun, he drew up the first Workmen’s Compensation Act for Manitoba and was a Bencher for the Law Society of Manitoba. He was made a King’s Counsel in 1910. He was appointed a judge on the Manitoba Court of Appeal in 1918 and took up his seat a year later on return from active military service. He retired from the Bench in October 1946.
He volunteered for active service during the First World War and was given a commission as Captain in the Fort Garry Horse, later becoming Lieutenant Colonel of the 53rd Battalion in Europe, reaching the rank of Colonel by the end of the war. In 1917 he was made Deputy Judge Advocate General. In recognition of his military service, he was made a Commander in the Order of the British Empire.
On 6 September 1892, he married Mildred Louise Beck (1871-1953) of Peterborough. They had five children: James Alexander Dennistoun (1893-1948), John Romeyn Dennistoun (1895-1916), Robert Peel Dennistoun (1898-1979), Mildred Beck Dennitoun (1910-1992), and Mary Maxwell Dennistoun (1912-1998). The family lived at 166 Roslyn Road, designed in 1908 by architect J. D. Atchison, before moving in 1923 to 216 Cockburn Street. Dennistoun was a member of the Masons (Corinthian Lodge No. 101), Manitoba Club, St. Charles Country Club, and All Saints Anglican Church. He served as President of the Canadian Club of Winnipeg (1924-1925) and Commodore of the Royal Lake of the Woods Yacht Club. He was a member of the first Advisory Board of the Winnipeg Foundation, founded in 1921.
He died at Winnipeg on 10 October 1952.
Who’s Who in Western Canada: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Living Men and Women of Western Canada, Volume 1, edited by C. W. Parker, Vancouver: Canadian Press Association, 1911.
The Story of Manitoba by F. H. Schofield, Winnipeg: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1913.
The Leading Financial, Business & Professional Men of Winnipeg, published by Edwin McCormick, Photographs by T. J. Leatherdale, Compiled and printed by Stone Limited, c1913. [copy available at the Archives of Manitoba]
“Mr. Justice Dennistoun dies, aged 87,” Winnipeg Free Press, 13 October 1952, page 1.
We thank Vivian Boulos for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 7 August 2022