The Street Where I Live

I live in a condo on Bannatyne Avenue in Winnipeg. Bannatyne Avenue was made famous by the Winnipeg singing sensation The Guess Who when they named their second album So Long Bannatyne. The record has a song on it with the same name.

But Bannatyne Avenue is named after someone who was famous in Winnipeg long before The Guess Who came on the scene.  

Andrew Graham Bannatyne was born in the Orkney Islands in 1829 and began working for the Hudson’s Bay Company in Norway House in 1846. 

Andrew Bannatyne photograph from Wiki- Tree

In 1850 Andrew married Annie McDermot, one of 15 children of Andrew McDermot and Sarah McNab.  Annie was highly educated. Her Dad, a former manager of the Hudson’s Bay operation at Norway House, was a wealthy Red River merchant. He offered Andrew a job in his Sturgeon Creek shop and watermill.  Instead, Andrew decided to start a merchant firm in Red River with a partner. Soon it was a large and flourishing business. Andrew was appointed a Red River magistrate in 1861.

In 1868 when Louis Riel led his resistance against the government of Canada and set up his own provisional government in Manitoba, Andrew Bannatyne tried to serve as a mediator between the two warring factions.  He was appointed the first postmaster of Winnipeg in 1871 and he and his wife Annie opened their home to host the first-ever meeting of the Manitoba Legislature that same year.  

In 1875, after Louis Riel, a duly elected member of Parliament for his Manitoba constituency was banished from the House of Commons, Andrew Bannatyne was elected to take his place. Andrew also helped found the Winnipeg Board of Trade and the Manitoba Historical Society. He played in Winnipeg’s first-ever curling match in December of 1876. 

Annie Bannatyne- photograph from Wiki Tree

 Andrew’s wife Annie was not only devoted to her family but gave lots of her time to various Winnipeg charities, in particular the Winnipeg General Hospital which the two Andrews in her life–her father and husband, had helped to found at her request and with her encouragement. Annie is known as one of Winnipeg’s first philanthropists.

Annie, a Metis, was outspoken and opinionated.  She was incensed when a Winnipeg writer named Charles Mair wrote an article for the Toronto Globe in which he made derogatory comments about the women of mixed blood in the Red River Settlement. 

Annie knew that Mair came into her husband’s store every Saturday to collect his mail and she told the store clerk that as soon as Mair arrived she wanted to know. The clerk dutifully informed Annie of Mair’s arrival and she burst into the store brandishing a horsewhip. Grabbing Mair by the nose she gave him a half-dozen licks with the whip and shouted, “That’s how the women of Red River treat those who insult them.”

Mair to his credit did not retaliate and left the store in humiliation. A priest named George Dugas was in the store at the time and wrote about the debacle he had witnessed in his journal. Later Louis Riel would write a humourous poem about the encounter between Mr Mair and Mrs Bannatyne. They say Bannatyne Avenue was named after Andrew Bannatyne but I’d like to think it was named after his wife Annie too. Her feisty compassionate personality makes her every bit as interesting a historical figure as her husband. 


Filed under History, Winnipeg

3 responses to “The Street Where I Live

  1. Al Loeppky

    I like your post, MaryLou. One note: Riel’s actions in what is now Manitoba are usually considered a resistance rather than a rebellion. The government of Canada did not own the land they were surveying to take over when Riel set up his provisional government. In fact, much of the list of rights suggested by Riel’s people comprise part of the Manitoba Act which made Manitoba a province. People who think of Riel as a traitor use the word ‘rebellion’ while those who consider him a hero use ‘resistance’. A small point, but you can see where my sympathies lie.


  2. Michael Black

    I gather that the Hudson’s Bay Company, unlike the other fur companies, didn’t want i’s employees marrying native women, so that might be a reason Andrew wasn’t allowed to marry.

    It might have changed, since my great, great, great grandfather was married to a Syilx woman, but that happened before he finally landed at “The Bay”. And Annie wasn’t a full native woman.

    I’ve seen speculation that my great, great, great grandfather married the Bannatynes, since the Presbyterian minister, John Black, hadn’t yet arrived
    in Red River. Bannatyne land was supposed to be next to Ross land.

    Annie is supposed to be related to Louis Riel, though only through marriage, and it’s a number of hops. I’m not really surprised, Red River was a small place, and the families large, so there’s a lot of inter-connecting. John Black married Laurenda Bannatyne, Andrew’s sister, after Henrietta died. So that connects to Louis Riel. It can be quite complicated to follow, since many remarried after a spouse died young, and names were reused.



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