Manitoba Historical Society
Search
MHS website:
 


Past Lane
News


Upcoming
Events


War
Memorials
in Manitoba


Manitoba
History

No. 75


Digitized
Local History
Books


Memorable
Manitobans


Historic Sites
of Manitoba


Questions on
Manitoba
History

Robert Machray - Missionary Statesman

by Canon Laurence F. Wilmot

MHS Transactions, Series 3, 1956-57 Season

MHS Transactions were originally published by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make online versions available as a free, public service. As an historical document, Transactions may contain language that is no longer in common use and which may offend some readers. They should not be construed to represent the views of today’s Manitoba Historical Society.

This online version was prepared using Optical Character Recognition software so that spelling and punctuation errors may have occurred inadvertently. If you find any such errors, please inform us, indicating the document name and error.

Please direct all inquiries to webmaster@mhs.mb.ca.

In order to understand the life and character of a man it is necessary to return to his birthplace and uncover some of the forces which played upon his life in those early years. A tree is known by its fruits, but the strength of a tree is in its roots.

Robert Machray was born in Aberdeen, May 17, 1831. His father, also named Robert Machray, was a graduate of Marischal College, and a member of the Society of Advocates of Aberdeen, the most important legal organization in the North of Scotland. The Machrays were members of the Church of Scotland, and young Robert was baptized in the East Parish Church of Aberdeen. The father died while Robert was but a boy and he went to live with an uncle who was a schoolmaster of wide reputation. Here Robert received an excellent elementary education and had opportunity to read widely, developing a particular interest in history. It was a time of bitter religious controversy in Scotland when in 1843 hundreds of ministers of the Church of Scotland gave up their livings and formed the Free Church of Scotland, and young Machray read widely in theology and entered into the discussions of the ecclesiastical differences. He chose, however, to remain within the established Church; in fact, it was during these discussions that he began to have a secret longing to enter the Church of England.

Robert was a good student and in 1845 was awarded first prizes for Latin, Greek and Arithmetic. Two years later, when his uncle was forced through illness to give up his teaching, young Robert Machray at the age of sixteen took his place temporarily. and was highly commended for his work. He began at this time to have thoughts of becoming a schoolmaster like his uncle. The only profession which was higher in his estimation was the ministry of the Church. He went up for the bursary competition at Marischal College, but failed to qualify. Through the help of the Minister of Coull, the friend of his uncle, he entered King's College, Aberdeen, in November 1847 and graduated in 1851 with a Master's Degree and, having won top honours in mathematics, as the foremost man of the year.

Several of his professors now urged him to go up to Cambridge where his mathematical abilities would tell, and Machray began to long to go up to the English university as a step towards his secret ambition - to enter the ministry of the Church of England. He had no financial resources other than the £60 prize which he had won, but his friends secured him a loan from a local bank and he entered Sidney Sussex College for the study of mathematics, on October 20th 1851. He placed first in the First Class in Mathematics for his year in the College Christmas examinations, and to his equal surprise and delight was elected a Foundation Scholar, which helped a little to alleviate his financial embarrassment. In the May examinations, having taken the First Mathematical Prize, he was First in Divinity for the whole College and bracketed First for the Latin theme with another scholar. He was elected Taylor Exhibitioner which gave him £60 a year in addition to the sum received from his Scholarship. From this time on he maintained himself financially by taking top honours in each of his years in undergraduate study and, in spite of his financial inability to obtain the services of a tutor for the Tripos which came off in January 1855, was thirty-fourth Wrangler in a very large class. He took a position as tutor in the home of a clergyman in Leicestershire and simultaneously prepared to be examined for a Foundation Fellowship which he obtained in May. This opened the way for him to prepare for Holy Orders and he was ordained Deacon on November 11, 1855, priest in 1856.

There now follows a period of two years in which, as a tutor in the family of a government official, he travelled in Italy; and a short period as tutor in the family of Dr. Forbes, the rector of St. George's Church, Douglas, in the Isle of Man. Dr. Forbes acted as secretary for the Church Missionary Society for the Isle of Man, and Machray frequently went with him to meetings and spoke at them.

I have been impressed, on rereading the account of Robert Machray's early years in the ministry, with the amount of leisure which the young ordinand of those times had in which to round off his education and equip himself for the full life of his ministry. What a contrast to the Canadian scene where the man is involved in heavy parochial responsibilities from the day he leaves college with leisure for neither travel nor study!

