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Thomas Button

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/04/2012 (3877 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Thomas Button

He was born in Wales and is credited with being the first white man to visit Manitoba. He joined the naval service in 1588 and rose to command an expedition to Hudson Bay in search of the Northwest Passage in 1612. He sailed with two ships, the Resolution and the Discovery, and reached a river on Aug. 15, 1612, calling the place Port Nelson, after the Master of the Resolution who died and was buried there. He is credited with staking his country’s first claim to the lands bounding the west coast of Hudson Bay. He returned to England, stayed in the naval service, and died in 1634.


Alfred Boyd

Thomas Douglas Selkirk, a.k.a. Lord Selkirk

He was born in Scotland in 1771, the seventh son in his family and inherited the family’s title and fortune only after all six of his brothers died before their father. To help Scottish farmers who had no land, he founded two colonies, one in Prince Edward Island and another in current day southwestern Ontario. Later, with the help of a relative, he purchased enough shares in the Hudson’s Bay Company to control it and have the company give him 300,000 square kilometres of land along the Red River in 1811. The deal was for the settlers to supply food to the HBC fur traders. The North West Company opposed this arrangement. Later that year, Selkirk sent Miles Macdonell with the first settlers, whose names are commemorated on the Kildonan Settlers Bridge. But Selkirk, who visited the area once in 1817, was later sued, successfully, by the North West Company. He returned to England in poor health and died in France in 1820. The settlement later grew to be Winnipeg.


Donald Alexander Smith, a.k.a. Lord Strathcona

He was born in Scotland in 1820 and joined the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1838, coming to current-day Canada in 1848 and rising to become resident Governor and Chief Commissioner for Canada in 1869. The federal government appointed him to investigate the 1869-70 rebellion, but while under house arrest here, he persuaded Louis Riel to organize the Convention of 40 representatives of the settlement, which led to provincial status for Manitoba. While living here, he became HBC’s largest stockholder and was founding president of the St. Andrew’s Society of Winnipeg. He was MLA for Selkirk from 1870 to 1874 and also a federal MP in the first Canadian Parliament from 1870 to 1880. Later, he was an organizer of the Canadian Pacific Railway. He is remembered today as the person in the iconic photograph hammering in the last spike in the railway. He died in London, England in 1914.


Alfred Boyd

He was born in England in 1836 and came to the Red River Valley in 1858. He owned a store in St. John’s Parish. Boyd was elected an English delegate to the Convention of 40, where he was described by Louis Riel as “one of the most decided against us.” Notwithstanding he was in favour of Manitoba being a territory instead of a province, he was elected to the first provincial Legislative Assembly in 1870, and is considered the province’s first premier. He was a founder of the Winnipeg Board of Trade. He left Manitoba about 1889 and died in England in 1908.


William Orme McRobie

He was born in Scotland in 1838 and came to Canada with his parents in 1850, settling in Montreal. He joined the volunteer fire brigade there at age 14 and rose to become captain of the salvage corps of the paid fire brigade. He resigned to write his memoir, Fighting the Flames, and then worked with the Canadian Rubber Company until being hired as Winnipeg’s first fire chief in 1882, staying on until 1889, when he invented and sold chemical fire extinguishers. He died in Winnipeg in 1908.


Charles Frederick Gray

Jane Cahill

Born in London, England in 1879, he came to Winnipeg and was a consulting electrical engineer. He was elected mayor in 1918, an office he held during the Winnipeg General Strike. He issued proclamations against demonstrating in the streets and supported forcing city employees back to work. He was the man who drove to North West Mounted Police headquarters asking for the Mounties to intervene during so-called Bloody Saturday. He later moved to British Columbia where he operated a salt mine, dying in Victoria in 1954.


William Forbes Alloway

He was born in Queen’s County, Ireland, in 1852. He went to high school in Montreal and came to Manitoba with the Wolseley expedition as a private. He opened a tobacco store here and later became a partner in the Alloway and Champion banking firm in 1879. He was one of Winnipeg’s 19 millionaires by 1910. His bank became part of the Canadian Bank of Commerce in 1923. He donated $100,000 to create The Winnipeg Foundation. He served as a city councillor for six years. He died in 1930.


Peter St. John

Born in Canada, he is a teacher and also a British lord. He received degrees at the University of British Columbia, London School of Economics and his Ph.D. at the University of London. He came to Winnipeg in 1963, and taught international relations at the University of Manitoba for 35 years until retiring in 1998. He continues to teach, not only at that university, but also the University of Winnipeg, University of Victoria, and St. Andrew’s University in Scotland. He is a security expert and is the author of Air Piracy, Airport Security and International Terrorism. He became the ninth Earl of Orkney in 1998, with his son the Earl in waiting.

