Memorable Manitobans: Frederick George “Fred” McGuinness (1921-2011)
Writer, journalist, historian.
Born at Brandon on 31 January 1921, he attended Park School and Earl Oxford School, quitting to work for CP Telegraph as a messenger and later as a Morse operator. During the Second World War, he joined the Royal Canadian Navy, being discharged in 1941 with a disability pension resulting from a shipboard accident. Returning to Manitoba, he completed his education at St. Paul’s College and United College in Winnipeg, also taking two years of arts and science at the University of Manitoba but withdrew in his third year due to lingering effects of his wartime injuries.
From 1946 to 1951, he was a writer-researcher for the federal Department of Labour, and from 1952 to 1956 was Executive Director of the Saskatchewan Golden Jubilee Committee. His long career in journalism began in 1956 with a ten-year stint as publisher of the Medicine Hat News and Vice-President of Southam News. From 1966 to 1987, he was Associate Editor of the Brandon Sun and Vice-President of Sun Publishing Limited. He wrote a regular column in the Sun under the pseudonym of “F. A. Rosser”.
In retirement, he worked as a freelance writer for the Reader’s Digest, a writer-lecturer for the WESTARC Group, and a lecturer in journalism at Brandon University. His column Neighborly News was carried by 70 community newspapers in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. He wrote or co-wrote several books, including Pride of the Land: An Affectionate History of Brandon’s Agricultural Exhibitions (1985; co-written with Ken Coates, for which he won a Margaret McWilliams Award), Only in Canada: Kinsmen and Kinettes (1987, co-written with Ken Coates), Manitoba, the Province and the People (1987, co-written with Ken Coates), The Keystone Province: An Illustrated History of Manitoba Enterprise (1988, co-written with Ken Coates), Wheat City: A Pictorial History of Brandon (1988), Bootstrap Three: Enterprise Stories from Rural Manitoba (1994), and Ten to Ten: A History of the Canadian Credit Union Movement at its 75th Year. For nearly 20 years, he was a regular correspondent for the CBC radio program “Morningside” and was writer-commentator for the weekly broadcast “Neighbourly News from the Prairies”.
He served as a Director of the Medicine Hat Chamber of Commerce (two terms as President), Alberta Chamber of Commerce, International Peace Garden, Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba, Royal Manitoba Winter Fair, and Manitoba Centennial Corporation, and helped to fundraise for the Keystone Centre and the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium. He served on the Historic Sites Advisory Board of Manitoba (1982-?).
For over fifty years, Fred McGuinness committed his unique talents of communication to the understanding, appreciation and celebration of life in rural western Canada. His recollections reflected a deep curiosity about life around him, his enviable ability to find the humour in every situation, and his unique ability to convey action, ideas, and nuance. When McGuinness received an honorary degree from Brandon University in 1997, one supporting writer characterized him as “the undisputed Dean of community newspaper editors and journalists.” He was, asserted another, “…a philosopher, a lecturer, a specialist in arboriculture (especially of the Christmas tree variety), a protector of grammatical English, an advisor generous with his time, and on top of it all, a mighty fine gentleman.”
He received the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal (1977) and the Golden Boy Citizenship Award. He was given honorary life membership in the Manitoba Community Newspaper Association and the Alberta Chamber of Commerce. He was inducted into the Manitoba Order of the Buffalo Hunt (1992), was awarded an honorary doctorate by Brandon University (1997), and was inducted into the Order of Manitoba (2002) and the Order of Canada (2004).
His articles for the Manitoba Historical Society:
“Dauphin teacher on historic sites board,” Dauphin Herald, 26 October 1982, page 30.
“Brandon’s own voice of the Prairies falls silent,” Winnipeg Free Press, 23 March 2011, page A11.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 2 April 2011, page B15.
Page revised: 4 June 2019