Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: John Kensington Downes (1879-1944)

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John Kensington Downes
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Educator, MLA (1923-1927).

Born at Platt Bridge, Lancashire, England on 29 April 1879, he was educated at Wigan Grammar School and St. Mark’s College (London), became a Fellow of the Royal College of Horticulture, and played as a professional footballer. He served as headmaster in county schools in Somerset, Kent and Lancashire for a few years then went to South Africa where he taught and was a lay preacher. He came to Winnipeg in 1912.

At the outbreak of the First World War he joined the 134th Battalion and after going overseas was commissioned as an officer in the 11th Canadian Railway Battalion. On demobilization he became involved with the Great War Veterans’ Association and the Soldiers Settlement Board. Elected to the Manitoba Legislature in 1922, he served until being defeated in 1927, then he was on the Provincial Liquor Control Commission and was managing secretary of the Moderation League. He was also defeated in the 1941 provincial general election.

He and wife Lizzie J. Gillibrand (1880-?) had two sons and two daughters, all born in England: Norman Downes (1899-?), Lionel J. Downes (1901-?), D. J. Downes (1905-?), and M. M. Downes (1909-?). The family lived at 150 Lenore Street.

He died at Winnipeg on 28 January 1944 and was buried in the Brookside Cemetery.


Canadian Expeditionary Force, Attestation Papers, Library and Archives Canada.

1916 Canada census, Ancestry.

“J. Kensington Downes dies Friday, aged 71,” Winnipeg Free Press, 28 January 1944. [Manitoba Legislative Library, Biographical Scrapbook B9, page 148]

We thank Oliver Bernuetz (Legislative Library of Manitoba) for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 19 January 2021

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

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