In 1858, Machray took his M.A. from Cambridge and in December of that year was appointed Dean of Sidney College, at twenty-seven years of age. His duties were not heavy, being chiefly the supervision of the conduct of the undergraduates within the College and the holding of the daily services in the Chapel. He had made it a condition of his acceptance of the position that he should be permitted to undertake parish work, and shortly after coming to Sidney he undertook to provide services for the small parish of Newton which is seven miles from Cambridge. In 1862, he was appointed Vicar of Maddingley. In these two spheres of work-the College and the parish-are to be found evidence of many of those qualities which distinguished him later as missionary-bishop. In the winter of 1862-63, he delivered a lecture at Exeter Hall in London to the Young Men's Christian Association on "John Howe and the Times of the Puritans" in which he reveals the broad tolerance which was a noted feature of his long episcopate. During the seven years of his college work he was on friendly terms with the students who appreciated his kindly concern for each and his unselfishness.

In October, 1864, the Right Reverend David Anderson, first Bishop of Rupert's Land, resigned his See and it was offered to Robert Machray. His name had been put forward by those who knew of his interest in the work of the Church Missionary Society. He consented to undertake it and was consecrated second Bishop of Rupert's Land on 'Saturday, June 24, 1865.

The new bishop did not set out immediately for his far-flung diocese, but spent two months in England, conferring with Bishop Anderson and with Archdeacon Hunter who had worked for many years as a missionary in Rupert's Land. He entered into communication with the heads of the great Church Societies to which he must look for financial assistance in the work of his diocese and saw personally the chief of each. He also formed a committee of prominent Churchmen who agreed to do all in their power to assist in solving the financial problems of the diocese. Before himself he set three main objectives: to encourage a native church, to induce each congregation to aim at self-support, to secure the ground for the Church of England. He was convinced that Rupert's Land was destined to have a great future.

Accompanied by his personal servant, Thomas Smith, the Bishop, thirty-four years of age, the youngest Bishop of the Church of England then alive, set out by sea and land and river and came to St. Paul, Minnesota. There he was met by Mr. Colin Inkster who had come from St. John's to guide him to his new home. He arrived at the settlement after a fortnight's journey across the prairies and was welcomed by the ringing of the church bells from the tower of the Cathedral, having spent the whole of his first year's income as Bishop, seven hundred pounds, on his travelling expenses and equipment.

Perhaps it will be well to look for a few moments at the diocese to which the new bishop came. Rupert's Land in 1865 consisted of all the land included in the original charter given to the Company of Adventurers Trading into Hudson's Bay, in 1670, with the exception of the extreme southern strip which had been ceded to the United States. It extended from Labrador on the extreme northeast to Alaska on the west, and from the United States border to the Arctic regions; the whole of what is now the Dominion of Canada with the exception of Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritime Provinces on the east and British Columbia on the west. It was occupied for the most part by roving bands of Indians and in the far north by the Eskimo. Dotted across the wilderness were the trading stations of the Company, with its headquarters at the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers. Here, through the heroic efforts of Thomas, fifth Earl of Selkirk, a settlement had been established in 1812 and, after years of strife and disaster, a flourishing community had settled down to the peaceful life of farming along the banks of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers.

In 1835, with the reconveyance of the Selkirk Settlement to the Hudson's Bay Company in view, the Hudson's Bay Company reorganized and enlarged the Council of Assiniboia. The Council was composed of fourteen of the leading clergy and laymen of the community, who were nominated by the Governor and not elected by the settlers. When Bishop Machray arrived in 1865, William Mactavish, then Governor of Rupert's Land as well as Assiniboia, at once appointed him a member of the Council.

When this form of administration was set up the Settlement numbered about 5,000, but by 1865 it had increased to approximately 12,000 of which only a few hundred were of pure white extraction, the balance being English, Scotch, or French half-breeds - people with some proportion of Indian blood in their veins. In addition to the Selkirk Settlers the community now contained an increasing number of retired officers and servants of the fur companies, and a number of other settlers who had come from Canada, the United States, and Europe, to hunt and trap, to farm or to trade. Within the Settlement and in the surrounding wilderness were several bands of Indians, mostly Crees and Assiniboines, and scattered over the wide expanse of Rupert's Land nomadic tribes totalling in all about 60,000.

