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Memorable Manitobans: Leonard Towne Sterndale Norris-Elye (1884-1958)

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Leonard Towne Sterndale Norris-Elye
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Lawyer, educator, museum director.

Born at Essex, England on 15 February 1884, he graduated from Cambridge University before coming to Winnipeg in 1912. He practiced as a lawyer for some time and was employed by the Standard Trust Company until it was absorbed by another company. In 1929, he was appointed science master at Ravenscourt School and, in 1938, he became Director of the Manitoba Museum, retiring in 1952.

On 14 February 1920, he married Edith Gladys Tarbolton (1883-1925) at Winnipeg and they had two sons: Richard Towne Norris-Elye (1921-2014, husband of Margaret Constance Lamb) and Oliver Cragg Norris-Elye (1922-2010, husband of June Willmot Phillips). Following his wife’s death, he devoted himself to other interests and activities including music and astronomy, spending two years grinding a six-inch mirror for an astronomical telescope which he installed on the roof of Bannatyne Castle (Monk House) at 134 Westgate. He was a man of exceptionally wide-ranging accomplishment and expertise. He authored numerous publications on ornithology and palaeontology, and for some years, he presented the program “Manitoba Calling” on CKY radio. He also presented on the CBC.

He was a musical prodigy, playing the piano and composing from the age of 4; some compositions by him survive. During his early years in Winnipeg he acted as accompanist to the Elgar Ladies’ Choir, and from 1925 to 1929 he was organist at St. George’s Anglican Church. He served as President of the Natural History Society of Manitoba (1938-1940) and the Winnipeg Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, and a founding member of the Historic Sites Advisory Board of Manitoba (1946-?). He became a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1950.

He died at Winnipeg on 17 April 1958 after a long illness and was buried in the St. John’s Cathedral Cemetery.


Marriage and death registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.

“Ex-museum director dies, 74,” Winnipeg Free Press, 18 April 1958, page 7.

We thank Sheila Norris-Elye for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Keith Jones, Jim Burns, and Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 9 February 2021

Memorable Manitobans

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