Anne McDermott was born into a life of relative privilege at Red River Settlement and remained a wealthy woman throughout her life. She nevertheless faced hardship and challenges, through which she demonstrated admirable strength of character.
According to her scrip affidavit, her date of birth was 12 November 1832. Her parents were Andrew Myles McDermot—an Irish Catholic and a successful independent merchant at the settlement—and Sarah Mary McNab (a Métis woman). Anne was a younger sister of Mary Sarah ‘Sally’ McDermot, who would become wife of HBC Governor William Mactavish and reside at Upper Fort Garry during 1869–1870.
Though specific details about her childhood are sparse—including documentary evidence that would show where she attended school—it is generally conceded that Anne was educated. Her long association with the Catholic Church at St. Boniface suggests she was schooled in the tenets of that faith. It is possible that she was taught at home as her father had been.
Anne was married, probably by Catholic rite, on 19 August 1851, to Andrew Graham Ballenden Bannatyne. Originally of South Ronaldsay, Orkney Islands, and formerly of the Hudson’s Bay Company, A.G.B. Bannatyne, like his father-in-law, made his fortune as an independent merchant at Red River.
For a short time after the wedding Anne and her new husband apparently lived at her parent’s home at Emerald Grove—”located a little over a kilometre north of Fort Garry to the east side of Main Street”—where a larger house, Emerald Lodge, was built in the 1850s.
Henry Youle Hind, photograph, “Mr. McDermot’s store, near (Upper) Fort Garry,” (1858), showing the ruins of the original store run by Anne’s parents. Credit: Humphrey L. Hime/ Library and Archives Canada/ C-020245. Restrictions on use: Nil. Copyright: Expired.
On 26 September 1852, Anne’s first son, John Ballenden Bannatyne, was born. Shortly afterwards, the new mother, husband, and baby were invited to accompany Anne’s aunt-in-law, Sarah McLeod Ballenden, and the younger Ballenden children, to a family reunion in Scotland. Andrew G.B. Bannatyne’s uncle, HBC Chief Factor John Ballenden, had been stationed at Fort Vancouver from 1851, but his family had stayed behind at Red River while Sarah attempted to recover from a difficult childbirth. John Ballenden, on furlough in 1853 due to illness, sailed from the Columbia River port on the Pacific coast to Scotland in search of medical aid. Meanwhile, Sarah and children, along with the Bannatynes, sailed from Hudson’s Bay. While all of the sea voyagers succeeded in meeting up in Edinburgh, the trip was followed by tragedy. The infant John B. Bannatyne died on 24 November, and Sarah Ballenden died on 23 December. Both were buried in Edinburgh. (Eventually the Bannatyne’s erected a memorial in Kildonan Cemetery).
Henry Youle Hind, photograph, “Residence of Mr. Bannatyne, a general trader, near Fort Garry,” (1858), depicting Anne and husband seated in front of the original store on the main road. Credit: H.L. Hime/ Library and Archives Canada/ C-20285. Restrictions on use: Nil. Copyright: Expired.
By the year 1860, Anne was mistress of her own home at Red River with three young children. Her family experienced tragedy again, however, when six year old son, Charles Henry Thomas Bannatyne, died on 6 January. He was survived by four year old Andrew Robert James ‘A.R.J.’ Bannatyne and two year old sister, Elizabeth ‘Eliza’ Gray Bannatyne. Anne’s fifth child, Roderick ‘Ralf’ Fortescue Bannatyne, was born 18 October 1860.
A new house was constructed during the 1860s as Anne’s family continued to grow: Laurenda ‘Laura’ Bannatyne was born 26 October 1862; William Mactavish Bannatyne was born 14/ 16 August 1864; and Robert Bannatyne was born 4 May 1867/ 1868.
Bannatyne House, built c. 1860. Source: Thomas Dowse, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories: The Real New Northwest, revised 10th ed. (St. Paul MN: 1879), 28.
The Bannatyne’s residence—situated just behind their store at the northeast corner of the intersection of the Portage trail with the main road through the Town of Winnipeg—was at this time described as a “comfortable abode.” Anne was regarded as “a handsome woman and could hold her own with anyone, she always dressed beautifully and was very vivacious.” She was admired as a gracious hostess of “grand” dinner party gatherings, who was also “much given to good works.”