The paternal policy of the Hudson's Bay Company had made the Indians of Rupert's Land for the most part friendly to the whites and to the settlers in Red River, a very different state of affairs to the open hostility of the Sioux which menaced the settlers in the State of Minnesota at this time.

Life in Red River at this time was primitive and patriarchal; most of the heads of families had a long, narrow strip of land fronting on one of the rivers, most of the homes were of rough hewn logs, and they cultivated no more of their land than was required for their subsistence. As they lacked means of transportation to markets there was no incentive to further effort than was required to support themselves in the bare essentials of a primitive existence.

When Archbishop Machray arrived in Red River there were no shops at which to buy or sell other than the Hudson's Bay Store. Winnipeg had not yet come into existence. There was no great wealth, but the people were happy and contented.

There were at this time between 5 and 6,000 Roman Catholics in the Red River Settlement, most of whom lived on the east bank of the River, the balance of the population being Presbyterians, Anglicans and smaller numbers of other denominations.

The Anglican Church has been exceedingly fortunate in the calibre of men who introduced the Faith to Red River. From the coming of the Reverend John West in 1820 and the building of its first Church and School, the work had been carried steadily forward; Churches and schools had been built along the Red and Assiniboine Rivers as far as settlement had extended, and through a wise policy of education for native Indian boys and the labours of heroic missionaries, the Gospel had been carried many hundreds of miles to the tribes in the wilderness. By 1864, Bishop Anderson had more than twenty clergy under him. Missions among the Indians had been planted in the far north at Fort Yukon, on the Mackenzie River at Fort Simpson, at York Factory and Albany as well as Moose on the shores of Hudson's Bay, and at several points in the interior-Fort Alexander, Nepowewin, Fort Ellice, Swan Lake, and English River, besides Cumberland House on the Saskatchewan River and at Fairford on Lake Manitoba. And all of this vast undertaking was financed entirely by the great English Missionary Societies.

The bishop received a warm welcome to the community, not only from his own congregations but from the Officers of the Company and from the people generally. Though shy by nature, he was friendly and had a keen sense of humour. He was an impressive figure as appears in the description given by Colin Inkster who met him at St. Paul: "I shall never forget the first impression the Bishop made on me. Although I was only a mere lad, I could see he was no ordinary man. He was tall and thin, with a jet-black beard and piercing black eyes. The reverence which he then inspired in me went on increasing as long as he lived."

There were many problems awaiting the bishop in his new diocese and he lost no time in coming to grips with them. In an effort to please the Red River Settlers who were Presbyterians, the services in St. John's had been from earliest times an arrangement of prayers partly Anglican and partly Presbyterian. As the bishop pointed out, "this medley," though rendered with the best of intentions, "could never win the Presbyterians to the Liturgy of the Church of England - so attractive when worthily and faithfully expressed." Up to this time there had been no Church music, no choirs, no chanting, no organ nor musical instrument of any kind in the services, and there was little or no organization of the parishes of the Settlement. He ordered that there should be a celebration of the Holy Communion once each month, and that the services of Morning and Evening Prayer should be used in other services. He advised that each parish should be organized under its Incumbent with a Vestry, consisting of two Church Wardens, and of twenty-four vestrymen, who were to be elected by the votes of the male communicants, and suggested that an offertory should be a feature of every service. By the end of November, most parishes in the community had introduced the changes.

His next step was to call a conference of clergy and people which he hoped would become a Synod and thus establish in his diocese the democratic basis of self-government. To prepare for this he called together the local clergy and outlined to them what he felt should be done.

He had already fixed his attention on the state of education in Red River; in his eyes religion and education went hand in hand. Nothing in the condition of the Settlement grieved him more than the unsatisfactory position of its educational facilities. With the exception of a boarding school in St. Paul's parish kept by the Reverend Samuel Pritchard, which was attended by some of the children of the better class in the community, the only schools were two or three parish schools of a very elementary sort maintained as part of the general missionary enterprise of the C.M.S. There was no provision whatever in the whole country for higher education and the bishop's thoughts at once turned to a revival of St. John's College, which bishop Anderson had founded some sixteen years before, but had been forced to abandon from lack of leadership.

