Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: Watson Kirkconnell (1895-1977)

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Watson Kirkconnell
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Educator, linguist.

Born at Port Hope, Ontario on 16 May 1895, he was educated at the Lindsay Collegiate Institute, Queen’s University, Toronto Conservatory of Music, and Lincoln College, Oxford. He was Professor of English at Wesley College in Winnipeg from 1922 to 1930 and head of the classics department there from 1930 to 1940. He then led the federal government’s “Nationalities Branch” (which became the Citizenship Bureau) during the Second World War. He also headed the Humanities Research Council in 1943 and the Baptist Federation of Canada in 1944.

After a period at McMaster University, he was President of Acadia University from 1948 to 1964. He wrote 40 books, 130 brochures, and 600 articles, as well as innumerable translations from some of the 50 languages with which he was familiar. He was particularly important in translating Ukrainian and Icelandic poets into English. His memoir of his father was published as A Canadian Headmaster in 1935, and his own memoirs, A Slice of Canada, appeared in 1967. He was given an honorary doctorate by the University of Manitoba (1957) and inducted into the Order of Canada (1969). He held fellowships in the Royal Society of Canada, Royal Anthropological Institute, Royal Economic Society, Royal Geographical Society, Royal Historical Society, and Royal Institute of International Affairs.

He died at Wolfville, Nova Scotia on 26 February 1977.

See also:

The Undoing of Babel: Watson Kirkconnell, the Man and His Work edited by J. R. C. Perkin (1975).

Perkin’s Morning in His Heart: The Life and Writings of Watson Kirkconnell by J. R. C. Perkin (1986).


1901 Canada census, Automated Genealogy.

“Famed author dies in hospital at 81,” Winnipeg Free Press, 28 February 1977, page 5.

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

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 14 August 2018

Memorable Manitobans

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