Photograph taken in 1866 of buildings in the Town of Winnipeg, showing the Bannatyne’s second store, built of brick, in the background on the right. The roof of their house is also visible in the distance (showing above the line of parked Red River carts). Source: Archives of Manitoba, Winnipeg-Hotels-Emmerling’s Collection, Item 1.
The family business was now housed in a newly built brick building. There, Anne held the annual ‘ladies bazaar’ to raise money for the poor. In combination with the proceeds from a concert, the women’s organization raised £100 in 1867 (the previous year they had “raised and distributed £60 or £70”).
Family portrait c. 1868. Left to right, standing: Andrew Robert James ‘A.R.J.’, Anne ‘Annie’. Seated row: William Mactavish (in attire reflecting his namesake), Laurenda ‘Laura’, Andrew ‘A.G.B.’, Elizabeth ‘Eliza’; forefront: Roderick ‘Ralf’.
It was in February 1869 that the incident occurred for which Anne is most celebrated in Canadian historiography—the whipping of Charles Mair for what he had written about a social evening at the Settlement:
I was invited to a dinner-party at Beſſs [sic: Begg’s], where I found the Governor’s brother-in-law, a wealthy merchant here [A.G.B. Bannatyne], Isabister [sic: possibly William Isbister married to Mary Anne Begg], and other Nor’ Westers. Altogether, I received hospitalities to my heart’s content, and I left the place thoroughly pleased with most that I had met. There are jealousies and heart burnings, however. Many wealthy people are married to half-breed women, who, having no coat of arms but a “totem” to look back to, make up for the deficiency by biting the backs of their ‘white’ sisters. The white sisters fall back upon their whiteness, whilst the husbands treat each other with desperate courtesies and hospitalities, with a view to filthy lucre in the background.
It is likely that Anne took personal offense at the line about back-biting “half-breed women” supposedly carrying pent-up jealousies over “white” women (especially since many of the latter at Red River where not particularly ‘well born’). The slur appears to be a direct reference to herself. She was, after all, the wife of the “wealthy merchant” and sister-in-law to the wealthy “Governor” alluded to in the letter. The suggestion that her own husband, and that of her sister, were obsessed with “filthy lucre” would not have helped. Additionally, Mair had made remarks that implied that people of Red River in straitened circumstances did not deserve charity (in effect dismissing Anne’s activity in the public sphere). Lastly, Anne no doubt took umbrage that the insulting lines had been published in the Toronto Globe—a widely read paper, and one regularly delivered to Bannatyne’s store and post office.
Anne, so the story goes, took Mair to task when he dared to enter her business premises—perhaps with more letters in hand. She pulled Mair’s nose (or slapped his face, depending on the source), then thrashed him with a riding crop (or cracked a horse whip about his shoulders and legs), as he beat a hasty retreat.
Anne’s ninth child, Anne ‘Annie’ Sarah Ellen Bannatyne, was a ‘child of the Resistance,’ being born 27/ 29 December 1869. Although most histories have taken little notice of the activity of women during this time (there being little in the way of ready-to-hand documentation), Anne was perfectly situated, geographically and socially, to be in the thick of things. Her primary focus was undoubtedly the day-to-day care of her six children, but she would have been concerned about their future prospects as well—and the shape of the future was the entire point of the Resistance. Anne would have been privy to her husband’s activities, he being politically active (and eventually elected to the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia). Further, she was related, directly and by marriage, to some of the most influential families in the settlement. Her sister Sarah ‘Sally’ had been ‘first lady’ to HBC Gov. William Mactavish at Upper Fort Garry since 1858, and continued to hold the position through the Resistance. Both Anne and Sarah were aunts-in-law to Louis Riel as well as ‘cousines’ to a number of the members of the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia—French and English, Catholic and Protestant.
Anne left Red River before the province of Manitoba had been proclaimed. The New Nation (20 May 1870), noted her departure, 15 May 1870, from the Settlement, with children, aboard the river steamer International. The notice added that they were bound for Scotland. Anne was in company with her sister Sarah and family—William Mactavish and two sons. William had retired from the HBC exhausted by both the Resistance and tuberculosis. Scotland promised a “restorative” return to his homeland, where he held the honour of being 21st Chief of Clan Mactavish, and where relatively advanced medical treatment was available. His illness proved terminal, however, and he died two days after their arrival at Liverpool on 21 July. Anne stayed for a time with Sarah. She then returned to Red River with husband Andrew, who had made the ocean crossing in order to escort his family home—Sarah having decided to stay with her sons in England.