Christine O’Connor

She is soccer in Winnipeg. Born in Manchester, England, she came to Winnipeg in November 1974, when her husband accepted a job in the garment industry. They later opened their own garment factory — David Cavan Sportswear — and founded the Sweat Shack sports store. She became involved in local soccer in the early 1980s and has taken on many positions with the Manitoba Soccer Association including her current position as president. She was administrator of the Canadian Women’s team from 1986 to 1989, chaired the national club championship in 1996, was a founding member of the Winnipeg Women’s Soccer League and was director of women’s soccer for the MSA. She was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame in 2010. First impression of Winnipeg? “It was quite cold. And it was flat. Manchester is a bit like Vancouver, but not as nice. And it is an industrial city with mining and textiles.” Kerr Twaddle

He sat on the province’s highest court. He was born in Glasgow, Scotland and studied law in England. He practised in England for seven years before coming to Canada with his wife in 1961. He was appointed to the bench in 1985, and became a supernumerary judge in 2006. He also founded the Manitoba Opera. He came to Winnipeg because it was easier to re-qualify here than cities such as Toronto and Vancouver. “I later got a job offer by a Toronto firm, but by then I was happily ensconced in Manitoba… before coming we looked at the newspapers and we looked at the ads and we said ‘Winnipeg seems like a good place.’ When I got here, my impression was remarkably accurate. And there is a great cultural identity in Winnipeg. It was that vibrancy that said to me, ‘You can make a life here for yourself’.” Jasper McKee

He is a prominent physicist. He was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland and received his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Queen’s University in Belfast. He came to Winnipeg in 1974 and was director of the University of Manitoba’s cyclotron laboratory and accelerator centre from 1975 to 1996. He is a physics professor at the university. He received the Queen’s Jubilee Medal in 2002, and represented Atomic Energy of Canada during the commissioning of CANDU reactors in South Korea and China during the 1980s.


Mary Benbow

Jane Cahill

She is chairwoman of the department of classics at the University of Winnipeg. She was born in England and received her undergraduate degree at the University of Leicester. Wanting to go as far from England as she could for further education, she enrolled at the University of Western Ontario for her masters and received her Ph.D. at the University of British Columbia. She was hired by the University of Winnipeg — “straight out of grad school” — in 1976 and has been here ever since, teaching Latin and the history of Greek and Latin literature. Her first impression of Winnipeg was very positive. “It was February and there was a bus strike… when I was driven around, we kept stopping to pick up people.” And although she loves it here, she still doesn’t garden. “I’ve never built up a resistance to mosquitoes.”


Mary Benbow

She is associate dean (academics) in the University of Manitoba’s faculty of environment, earth and resources. She was born in England and received her undergraduate degree and Ph.D. at the University of Liverpool. She specializes in the social, cultural and environmental implications of zoos and aquariums. She came to Winnipeg in 1990. “I had never been to Canada, and I didn’t know anybody in Canada. I was interviewed for the job, and here I am.” She said she remembers the first time she saw snow. “I took pictures and sent them to my parents. Snow was so rare where I was from.”


Michael Trevan

He is dean of the faculty of agricultural and food sciences. He was born in England and was the director of research and consultancy at the University of Westminster, provost of Cavendish Campus and then the London Development Agency’s Higher Education Policy and Liaison Manager before coming here in 2004 to join the University of Manitoba’s agriculture department. “I had been coming here for several years because of research. My first impression was the expanse of space — and then mosquitoes… we got a really good friendly welcome here. Everyone is so friendly.”


Aidan O’Brien

He is Honorary Consul of Ireland. He was born in Dublin, Ireland and came to Canada in 1966 with an insurance firm, transferring to Winnipeg in 1972. “A friend in Toronto said it’s not really a promotion to be sent to Winnipeg. But three years later I was asked to go back to Ontario, and I rejected it because I had fallen in love with Winnipeg.” He was president and CEO of Manitoba Blue Cross and was the founding president of the Irish Association of Manitoba. He is a former president of the Folk Arts Council and the Winnipeg Fury Soccer Club and chairman of the St. Boniface General Hospital Research Foundation. He has been inducted into the Manitoba Sports hall of Fame. First impression of Winnipeg? “The people were extraordinary and welcoming and just friendly. The people of significance were accessible, too, and that wasn’t the case elsewhere.”

