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Memorable Manitobans: Victor Speirs Cowie (1929-2004)

Educator, writer, actor, director.

Born at Winnipeg on 19 June 1929, son of Victor Isaac Cowie and Helen Cowie, he came to adulthood as the city was emerging from the Second World War and beginning its cultural revival. He left an incipient career as a cartoonist to attend the University of Manitoba to study English literature. During this time he met and married Geraldine “Gerry” Watkins (1932-2013), and the two later travelled east, where he undertook postgraduate studies at the University of Toronto. In 1956, he was hired as an English professor by the University of Manitoba. His lectures on Shakespeare and Milton were memorable experiences for a generation of Manitoba students.

He was also active in the theatre, directing and performing with students in numerous university productions, including those put on by the Black Hole Theatre Company. He made frequent appearances in venues such as Theatre 77, Manitoba Theatre Centre, and Rainbow Stage, as well on national CBC television and radio drama. As a playwright/screenwriter, he wrote and produced a well-received film about university life, And No Birds Sing. He took special interest in children’s musicals. With composer Victor Davies, he created The Magic Trumpet, which was subsequently performed on national television and in Toronto and New York. He also wrote a movie script for a drama set in historic Red River.

Upon retirement, he maintained an avid interest in the cultural life of Winnipeg, finding niche roles in a wide range of Canadian and American movies produced by Manitoba’s burgeoning film industry. Not long before he died, he made a return to the stage, appearing in PinterFest and the Winnipeg Fringe Festival.

He died at Winnipeg on 8 March 2004, survived by his wife and their three children. A collection of his papers is held at the University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections. He is commemorated by the Victor Cowie Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Performing Arts given by ACTRA Manitoba.

Sources:

Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 11 March 2004.

Obituary [Geraldine “Gerry” Helen Cowie], Winnipeg Free Press, 7 December 2013.

Victor S. Cowie fonds, University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections.

This page was prepared by Lois Braun and Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 27 March 2020

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

This is a collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society. We acknowledge that the collection contains both reputable and disreputable people. All are worth remembering as a lesson to future generations.

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