Andrew Graham Ballenden Bannatyne

Andrew Bannatyne
  • Born:

    South Ronaldsay, 31 October 1829

  • Died:

    St Paul, Minnesota, 18 May 1889

  • Father:

    James Bannatyne, "officer of the fisheries here"

  • Mother:

    Eliza Ballenden, daughter of John Ballenden, HBC Chief Factor 1800-1802

  • Married:

    Annie McDermot

  • Children:

    John, Charles, Andrew, Elizabeth, Roderick, Laurenda, William, Robert, Anne, Margaret

Andrew Bannatyne was, according to the Manitoba Pageant, the leading citizen in the City of Winnipeg at the time of its incorporation in 1870 and "the wealthiest, probably the most influential, certainly the most highly esteemed man in the Red River community." He had joined the Hudson's Bay Company in 1846 and served with them until 1851, when he left the company to marry Annie McDermot and to set himself up as an independent trader, like his father-in-law, Andrew.


Bannatyne established a dry goods store in Post Office Street, now Lombard Avenue, Winnipeg but the Hudson's Bay Company, in an attempt to protect their monopoly, had him arrested for illicit trading. The case eventually went to the House of Commons in London, where Bannatyne won and went on, in partnership with Alexander Begg, to build up one of the most successful retail businesses in the Red River Colony. According to his entry in the on-line Dictionary of Canadian Biography, in 1868, the year he and Begg went into partnership, their sping brigade consisted of over 300 carts carrying 1,000 pounds each.


Alexander Bannatyne took an active part in the life of the growing community, acting as a petty judge, postmaster and councillor of Assiniboia. During the Red River Rebellion of 1869-70, when the French-Cree Metis, led by Louis Riel, reacted to the HBC's sale of Rupert's Land to Canada by forming a provisional government, Bannatyne attempted to act as conciliator between Riel and the Canadian government.


The Dictionary of Biography says, "Bannatyne played an important role in the drama of 1869-70, not least in his attempt to bridge the gap of fear and apprehension between mixed-bloods and whites… As a prominent member of the English-speaking community Bannatyne was called upon to chair many of the tense meetings of the winter of 1869-70, indicating his general acceptability to most residents of Red River…


Early in January 1870 Bannatyne agreed to become postmaster in Riel's provisional government on the condition that union with Canada would be actively sought. The acquisition of such a prominent non-Metis for Riel's government, despite his undisguised sympathies, greatly aided Riel's hopes for consensus in the distracted community."


When Manitoba became Canada's fifth province in 1871, Bannatyne was made Postmaster of Winnipeg and, for a time, hosted the new administration


According to Donna McDonald in a biography of Lord Strathcona, "Andrew Bannatyne owned one of the largest houses in the village and he generously put it at the disposal of the new government until a legislative building could be erected. The ground floor parlours provided space for plenary sessions while the attic accommodated the committee rooms. The Bannatynes lived on the floor between, though as the kitchen and laundry facilities could not be moved, it seems likely that laws were sometimes made with the smell of baking bread in the nostrils and the sound of the scrub board in the ears.


The ground floor was carpeted and festooned with red drapery, while a flag pole was erected on the roof. On the fifteenth of March, the Union Jack fluttered over Mr. Bannatynes' house while a hundred men from the Ontario militia marched out from Fort Garry behind the regimental band and formed a guard of honour along the snow packed Main Street. At three o'clock, resplendent in the Windsor uniform required of British ambassadors and other representatives of her Majesty on very formal occasions, Adams Archibald stepped from his sleigh at the Bannatynes' front door while the troops presented arms and the band played "God Save the Queen…


It was a prettier sight than might have been expected a mere two months earlier for, in February, Winnipeg had acquired its first barber and there was now no excuse for a scruffy haircut or a straggling mustache"


Unsurprisingly, some of the men around the first Council table had Orcadian ancestry. The website of the Manitoba Historical Society, www.mhs.mb.ca is packed full of information, much of it about Orcadians and their sons and daughters, and you can find John Norquay, John Taylor and David Spence there.


Bannatyne served briefly in federal government, being elected in 1875 but declined to seek re-election in 1878, preferring to concentrate on business and philanthropy.


He was the first President of the Board of Trade in 1873. Other members included William Drever from Kirkwall; Orcadian John Inkster and his son Colin; Robert Tait, whose father William had come out from Orkney and William Kennedy. Two other members were James Clouston and William Flett.


In 1872 Banntyne chaired the meeting to organize the Winnipeg General Hospital and, with his father-in-law Andrew McDermot, gave the land for the hospital. He was President of the hospital's Board of Trustees until his death.


He was a member of the council that established the University of Manitoba and the Bannatyne Campus, home of the Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmacy departments, is named for him. There is also a Bannatyne Avenue and School.


Andrew Bannatyne became very wealthy through land speculation in the Manitoba land boom but lost most of it in the 1882 crash. The family remained comfortably off and he and Annie still travelled south each winter. He died on his way home again, in 1889.


His obituary in the Free Press described his noble quality of unselfishness and predicted that he would live in the hearts of thousands. Twenty years later the Winnipeg Sun said they had never heard an unkind word spoken about him.