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Memorable Manitobans: Alfred Herbert Rennie (1857-1908)

Civil servant, businessman.

Born at Hamilton, Ontario on 17 November 1857, he was educated at the Hamilton Collegiate Institute and Upper Canada College at Toronto. He then worked as a junior clerk in the wholesale dry goods firm of Thomas C. Kerr and Company at Hamilton, later going to Texas with a brother to operate a cattle ranch. He returned to Hamilton in 1879 then came to Winnipeg later that year, first working as a clerk in the grocery store of Robson, Kennedy and Company then, in 1880, he worked with Stobart, Eden and Company. He subsequently moved to Portage la Prairie as Manager for the contractors of the Manitoba and Northwestern Railway. He returned to Winnipeg in 1885 and, in December 1886, entered the civil service as Private Secretary to Premier John Norquay. He resigned less than a year later and, around 1890, he and his wife moved to Hong Kong where he represented a San Francisco flour milling company and became one of the largest importers of American flour to China.

After Great Britain signed an agreement with China in 1898, extending its control over Hong Kong, Rennie established the Hong Kong Flour Mill Company at Chiu Keng Leng. Starting operations in 1905, the mill closed in early April 1908 due to the high cost of production and inferior quality of the product. Apparently despondent at the mill closure, in which he had invested heavily, Rennie drowned himself at Lei Yue Mun, a few kilometers from the mill site, in April 1908. The mill building was later demolished but the area is still known as “Rennie’s Mill”.

Sources:

A Political Manual of the Province of Manitoba and the North-West Territories by J. P. Robertson, Winnipeg: Call Printing Company, 1887.

“Personal”, Manitoba Free Press, 4 November 1887, page 4.

“Portage la Prairie”, Manitoba Free Press, 28 October 1890, page 4.

“Former Manitoban: Mr. Rennie, at one time private secretary to Premier Norquay, suicided”, Manitoba Free Press, 15 April 1908, page 1.

“Visitor from China: Canadian’s recent suicide in Hong Kong caused a sensation”, Manitoba Free Press, 26 May 1908, page 14.

All About Sai Kung: III. Drowning was Mistaken for Hanging - Did Someone Really Hang Himself in Tiu Keng Leng? [accessed 8 October 2008]

The Junk Bay Flour Mill - Hong Kong 1905-1908 [accessed 8 October 2008].

We thank Jacky Shum for providing additional information used in this profile.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 8 October 2010

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

This is a collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society.

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