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Memorable Manitobans: Guttormur Jónsson Guttormsson (1878-1966)

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Guttormur Jónsson Guttormsson
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Farmer, author, poet.

Born on a farm near Riverton on 21 November 1878, he had little formal education. He spent most of his life, apart from a brief stint as a storekeeper, farming near the Icelandic River and being a prominent local bandsman.

He published several volumes of verse in Icelandic: Jon from the East Fjords and Some Small Poems (1909), Farmer’s Daughter (1920), Jest and Earnest (1930), Honeybees (1947), Collected Poems (1947), and Canada-Thistle (1958), and Anthology of Poems (1976). Ten Plays was published in Reykjavík in 1930. The plays are regarded as not stageable because he knew nothing about stagecraft, having seen no more than one or two plays performed in his lifetime. He was regarded as a great platform performer, however, particularly when reciting his poetry.

He was revered in Iceland as a major literary voice, being honoured by the Icelandic government with the Distinguished Decoration of the Order of the Falcon (1939) and the Decoration of Grand Knight Commander of the Order of the Falcon (1949). Married in 1904 to Jensina Julia Danielsdottir (c1884-1962), they raised a family of five children.

He died at the Misericordia Hospital on 23 November 1966 and was buried in the Riverton Cemetery. A commemorative marker was erected in the Riverton Centennnial Park. A collection of his work in English, selected by his granddaughter Heather Alda Ireland, was published posthumously as Aurora: English Translations of Icelandic Poems (1993).

See also:

In Search of a Poet by Roy St. George Stubbs (1975).

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Betsey Ramsay Grave (Municipality of Bifrost-Riverton)

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Riverton Centennial Park (Riverton, Municipality of Bifrost-Riverton)

Sources:

Obituary [Jensina Julia Guttormsson], Winnipeg Free Press, 15 January 1962, page 26.

Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 25 November 1966, page 25.

Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

We thank Carole MacFarquhar for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 9 April 2022

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

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