In 1871, Anne’s home became Manitoba’s first ‘legislative building,’ for the first meeting of the Manitoba Legislature held on 15 March. The house was described in the Manitoban of 21 January 1871 as:
the best and most commodious building in Winnipeg, and occupying a central situation as regards the Province generally. The rooms are large and comfortable, and will afford excellent accommodation, for the assembled wisdom of the Province. Three of the large rooms at the southern end of the house and one of the upstairs rooms, are to be used for parliamentary purposes. The Government are decidedly the gainers in this matter, while Mr. Bannatyne yields so much of his house room at very considerable personal inconvenience.
On 2 September 1872, Anne’s tenth child, daughter Margaret Fraser Bannatyne, was born. That year Anne began fund raising for a hospital, proposed to be built on land donated by her family. She continued her charitable work, even though on 3 December 1873 the family home and legislative building burned to the ground. There was no loss of life. Details of the family’s lodging place immediately following the fire are not currently known. The contents of the home were rescued, and, as the building was insured, the family did not suffer financially.
In 1875, Anne would apply for scrip on behalf of herself and for her children. That same year her Ladies Association handed over $1,345.80 “to help fund the Winnipeg General Hospital.”
Although by this point in her life Anne was surrounded by material luxury, she again experienced profound personal losses. Her daughter, Elizabeth ‘Eliza’ Gray Bannatyne, died 27 September 1878/ 1879. The family patriarch, Anne’s father Andrew Mcdermot, died in 1881.
A street view of the Bannatyne house, photographed while under construction
It was in 1881 that the Bannatynes began building an ostentatious home in a new neighbourhood for Winnipeg’s well-to-do families that was under development at a bend of the Assiniboine River — Armstrong Point. The mansion (158 West Gate) was constructed of Tyndal stone and red sandstone and earned the nickname Bannatyne Castle.
Illustration of Bannatyne Castle as viewed from the Assiniboine River
While the house was under construction, the Bannatynes (including the children still living at home) went travelling. They wintered at Hot Springs, Arkansas, then sailed for England. At some point during the journey they were in Montreal, where a number of studio portraits were taken.
While they were away, the ‘land boom’ in Winnipeg went bust. Although A.G.B. Bannatyne saw what had been a fortune in investments in speculative ventures evaporate, the family remained comfortably well off. Anne and husband continued to travel south to Texas each winter—to benefit from the legendary healing properties of the hot springs.
The 1880s took a heavy toll on the family. Anne’s son Roderick died 14 June 1883; daughter Margaret died 25 September 1885. On 18 May 1889, while returning from Texas to Winnipeg for the summer, Anne’s husband died at St Paul, MN. She arranged a large civic funeral in Winnipeg, with the burial at Kildonan Cemetery. The ‘Castle’ had not yet been completed. It was ultimately sold.
Hand-coloured and retouched photograph of Bannatyne Castle (link to the original), with the Maryland bridge in the background, used for a postcard captioned “Moonlight on the Assiniboine River, Winnipeg, Man.” (Winnipeg: Bloom Brothers, n.d.). Source: Winnipeg Public Library, Rob McInnes post card collection, WP1004, (which misidentifies the home location as being on Roslyn Crescent).
With the turn of the century, Anne’s family circle diminished still more: son Andrew (who had married Louisa Rowand), died in 1900; daughter Laurenda died in 1901.
Anne died 14 May 1908 at Cannington Manor, Saskatchewan, having outlived all but three of her children. She had been visiting with daughter Anne and son-in-law Gerald John Simpson. Anne’s funeral was held in Winnipeg, with internment next to the grave of husband Andrew in Kildonan Presbyterian Cemetery.
Postcard, “Winnipeg General Hospital,” (printed by Valentine’s c. 1910)—depicting an enduring legacy, extended by Anne to people well beyond the limits of her circle of friends and family.
Of Anne’s surviving children:
William Mactavish Bannatyne married Mary Jane Logan on 8 April 1896, and died 25 September 1931.
Anne ‘Annie’ Sarah Ellen Bannatyne married Gerald John Simpson on 3 February 1896, and died 10 May 1942.
