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Memorable Manitobans: Robert Ironside (1854-1910)

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Robert Ironside
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Cattle merchant, MLA (1892-1895).

Born at London, Ontario on 27 November 1854, son of William Ironside and Catherine Airth of Scotland, he was educated in the public schools of London. He came to Manitoba about 1882 and settled at Manitou to sell farm implements. He formed a partnership with James Thomas Gordon. In 1886, the partnership was dissolved, with Ironside remaining in Manitou and Gordon going to Pilot Mound. Both continued in the same business. However, in a year or two they resumed their relationship. Business increased steadily and Ironside built the first grain elevator in Manitou, having a capacity of 40,000 bushels. They supplied the construction gangs and troops of the Riel Rebellion with beef imported from Ontario.

In 1890, Ironside and Gordon sent a large shipment of steers to Montreal, and they soon sent others to the United Kingdom. They admitted William Henry Fares to partnership and the firm became Gordon, Ironside and Fares. By 1891, the company was shipping lumber, grain and cattle to European and South African markets. Six years later the company was the largest livestock-exporting house in Canada, shipping 50,000 head of cattle to England in 1900 alone. They also had an abattoir in Winnipeg.

On 12 December 1888, he married Annie Gordon (?-?) of Carman. They had two sons: Robert Gordon Ironside (1889-1941) and Charles Frederick Gordon Ironside (1892-?). He was elected Liberal MLA from Manitou in 1892, defeating James Huston. In 1896, he withdrew from contesting the federal riding of Lisgar rather than compete with his business partner, who was the Conservative candidate. He later moved to Montreal, where he died on 10 October 1910, but he always remained associated with Manitoba.

See also:

Winnipeg Ranchers: Gordon, Ironside and Fares by A. B. McCullough
Manitoba History, Number 41, Spring/Summer 2001

Robert Ironside, Dictionary of Canadian Biography XIII, 498-99.

Sources:

Birth and marriage registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.

1901 Canada census, Automated Genealogy.

The Story of Manitoba by F. H. Schofield, Winnipeg: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1913.

Pioneers and Early Citizens of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Manitoba Library Association, 1971.

Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

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

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 2 March 2022

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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