Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: William John Birtles (1930-2017)

Educator, artist.

Born at Alexander on 11 March 1930, son of Winifred Hughes (1890-1977) and John Birtles (1886-1977), he attended Alexander School and was encouraged by his mother and grade 8 teacher Mary Hume to pursue a career in Art. After graduating from the St. John’s College School in 1948, he attended the Winnipeg School of Art (1949-1950) and travelled in England to visit art galleries and museums. He taught on permit before attending the Provincial Normal School, from which he graduated in 1952. He later received BFA (1958) and BEd (1971) degrees from the University of Manitoba. He taught in rural and urban schools around Manitoba, including Lord Roberts School (1960-1962) and Cecil Rhodes School (1965-1966), at Carman School (?-?), near Pickle Lake (northern Ontario), and in Surrey (England). He retired from full-time teaching in 1985 and, for the next two years, taught around the province for the Manitoba Arts Council's Artists-in-the-Schools program. His drawings, paintings, and sculptures are held in private and public collections in Canada, United States, and United Kingdom. In 2002, he received the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal in recognition of his community service. He died at Winnipeg on 25 June 2017. He is commemorated by the William J. Birtles Award for Sculpture from the Manitoba Society of Artists.


Obituaries [John Birtles, Winifred Birtles], Winnipeg Free Press, 10 February 1977, page 100.

William J. Birtles, MSA, Manitoba Society of Artists.

Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 28 June 2017.

Obituaries and burial transcriptions, Manitoba Genealogical Society.

We thank Anna Birtles for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 24 September 2020

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

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