Memorable Manitobans: Robert Cuthbert Johnstone (1857-1934)
Cleric, librarian, author.
Born at Aberdeenshire, Scotland on 8 September 1857, son of Robert Johnstone and Sophia Wilson, he received elementary education from the Free Church School at Ellon, Aberdeenshire. He obtained a teaching certificate then worked for several years at Newcastle-on-Tyne as an assistant master at Percy St. Academy. He then attended courses at Durham University in Edinburgh, taking arts and sciences. In 1877, he went to the College of the Episcopal Church and joined the seminary, received his diploma three years later, passed his deacon’s order examinations, and was ordained to the Diaconate by Bishop Lightfoot of Durham. He was admitted to the order of presbytery in 1881 and held the positions of Curate of Holy Trinity (1880-1882, Edinburgh), senior curate of St. Paul’s (1882-1884, St. Paul’s, York Place, Edinburgh), Rector of St. John’s Drumlithie and chaplain of Drumtochty Castle (1884-1891), and Rector of St. Andrew’s (1891-1895, Glasgow).
In 1895, during a bout of amnesia incurred in Scotland, he came to Manitoba to visit a friend, and remained. His family followed the year after. He worked for two years as an Editor of The Nor’Wester at Winnipeg and preached on Sundays as requested by local Anglican offices. He was the Rector of St. Paul’s Middlechurch (1898-1903) and founder of the St. Cuthbert’s Mission. He stepped down from St. Cuthbert’s around April 1906 on account of ill health and took on diocesan work, becoming the cleric in charge of Pemina (1909-1912) and examining chaplain for the Bishop of North Dakota (1909-1912).
He was in charge of the Reference Department at the Carnegie Public Library (1907-1922). He lectured at St. John’s College from 1919 to 1927 and became vicar of St. Aidan’s Church in 1931. As “Alan Gray” he published a number of books, including The White Rose of Darvel (a historical novel, 1916) and two volumes of memoirs, The Gentle Persuasion (1918) and Memories (1923). He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Manitoba in 1912.
He married Annie Cowper Farquhar (1853-1917) and had three children: Robert W. Johnstone (1880-?), Edwin Brooke Johnstone (1884-1951, father of Barbara A. Johnstone), and Alfred C. Johnstone (?-1918). The family lived at “The Lodge,” 228 Broadway, for many years. He was a charter member of the Cap and Gown Club (Edinburgh), Masons (King Edward Lodge No. 93), and Chaplain of the 13th Battery and 90th Battalion.
“Rev. Mr. Johnstone resigning,” Winnipeg Tribune, 6 April 1906, page 12.
“Leaders in the great cause of education - No. 2,” Winnipeg Tribune, 23 May 1912, page 9.
“Rev R. Johnstone dies at home of son in 78th year,” Winnipeg Free Press, 23 August 1934, page 15.
Obituary, Winnipeg Tribune, 24 August 1934, page 13.
“E. B. Johnstone funeral set for Saturday,” Winnipeg Free Press, 18 January 1951, page 15.
Obituary [Edwin Brooke Johnstone], Winnipeg Free Press, 20 January 1951, page 22.
“Sixty years ago - Aug. 12, 1901,” Winnipeg Free Press, 12 August 1961, page 62.
Page revised: 22 May 2017