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Memorable Manitobans: Bonar Franklyn Shinn (1911-1997)

Organist, conductor, composer, astronomer.

Born at Barry Dock in South Wales in 1911, he came to Winnipeg with his parents the following year, when his father William Henry Shinn was appointed as choirmaster at Knox Church, succeeding Rhys Thomas. He studied piano and organ with his father, and with Herbert Sadler. In 1926 he began teaching at the Shinn Conservatory of Music, which his father founded in 1922. From 1933 to 1936 he studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London. From 1936 to 1939 he conducted the Winnipeg Metropolitan Choir, and from 1939 to 1967 he was organist and choirmaster in various United Churches. A number of his compositions for organ were published. In 1951 he succeeded his father as President of the Shinn Conservatory.

Over many years he developed an interest in astronomy, and was known as a skilled lens grinder. In 1967 he sold his interest in the Conservatory to George Kent and accepted an appointment as Assistant Director of the Planetarium at the Museum of Man and Nature (now the Manitoba Museum). He became Associate Director in 1972 and was responsible for the design of the Planetarium’s solar telescope, which was inaugurated in 1973; a gift from the Polish community of Winnipeg to mark the 500th anniversary of the birth of Nicolas Copernicus. He was appointed Director of the Planetarium in 1975. The following year he retired, and moved to Nanaimo, British Columbia but continued to have an active interest in astronomy, lecturing throughout the BC Parks Network and teaching courses at Malaspina College. From 1978 to 1980 he acted as Editor of the National Newsletter of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

He died at Nanaimo on 22 October 1997.


Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 26 October 1997, page 62.

This profile was prepared by Keith Davies Jones.

Page revised: 15 August 2010

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