Memorable Manitobans: John W. Niddrie (1863-1940)
Born near Oban, Scotland on 22 September 1863 to strictly Calvinist parents. After arriving in Canada in 1884, he was ordained in 1915 and was stationed at the McDougall Mission in Morley, Alberta from 1889 to 1909. In Manitoba, he worked at Oxford House from 1910 to 1915 and Island Lake from 1915 to 1920. He then ministered at Berens River until his retirement in 1938. Niddrie died at Berens River on 4 May 1940 and was buried in the community.
Niddrie was fortunate to arrive in Berens River at a time of positive feelings toward the Methodist mission, succeeding the popular Percy Earl Jones. He built lasting ties on this stability, finding much support in Chief William Berens and his family. For most of his time at Berens River his Catholic counterpart was Brother Frederick Leach who, with Father Joseph De Grandpré, opened the Catholic mission and day school in the community in 1918. Members of the community, most of whom, to the chagrin of Niddrie and Leach, attended services at both churches on Sundays found much amusement from the rivalry between the two missionaries.
Throughout Niddrie’s tenure church membership steadily rose, moving from eighty-five to 158. He devoted all of his energies to mission life. Decades later many elders remembered his generosity and compassion, his huge vegetable garden, the suppers he would make for the lads who helped with weeding and the harvesting of food, and the organ lessons he gave to boys who grew up to be fine musicians. His sister, Annie, came to Berens River for a visit in 1927 and she, too, felt such supportive ties with the people that she remained as Niddrie’s housekeeper for thirty years. The fact that Niddrie lived out his days at Berens River speaks to his deep devotion to that community.
His personal papers are held by the United Church Archives (Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario).
This profile was prepared by Susan Elaine Gray.
Page revised: 19 June 2009
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