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.
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.
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.
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.