Kerr Twaddle

Joseph Barnsley

He is the Honorary British Consul in Manitoba. His father was born in England and came to Canada in 1917 with his mother and siblings when he was 10 years old. Later his father, training to be an actuary, lived with his brother in New York City before returning to work in Winnipeg. He’s not sure why his relatives decided on Winnipeg, but his grandmother, a seamstress, worked out of her home on Sherbrook Street near what was then the Misericordia Hospital. He was born in Winnipeg, is a lawyer and was asked to be the consul — a volunteer position — when the previous one stepped down. He said the role of the consul isn’t to give individual advice, but he will point people in the right direction. “I represent the United Kingdom at local events and I give greetings.”

Sally Mann

She is known for her fish and chips. She was born in England and came to Winnipeg with her family in 1998, under an immigration program that required newcomers to start a business within two years. She started a T-shirt printing business in a local mall and then moved it to Academy Road. When she introduced British food to the shop, it sold out. Expanding to Portage Avenue, she opened the Raging Brit and the Brit Cafe which, until it closed in 2010, was named best British restaurant in Canada and was voted third best in the world in a British contest. First impression of Winnipeg? “I was claustrophobic in England because land was unavailable, and all you could see were buildings. Here, there is land to spare. I couldn’t see a future for my kids there, but I can here.”


David Loch

He is one of the country’s most important art dealers. He was born in Scotland and brought up just west of Edinburgh. He came to Canada when he was 19, after first being refused entry because he had no skills. Then Eaton’s hired him and sent him to Winnipeg. “I came in August, and I had a tweed suit on and it was 30 degrees C — I thought I would die.” He later opened an art gallery, Loch and Mayberry, and became known for being the art dealer for several of the country’s millionaires, including the late Ken Thomson. He now owns three Loch galleries across the country.

Susan Bowden

She was born in England and is married to Kerr Twaddle. She is an author of 17 bestselling historical and suspense fiction novels, including Forget Me Not. She worked in the advertising department of the Winnipeg Tribune, but after taking a creative writing course at the University of Winnipeg, she became an author. She also sang in the Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir. First impressions of Winnipeg? “We arrived in June, and we could not believe the heat. It was a very hot year, and the winter started late. We thought this was the way it always would be, and it wasn’t half as bad as we thought. We found the winters long, but the people tremendously friendly. The beauty of Winnipeg is the friendliness.”


Keith Davies Jones

Winnipeg Free Press Christine O'Connor

He was born in Wales and was working as a radiation oncologist in Oxford and Manchester when he was recruited to come to Winnipeg in 1986. He has worked for CancerCare Manitoba since then and was head of the oncology department from 1993 to 2004. He has been president of the St. David’s Society of Winnipeg and volunteered for Habitat for Humanity when former U.S. president Jimmy Carter volunteered for a build here. First impression of Winnipeg? “They said, ‘We have a job waiting for you in Winnipeg,’ and I said, ‘Where the heck is that?’ But I came and had a look at it, saw a cricket match in Assiniboine Park, and came.”

Justin Swandel

He is a Winnipeg city councillor representing St. Norbert. He was seven years old and living in Belfast, Northern Ireland when his father accepted a teaching position in Flin Flon in 1967. “Canada was recruiting school teachers from English-speaking countries around the world and offering two years of paying no taxes. And they paid all the expenses… He had a choice of Vancouver or Flin Flon and he saw Flin Flon was in the middle of the country so he thought it was would be easier to get around the country… My dad later told us, ‘I’m a math teacher not a geography teacher’.” His first impression of Canada and Winnipeg? “It was tough. I was a year ahead in school, and I was beaten and bloodied every day because of my accent. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. But then we moved to Winnipeg, and it was a good experience. I have continued to like Winnipeg.”

Jim Brennan

He is Winnipeg’s former fire chief. He was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and came to Winnipeg in 1977. “It was the height of the Irish troubles, and I worked as a paramedic for five years. It prompted us to immigrate.” He joined Winnipeg’s ambulance service just after the city had taken over all the private ambulance operators. He rose through the ranks and retired as the city’s fire chief last year. First impressions of Winnipeg? “The streets were bigger than I’d ever seen, and I was used to driving on the wrong side of the road. I would be ambulance driver, and I’d jump into the wrong seat of the truck — it was embarrassing.”


— Compiled by Kevin Rollason through interviews and gathering information from the Manitoba Historical Society

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