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History in our streets — a valuable asset

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Neighbourhood children put their handprints on a freshly painted building at Machray Park in July 2013. A new name for the park is being considered.

PHOTO BY JESSICA BURTNICK/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS PHOTO ARCHIVE Enlarge Image

Neighbourhood children put their handprints on a freshly painted building at Machray Park in July 2013. A new name for the park is being considered. Photo Store Photo Store

Walking through our city streets and parks is often like travelling through time or the pages of a history book.

We are so fortunate that our streets are named for notable pioneers, outstanding people and sometimes regular folks from Winnipeg’s early days. Many cities simply assign numbers to their thoroughfares and this seems to offer up little in the way of a historic legacy.

Our city is much more colourful and full of remembered history and character.

Recently, a proposal to rename a North End park after a dedicated, long-time city councillor was postponed so that those involved in the matter could consider all options available. Perhaps the decision will have been made by the time this hits print but it is, nevertheless, good to know a little about the current name of the park in question. It is a name it has held for just over a century.

Machray Park is a pretty little park with mature trees and walkways, a wading pool and a playground sandwiched between Church and Anderson avenues and Powers and Andrews streets.

Machray Avenue is close by, and is, in fact, part of a little network of roads all named in honour of the historic St. John’s Cathedral on Anderson Avenue.

Nearby roads with names like Mountain, St. John’s, Church, Cathedral, College, O’Meara, Jones, Matheson and Machray all are closely connected with the cathedral and the Anglican Diocese of Rupert’s Land.

It is believed the park is named for Robert Machray. This does seem completely logical, as Machray Avenue and school, named for him, are close by.

Created in 1909, the park is mentioned by that name in Free Press articles and other newspapers from 1910 on. Machray School is one of Winnipeg’s oldest schools.

Machray was a giant figure in the early history of Winnipeg. Born in Scotland, he arrived at St. John’s in 1865 as a missionary and a well-established and recognized scholar.

At 34 he was a bishop and was in charge of the Diocese of Rupert’s Land which, at that time, covered the enormous territory of the Hudson’s Bay Company west of the Rocky Mountains.
He reopened St. John’s College and built it up. Devoted to his church and to education, he became the first primate of Canada and the archbishop of Rupert’s Land. Later he was appointed the first chancellor of the University of Manitoba.

When Machray died in 1904 the news of his death filled almost three pages of the 16-page edition of the Free Press.

Cheryl Girard is a community correspondent for West Kildonan. You can contact her at girard.cheryl@gmail.com

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