In a letter to the Secretary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel on November 10, 1865 the bishop wrote as follows: "I believe that the whole success of my efforts here will depend, under God, upon the success of what I purpose - to establish a college for the training of those who wish a better education, in the fear of God, in useful learning, and in conscientious attachment to our Church."

Having set in motion his plans for the reordering of the Church in the Settlement, the bishop now turned his thoughts to the needs of the work of those missionaries toiling in the far corners of his vast diocese. Some of the missions had never had an episcopal visitation; to visit Fort Yukon, 2,500 miles away, and Fort Simpson, 2,000 miles, would involve his absence from the Settlement for a period of two years and he could not afford to be absent for that length of time just now. So he turned his attention to the missions in the interior and set out on January 11, 1866 by dog sled with everything for the journey found by the Hudson's Bay Company, travelling over a thousand miles in a circular route visiting and holding Confirmations at twelve stations including Westbourne, Fairford, Cumberland, Nepowewin, Touchwood Hills, Qu'Appelle Lakes, and Fort Ellis. What he observed on this visitation convinced him of the urgency of reviving the College and he wrote without delay inviting an old college friend John McLean to come as Warden. He now proposed to Mr. Pritchard that he should give up the boarding-school at St. Paul's and amalgamate it with St. John's to form a College and School.

The conference consisting of ten clergy and eighteen lay delegates from the parishes and missions met on May 30, 1866, and the bishop laid before them his view of the needs of the community and his proposals for their solution. He announced the formation of two Archdeaconries, one, called Cumberland, was to include the missions he had just visited, and the other, which was to have the name of Assiniboia, was to cover the Red River Settlement and some nearby missions. The conference set up a committee to look into the Constitutions of Synods as organized in Canada.

The conference being over, the bishop accompanied Governor William Mactavish to the annual council of the H.B.C. which was held that year at Norway House and, after the council, travelled on by York boat down the Nelson River to York Factory where he held two Confirmations and returned to Red River by the middle of August.

The Reverend John McLean arrived in the Settlement in the beginning of October to be appointed Archdeacon of Assiniboia and Warden of St. John's College and, on November 1, 1866, St. John's College was opened with three students in theology in the College proper, and nineteen pupils in the College School. By January there were four theological students and twenty-six pupils in the School. For staff in the College there were two theological tutors or lecturers, the Archdeacon and the Bishop: in the School there were three masters, the Archdeacon, Mr. Pritchard, and the Bishop. For more than thirty years, the Bishop continued to take a most active participation in the College and College School in one capacity or another. As he had removed Mr. Pritchard from St. Paul's, he now personally assumed responsibility for the services in that Church.

The School was organized, so far as it was possible, on the lines of an English public school, such as Westminster, which was subsequently taken as a model, and the College he patterned after those familiar to him in Cambridge.

How one man could undertake the number of responsibilities which he assumed at this time is a wonder. He lectured in the College during the week-days and on Sundays was in charge of a parish in addition to all his other episcopal duties within the Settlement. He must have spent his evenings writing letters for he carried on a voluminous correspondence with many friends in England, with the Secretaries of the great Church Societies, and with government officials. As soon as college was out he would set forth upon another visitation of the missions which in some cases would take up the whole of the summer.

His letters to the Church Societies at this time are full of his impressions of the great future of the country if only it were settled. There was uncertainty as to how it might develop politically; perhaps it might become a Crown Colony, ceasing to be under the jurisdiction of the Hudson's Bay Company. The Bishop hoped that it would enter Confederation as a part of Canada and that it would soon be opened up for settlement. South of the border immigrants were pouring into Minnesota at the rate of a thousand a day.

In the spring of 1868 he set out upon his third Visitation-this time to the missions around James Bay. To reach these missions he went south to St. Paul, and he took advantage of the opportunity to visit Bishop Whipple of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota in order that they might discuss common problems confronting the Church in a rapidly developing period. From St. Paul, he went to Milwaukee on Lake Michigan, and north to Sault Ste. Marie on Lake Superior. From there by boat and canoe he finally reached Moose Factory on James Bay, where he visited with the veteran missionary John Horden, went on to Rupert House and Albany, holding Confirmations at each point visited.

