Memorable Manitobans: Peter Lowe (1887-1980)
Born at Schreiber, Ontario on 14 December 1887, he came to Winnipeg as a small child in 1890. He took the commercial course at the Winnipeg Collegiate and went to work as an office boy at the Canadian Pacific Railway headquarters on Higgins. From 1902 to 1906 he was assistant to the Excursion Ticket Agent, the official who handled emigrant tickets. He then began his long association with the Alloway and Champion Bank when he became a teller in their North End Branch. This bank, located on Main very close to the CPR station and the Immigration Hall, was used by many newly arrived emigrants to change money and set up their first bank account in Canada. Lowe became acquainted with several Slavic languages and handled the currency of many different countries. In 1910 he was promoted and moved to the Main Office of the Bank at 362 Main. By 1912, at the age of 25, he was the Secretary of the Bank, at the time the largest private Bank in the country. Then in 1917 he was made General Manager, a post he held until 1930, when the Bank was finally taken over by the Bank of Commerce. He was then appointed to manage the Winnipeg Foundation, a job he had been doing on a voluntary basis since the Foundation was set up in 1921. When he was appointed the Chair of the Foundation Board said that: “His intimate relationship with the late Mr. Alloway and his knowledge of the wishes of Winnipeg’s great benefactor with relation to the distribution of charities make Mr. Lowe an invaluable assistant and advisor.”
Lowe was a child of his times. He describes the process of acquiring Métis land scrip in a matter of fact way, never hinting that he may have doubted the morality of doing business in this way. He used language and displays attitudes that would not be acceptable today. But these things do not detract from the enormous contribution Lowe made during his long tenure as Executive Director of The Winnipeg Foundation, from which he retired in 1957. Lowe signed himself “Peter B. Lowe” although he had no middle name. This was because of a joke that circulated about him. The story went that a Winnipegger arrived at the Pearly Gates and was asked by St. Peter what he had done during his life for the Community Chest, the Salvation Army, the Children’s Aid Society, and lastly, he was asked what he had done for the Peter below, meaning the Peter at the Winnipeg Foundation.
In addition to his contributions at the Winnipeg Foundation, Lowe chaired the A. R. McNichol Limited in which many Winnipeg charities were shareholders. He was honorary secretary of the Ravenscourt School for Boys in its early years. He served several terms as President of the Winnipeg Stock Exchange and was a member of the Investment Dealers Association of Canada, a Director of the Monarch Life Assurance Company, and Tees and Persse Limited. He was among those who established the Manitoba Hospital Service Association (Blue Cross), Family Bureau (Family Services of Winnipeg), Age and Opportunity Centre, and the Manitoba School of Social Work (University of Manitoba). He was associated with the Victory Loan Campaigns in both World Wars.
On 28 April 1917, he married Effie Jane Robertson (?-1973), sister-in-law of George Batho. They had one daughter, Maribette Lowe. In his social life, Lowe was a member in the Manitoba Club, St. Charles Country Club, and Rotary Club.
His articles for the Manitoba Historical Society:
1901 Canada census, Automated Genealogy.
Marriage registration, Manitoba Vital Statistics.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 3 January 1980.
Annual Report 1979, Winnipeg Foundation.
Manitoba Historical Society files.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 5 May 2017
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