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Memorable Manitobans: John Alexander MacAulay (1892-1978)

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John Alexander MacAulay
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Lawyer, businessman.

Born at Morden on 29 May 1892, son of Finlay MacAulay (1842-1918) and Margaret MacDonald (1860-1930), on the site of the Morden Experimental Farm, he received his BA and Master of Laws from the University of Manitoba. During the First World War, he served overseas as a member of the Canadian Army Medical Corps, then became a lawyer with Aikins MacAulay and Thorvaldson. For many years he was Vice-President and Director of the Bank of Montreal. He was credited with bringing Canada Safeway Limited to Canada, serving as its Vice-President until his death. He was made a King’s Counsel in 1931.

On 27 June 1928, he married Phyllis Ardelle McPherson (1905-1999), niece of Ewen A. McPherson, at Westminster United Church and they subsequently had a daughter and a son. A member of Westminister United Church, he taught one of the largest adult Bible classes in Canada in the 1930s and 1940s. He was President of the Manitoba Red Cross during the Second World War, and President of the Canadian Red Cross Assocaition from 1950 to 1951. A keen art collector, he was active with the Winnipeg Art Gallery (1950-1953) and the National Art Gallery of Canada (1955-1957). He was President of the Canadian Bar Association in 1953-54 and was appointed a Companion to the Order of Canada in 1967. He was awarded the Centennial Medal of Honour by the Manitoba Historical Society in 1970. He was made an Honorary Patron of the Canadian Foundation of the International College of Surgeons in 1971. He was an active supporter and Honorary Life Member of the St. Andrew’s Society of Winnipeg and an Honorary Life Member of the Manitoba Club. He was awarded honorary doctorates by the University of Manitoba (1954) and the University of Winnipeg (1970).

Brother-in-law of Andrew E. McGavin, and brother of Archibald MacAulay and M. E. MacAulay.

He died at Winnipeg on 7 November 1978 and was buried in the Garry Memorial Park.


Attestation papers, Canadian Expeditionary Force, Library and Archives Canada.

Marriage registration, Manitoba Vital Statistics.

“MacAulay – McPherson,” Manitoba Free Press, 28 June 1928, page 10.

“Six Manitoba lawyers named King’s Counsel,” Winnipeg Free Press, 1 January 1931, page 1.

“John MacAulay considered himself a grassroots boy,” Winnipeg Free Press, 7 November 1978, page 15.

A Proud Heritage: A History of The St. Andrew’s Society of Winnipeg 1871-1982 by Thomas Saunders, Winnipeg: Peguis Publishers (1982).

Obituary [Phyllis A. MacAulay], Winnipeg Free Press, 4 July 1999, page 22.

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

We thank James Arnett for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 31 March 2017

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

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