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Memorable Manitobans: Neil Roderick “Foghorn” MacDonald (1870-1923)

Mining engineer, soldier.

Born at Glengarry, Ontario on 1 January 1870, son of Archie and Mary MacDonald, he attended Ottawa College and decided on a career as a mining engineer. He sought his fortune exploring for gold and silver in northern Ontario, Yukon, Montana, and Mexico. He was well-known in the mining camps of northern Manitoba and the bars of Winnipeg. When the First World War began, he was prospecting for gold near Rice Lake (Bissett). In 1915, he went into the trenches with the 8th Canadians (90th Winnipeg Rifles) and quickly rose in the ranks. “Foghorn” never won a medal but, by the end of 1916, a boozy acquaintanceship with the famous Lieutenant-Colonel Winston Churchill, 6th Royal Scots Fusiliers, skyrocketed him to international celebrity status. He was acclaimed in North American newspapers as the “best known man in the Canadian Army”. In 1917, his popularity was enhanced with a tour of the United States to promote the Canadian war effort. He died at Montreal, Quebec on 20 November 1923 and was buried in the family plot at Glen Nevis, Ontario. His obituaries eulogized him as one of the great war-time characters: “[He] seemed to step out of the page of a romance … a wanderer to remote corners of the world, he was a typical child of adventure come out of story books, a soldier of fortune—a citizen of the world.”


“Canada mourns at burial of Neil “Foghorn” MacDonald,” Winnipeg Tribune, 24 November 1923.

“Foghorn called best known man in the Canadian Army,” Winnipeg Tribune, 30 October 1916.

““Foghorn” MacDonald had life filled with romance,” Windsor Star, 23 December 1923.

This page was prepared by Ian Stewart.

Page revised: 26 December 2020

Memorable Manitobans

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