The return journey provided an opportunity for a visit to Canada. At Ottawa he interviewed various statesmen who were debating the steps to be taken to bring the Red River Settlement into Canada. He was most anxious that the Settlement should join the Dominion and placed himself at the disposal of the Canadian Government, should they desire his assistance in the matter. They apparently had their own plans as to how the transfer would be carried out and the Bishop heard no more from them on the matter.

From Ottawa the Bishop passed on to Montreal where he preached the sermon at the opening service of the Provincial Synod of Canada. Bishop Fulton, the Metropolitan, died suddenly during the sessions of Synod and his death necessitated the election of a new metropolitan.

Bishop Machray's name was twice sent up to the Upper House of the Synod as the unanimous choice of the Lower House, but was rejected, his biographer tells us because he was regarded by them as being too evangelical. Bishop Machray moved on to New York where he attended the Triennial Convention of the American Church, arriving back in his diocese on October 31.

He found the Settlement facing a complete crop failure caused by grasshoppers and drought, moreover, the buffalo hunts, which earlier had been a ready source of food, were a failure, and the fishing on Lake Winnipeg failed for the first time in history. The community faced starvation unless help came from the outside. A committee was formed, called the "Red River Co-operative Relief Committee," including in its membership the Bishop of Rupert's Land and the Roman Catholic Bishop of St. Boniface. By their efforts help was obtained from England, Canada and from the United States to a total of £9,000 ($40,000.00), and rations were distributed by the clergy in the parishes, and so the community was assisted through the winter months.

There are times in the history of a community when adversity proves afterwards to have brought with it a blessing, and the difficulties of the winter of 1868-69 had the effect of drawing the various elements in the Settlement together for the common good at a time when they were about to face the most severe testing of their troubled history.

During the troublous period of the Red River Resistance, 1869-70, the Bishop's influence on the events was considerable. His activities and his counsel did much to reduce the extent of violence, and the contributions he made have been widely acknowledged by those who have told the story of the Resistance.

With the return of peace and settled conditions, the Bishop wished to go to England to present before his friends and the Church Societies the needs of the country as he foresaw them developing within the next ten years. But the civil authorities prevailed upon him to delay his visit for a year in order that he might be present to advise them, especially on educational matters. He utilized every spare moment during the following winter to write long letters to the Secretaries of the Societies setting before them his vision of the future settlement of the Canadian West and recommending immediate action to strengthen the Church by the division of his vast diocese into at least three, and the strengthening of St. John's College as a missionary centre. In a letter to the S.P.G. he wrote: "It is the unanimous opinion of the American bishops that the action of the first ten years, after immigration begins to flow into a new territory, determines, humanly speaking, the standing of a religious body, and the first thing to do is the laying hold of the higher education."

The first Manitoba elections were held in January, 1871. There were twenty-four members, of whom twelve were Roman Catholic, eleven members of the Church of England, and one Presbyterian. One of the first Acts of the new Legislature, which met in May, was the Education Act which put all the common schools under the State, and created two Boards of Education, a Protestant, of which the Bishop was chairman by nomination of the Government, and a Roman Catholic; and there were two sets of schools, one Protestant for the English-speaking children, and the other Roman Catholic for the French. This arrangement, which worked well while the community was fairly evenly divided, led to difficulties following the influx of new settlers, a large proportion of whom were Protestant by faith. At this same session of the Legislature, the Bishop had the satisfaction of having a bill passed incorporating St. John's College.

There now followed a period of tremendous activity, including a year spent in England in an endeavour to awaken the Church people to the need for vast sums of money to provide spiritual ministrations for the thousands of settlers who were beginning to pour into the country. He did not obtain all the money which he needed, but the C.M.S. agreed to provide the stipend for both missionary bishops, Athabasca on the northwest and Moosonee on the northeast, and he obtained permission to raise an endowment for a third division to be known as the Diocese of Saskatchewan, and he received further sums of money to strengthen the College.

