St. Andrew's Society History

Entering Our Third Century

The St. Andrew's Society of Winnipeg is the oldest continuously operating Scottish society in western Canada. The Society was founded in 1871, one year after Manitoba became a Province.


The Society's first President was Donald Alexander Smith, later elevated to the British peerage as The 1st Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal, builder of the Canadian Pacific Railroad, developer of the West. Twenty-five years later the Society had the distinction of having been incorporated by an Act of the Provincial Legislature, receiving Royal Assent on 19 March 1896. The following members are named in the Act as the petitioners: Duncan Wendell McDermid, Thomas William Taylor, Mark Fortune, John Emslie, James Davidson Conklin, Albert Vass, James Patterson, George Bryce, John Russell, Henry Cameron, J.P. Robertson, George Andrew, John D. Marshall, Donald McLeod Telford, James McDiarmid, Samuel Kirkpatrick, John Byron Moore and Alexander A. Aird. While many of these were Winnipeggers of distinction, it is noteworthy that Mark Fortune, Society President in 1897-98, was the most prominent resident of the city lost in the Titanic disaster, sixteen years later in April 1912. His home "Mark Fortune House"  still stands at 393 Wellington Crescent.


A further event of historical note: in 1910 the Society assisted in raising the 79th Cameron Highlanders of Canada (later named The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada).


The Society's primary purposes, unaltered from the outset, are the promotion and preservation of Scottish culture and tradition in Manitoba and of public understanding of the Scots' role in the origins of the Province. 


Upon acceptance all new members of the Society receive the hardcover book A Proud Heritage - A History of The St. Andrew's Society of Winnipeg 1871 - 1982 written by the late Reverend Dr. Thomas Saunders, 52nd President of the Society (1952-1954), former Honorary Life Member and Honorary President.


Manitoba Historical Society Centennial Organization

On April 19, 2009, almost 140 years following our founding, the Society was presented with the Manitoba Historical Society (MHS) Centennial Organization Award. The MHS website includes the following commentary:


It is unquestionable that Canadians of Scottish descent have made incredibly important contributions to the development of Manitoba’s character starting with the Orcadian employees of the Hudson’s Bay Company who arrived on ships at York Factory in the 17th and 18th centuries. And, of course, we cannot forget the Selkirk Settlers who arrived on the banks of the Red River in 1812. Throughout the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries, numerous Scottish immigrants have chosen Manitoba as their homes.


In 1871, just one year after Manitoba joined Confederation, a group of these Scottish expatriates under President Donald A. Smith, formed the Selkirk St. Andrew’s Society of Manitoba. It gained formal recognition by the Manitoba Legislature in March 1896 as The St. Andrew’s Society of Winnipeg. Its membership list is a veritable Who’s Who of Manitoba society, including premiers, senators, MPs, MLA, mayors, city councillors, chief constables, and numerous members of the military, business community, academia, judiciary, the clergy, the arts, and professions. And their names live on today in the names of numerous Winnipeg city streets, such as Smith, Donald, Bannatyne, Taylor, Emslie, and McMicken.


The Society’s fundamental purpose is to preserve and promote Scottish culture in Manitoba and, secondarily, to promote recognition of the historic contribution of Scots and those of Scottish descent to the building of Manitoba.