Memorable Manitobans: Robert Andrew Bonnar (1860-1932)
Born in York County, Ontario on 10 May 1860, son of James and Mary Bonnar, he was educated at public and high schools, and Trinity Medical College (Toronto, 1878). He came to Winnipeg in 1882 and continued west, homesteading near Moosomin for three years. He took up study of the law during his spare time. He returned to Winnipeg and articled with the law firm of Hagel, Davis and Gilmour. He was called to Manitoba Bar in 1889 and formed a partnership with N. F. Hagel. He was Solicitor for the Manitoba Grain Growers’ Association, Grain Growers Grain Company, Public Press, Saturday Post and Publishers’ Agency; criminal counsel for the Winnipeg Electric Railway Company and the Canadian Northern Railway Company. He was made a King’s Counsel in 1915.
In 1911, Bonnar was a barrister with the firm of Bonnar, Trueman & Company, 430½ Main Street, Winnipeg. In 1919 and 1920 he served as counsel for the defence in the trials of the leaders of the Winnipeg General Strike who were charged with sedition. Bonnar was known as one of the great theatrical criminal lawyers of his generation and was often criticized for his methods. His clients escaped the gallows in all but one of the trials he defended.
In 1903, he married Elizabeth Lydon (?-?) of Kildonan. They had one daughter. He ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Winnipeg city council and, in 1910, for the Manitoba Legislature. He was a member of the Carleton Club, AOUW, IOOF, St. Andrews Society, and Clan Stewart. His recreation was horses. He was a member of the Conservative party and Presbyterian church. In 1911, he lived at 206 Langside Street, Winnipeg.
He died at his summer home near Headingley on 13 August 1932.
Who’s Who in Western Canada: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Living Men and Women of Western Canada, Volume 1, edited by C. W. Parker, Vancouver: Canadian Press Association, 1911.
“R. A. Bonnar, K.C., dies Saturday at summer home,” Winnipeg Free Press, 15 August 1932, page 3.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 18 October 2019
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