Returning to Canada in August, 1872, the Bishop called together his Synod which met in January. He laid before them the plans which he had evolved for strengthening the life of the expanding Church and announced his intention of organizing a Provincial Synod as soon as the new diocese had been created. The first meeting of the Provincial Synod was held at St. John's on August 3 and 4, 1875. But before this event, he had undertaken another forward move in the Incorporation of the Cathedral with a Dean and Chapter. "The Cathedral Church of early times," he said, "was the Mission Church of the little band of missionaries that round their Bishop struggled to uplift the Cross and carry the tidings of a Saviour into surrounding heathenism. Afterwards the Cathedral remained the common centre of spiritual life and uplift and was also the educational centre." It was his vision and hope that Cathedral and College together should be the heart-beat of the far-flung missionary activities which must now be undertaken with even greater zeal.

The year 1877 stands out as important in the annals of the Province of Manitoba because on February 20 of that year the Legislature of the Province passed an act founding the University of Manitoba. This was a large undertaking for a young province but six years of age and the Minister who introduced the bill, the Hon. Joseph Royal, felt it necessary to acknowledge that some might consider their action a bit premature. But he said that the step had been urged upon them for two years past. It was understood that the bill had been inspired by the Lieutenant-Governor, the Honourable Alexander Morris, who had discussed the matter with the heads of the Church Colleges.

There were three Church Colleges in the Province, St. Boniface, Manitoba, and St. John's. Under terms of the act, in order to establish common standards in academic work, the Colleges came together in an affiliation with a University Board set up by the Provincial Government. The difficulties arising from their denominational differences were bridged over by making the subjects in which the University examined candidates for degrees those on which all three Colleges met as upon common ground-Classics, Mathematics, Natural Science, and Modern Languages - while provision was made for conciliating varying points of view in those areas where there might be marked difference of opinion, such as Mental and Moral Philosophy and History.

It was provided that the University was to be an examining institution at first, and not a teaching institution, though provision was made for it to undertake teaching also at a later date. Each of the Colleges was given power to form a separate Faculty of Theology, with the right of conferring degrees in Divinity, and graduates holding such degrees were given exactly the same standing in the University as other graduates.

Looking over the terms and provisions of the act, one can detect throughout the tolerance and breadth of view of the distinguished graduate of Aberdeen and Cambridge who was at this time the Chairman of the Provincial Board of Education, Protestant Section, the Bishop of Rupert's Land. The Bishop was appointed Chancellor and was re-appointed every three years thereafter until his death in 1904. In his address to the Diocesan Synod in 1877 he expressed his gratification with the act to establish the new University: "On the whole, it has a constitution about as satisfactory as could be devised in the immediate condition of things." The founders built wisely and well. The University, now become a great Provincial institution with more than 6,000 students, continues to function within the terms of the agreement as then concluded, and the affiliated colleges have continued to work harmoniously within the framework of the affiliation throughout the past eighty years of expansion. Ten years after the founding of the University, in addressing his Synod, the Bishop referred to the relationship which he felt should exist between the College and the University. It was his view that eventually the University would teach in all branches of learning, and then the Colleges would hold the same relation, or a similar relation, to the University as the Colleges of Oxford and Cambridge hold to those universities. He had no notion of any competition, as it were, between the Colleges and the University.

If in the field of higher education the Bishop could acknowledge with gratitude that he had seen his highest hopes fulfilled, the case was not so with the public schools of the Province. There had been from some sections of the Province considerable agitation with respect to the schools and the Bishop dealt with the issue at considerable length in his address to Synod in October, 1889. He reminded them of the pioneer work which the Church had done in this field. As it was in every way desirable that the peoples of the country should be amalgamated, he thought it was right that the boys and girls belonging to the Church should be educated with the other young folk in the common schools. But what education was to be given them? Was it to be an education that kept out of view those divine sanctions which are the real foundations of morality, an education that took no notice of the Christian Faith: "to which we owe our modern civilization, and from which we receive the hope of our life?" Such an education, he believed, would in the end be a poor one for both the individual and the State. So far as he could see, the only serious objection to religious worship and teaching in primary schools lay in the divisions of Christianity. He thought it was not difficult to draw up a scheme giving a considerable amount of religious teaching which would be acceptable to the various religious bodies.

The Synod passed a resolution endorsing the Bishop's views, and asserting the necessity, in the interests of true education, of some nonsectarian religious teaching in the public schools.