Robert Bannatyne married Margaret Catherine Bruce on 21 Feb 1889 at St. James. In 1905 he married Anne ‘Annie’ Florence Romberg (age 21). In 1906 the couple lived at Humboldt, Saskatchewan, with Robert’s son Herman Robert Kitchener Garnet Bannatyne (age 11). They had eight children. Robert died in 1934 at Quill Lake, SK.
 For versions of the story see: Louis Riel, “un chien de Mer’ (Là-bas),” (1869), Songs of the Resistance, this site; Hargrave, Red River, 456; James Ross, quoted in Lamirande, “Annie McDermot Bannatyne. (1830–1908),” 30; Georges Dugas, Histoire Véridique des faits qui ont Préparé le mouvement des Métis à la Rivière Rouge en 1869 (Montreal: Librairie Beauchemin, 1905), 27–28; Lillian Beynon Thomas, “Some Manitoba Women Who Did First Things“; Norman Shrive, “Poet and Politics: Charles Mair at Red River,” Canadian Literature 17, Writers on the Prairies (Summer 1963), 15–16, 18, who supplies an English translation of Dugas, and notes the humiliating story was widely disseminated and long remembered: “Ten years after the event an official of the Hudson’s Bay Company recalled it during a newspaper-letter controversy with him. Of the Reverend Georges Dugas, when his Histoire Veridique appeared in 1905, Mair wrote to Denison: ‘[He] impales your humble friend as the Advocatus Diaboli.’ And in a letter of 1911 from a relative in New Zealand, a significant comment— ‘I saw . . . a Judge Mair had been horsewhipped at Prince Rupert, I think; surely he is not one of our Mairs’—is underlined, undoubtedly by Mair, in red pencil.”
 For family connections to members of the Legislative Assembly see Mary Sarah ‘Sally’ McDermot Mactavish, this site.
 http://www.archive.org/stream/tenyearsinwinnip00begg/tenyearsinwinnip00begg_djvu.txt; http://www.archivescanada.ca/english/search/ItemDisplay.asp?sessionKey=999999999_142&l=0&lvl=1&v=0&coll=0&itm=229559&rt=1&bill=1. The home apparently had apple trees as well—they were remarked by Mary Agnes FitzGibbon, A trip to Manitoba: or, Roughing it on the line (Toronto: Rose-Belford, 1880), 67. See also Bruce Cherney, “Manitoba’s first legislative building — Bannatyne’s home on McDermot a little east of Main Street,” http://dev.winnipegrealestatenews.com/Resources/Article/?sysid=903.
 Bruce Cherney, “Manitoba’s first legislative building — December 3 fire destroyed A.G.B. Bannatyne’s home,” http://www.winnipegrealestatenews.com/Resources/Article/?sysid=906.
Scrip affidavit for Bannatyne, Anne; wife of A.G.B. Bannatyne, concerning the claims of her children – [Eliza Bannatyne, born 17 September 1858, Roderick Bannatyne, born 18 October 1860] name: Laura Bannatyne; born: 26 October, 1862; name: William Bannatyne; born: 14 August, 1864; name: Robert Bannatyne; born: 4 May 1867; name: Anne Bannatyne; born: 29 December, 1869 =
 Lamirande, “Annie McDermot Bannatyne. (1830-1908),” 29. See also “Winnipeg General Hospital,” Winnipeg Free Press (28 May 1910).
 See “1890 – A.G.B. Bannatyne Residence, Armstrong’s Point, Winnipeg, Manitoba,” archiseek; and “134 Westgate — ‘Beechmount’ The Former J.B. Monk House,” http://www.winnipeg.ca/ppd/historic/pdf-consv/WestGate134-long.pdf which notes A.J.R. Bannatyne purchased the lot next door and built his home there.
 See Mccord Museum/ Musée Mccord, http://www.mccord-museum.qc.ca/scripts/search_results.php?Lang=1&keywords=bannatyne&order=1&curset=2.
 “Canada Census, 1906,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/KHVS-ZG3 : accessed 11 May 2013), Robert Bannatyne, 1906; http://www.mundia.com/ca/Person/1997448/-292755608; “Robert Bannatyne, 69, is Buried on Tuesday at Quill Lake, Sask,” Winnipeg Free Press http://newspaperarchive.com/winnipeg-free-press/1934-07-18/page-3.
Published: 28 November 2012