In 1890, however, the Provincial Government passed two acts abolishing the dual system of education that had obtained in the Province since 1871, and creating a Department of Education, consisting of an Executive Council and an Advisory Board; the latter being composed at that time of four members appointed by the Department, two by the teachers of the schools, and one by the University. The new legislation did away with State-aided denominational schools, in this case, Roman Catholic Schools, and laid it on the Advisory Board to prescribe the form of religious exercises to be used in the schools. The Government, through its four representatives on the Advisory Board, controlled its actions and, as it was bent on a distinctively secular education, the practical result of the legislation was that religious teaching disappeared from the schools. The Bishop was elected the representative of the University on the Board, and he was made its Chairman.

The Archbishop was greatly disturbed by the secularization of the schools and, in two subsequent Synods, 1894 and 1895, he referred at some length to the matter. He even went so far as to petition the Dominion Prime Minister with the views of the Church in Manitoba and to protest in the strongest manner against any proposition to secularize the public schools of the country.

In his address to the Synod in May, 1897, he alluded to the settlement which had been arrived at between the Dominion Government and the Provincial Government by which, while the separate schools of the Roman Catholic Church were not re-established, a certain amount of religious teaching was permitted in the schools.

But to return to that which is the normal lot of a bishop in his diocese, "the care of all the Churches." Thousands of settlers were now pouring into the country over the newly-built railway and already settlement had been pushed hundreds of miles beyond Winnipeg. By 1880, before the railway had been completed, the village of Winnipeg with a population of 300, when he arrived in the Settlement, had become a city of 12,000 inhabitants. The provision of services for the new settlements required financial resources which exceeded the bounds of the liberality of the great Church Societies in England and which they felt unable to meet. In fact, they apparently thought that Rupert's Land should begin to assume financial responsibility for its own missions, and the last twenty years of the Bishop's life were spent in urgent appeals for the necessary funds with which to provide services for new areas. He appealed to the Church in Eastern Canada. Many of the new settlers came from Ontario and Eastern Provinces and he urged upon them the necessity of sharing the financial burden.

Throughout this period he pressed on with the completion of the organization of the Church. In 1875 the four dioceses of the Northwest were formed into the Provincial Synod of Rupert's Land. It became increasingly evident that some form of national organization was necessary if the Church in Canada was to meet the needs of its scattered settlements, and in 1890 a Conference was held in Winnipeg which laid the plans for the formation of General Synod.

On September 13, 1893, the first General Synod of the Church of England in the Dominion of Canada was held in the city of Toronto with clerical and lay delegates from all parts of the Dominion and the great missionary bishop, Robert Machray, who for twenty-eight years had battled with hard pioneer work in the organization and care of his far-flung missionary diocese, was elected Chairman of the Upper House and Primate of all Canada.

His struggles for the lonely missions of his dioceses were not yet over, however, and only after several years of debate and correspondence with the Eastern dioceses did he persuade them to agree to the setting up of a General Synod Board of Missions through which the total resources of the Church could be utilized to meet the needs of the widespread missions. His labours were finally rewarded with the acceptance by General Synod in 1902 of the Canon on the Missionary Society which he had personally drawn up for presentation to the Synod. He was not able to be present at the Synod; having exhausted himself in his labours on behalf of his vast diocese, he was ill in England. He returned to his diocese in the spring of 1903, but never fully regained his health.

He passed away on March 9, 1904 in the thirty-ninth year of his episcopate and the seventy-third year of his life. Before his death he had organized nine dioceses out of his original See, each with its bishop and Synod; one of the first graduates of St. John's, S. P. Matheson, was established as suffragan bishop, and was ultimately to become his successor in the three high offices of Metropolitan of Rupert's Land, Primate of all Canada, and Chancellor of the University of Manitoba; the Cathedral and College were both firmly established by endowments. On March 9, 1893, just eleven years to the day before he died, he had been appointed "Prelate of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George" by Queen Victoria, in recognition of the services which he had rendered in the Canadian Northwest.

He lies buried in St. John's Cathedral cemetery. A beautiful Iona Cross of Aberdeen granite marks his grave with the inscription chiselled in stone:

"He fed them with a faithful and true heart, and ruled them prudently with all his power."

Page revised: 22 May 2010

Back to top of page

   
 

 
To report an error on the above page,
please contact the MHS Webmaster.

Home | Terms & Conditions | FAQ | Contact Us
Privacy Policy | Donations Policy
Website © 1998-2014 Manitoba Historical Society. All rights reserved.