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Memorable Manitobans: Robert Thomas Riley (1851-1944)

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Robert Thomas Riley
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Robert Thomas Riley
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Born at Yorkshire, England on 1 July 1851, son of ship owner and publisher Thomas Riley and Livinia Riley, he was educated at Argyle College and St. Thomas Charterhouse (London, England). He spent four years with the City of London Real Property Company, and two years in the Adjutant General’s Department at Horse Guards, Whitehall. He came to Canada in 1873, settling at Hamilton, Ontario, moving on to Winnipeg in 1881.

He founded a number of financial and insurance companies in Winnipeg, including the Northern Trusts Company, Northern Mortgage Company, and Canadian Fire Insurance Company. He was a Director of the Royal Bank of Canada, Western Manager of the Sanford Manufacturing Company, Managing Director of the Canadian Fire Insurance Company, and Director of the Union Bank of Canada. In addition, Riley was one of the founders of the Great-West Life Assurance Company. He was also chief manager of the Westbourne Cattle Company for 13 years. He retired from active business involvement in 1923.

He was married twice. With his first wife Harriet Murgatroyd (1844-1902) he had nine children: Robert Sanford Riley (1874-1926), Conrad Stephenson Riley, Thomas Benjamin Riley (1877-1880), William Bell Riley (1878-1880), Livinia Bell Riley (1880-1920, wife of Edmund Guthrie Perry), George Richard Riley (1882-1884), Harriet Murgatroyd Riley (1884-?, wife of Malcolm Alexander MacQueen), John Herbert Riley, and Harold James Riley. After his first wife’s death, he married Annie Sutherland (1866-1927) of Brock, Ontario. He served as President of the Winnipeg Board of Trade (1895), a Winnipeg City Alderman, and Chairman of the Police Commission. He was a member of the Manitoba Club and St. Charles Country Club.

He died at his Winnipeg home, 186 West Gate, on 29 July 1944 and was buried in the St. John’s Cathedral Cemetery. A book of his memoirs is held in the Manitoba Legislative Library.

See also:

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Riley House (90 East Gate, Winnipeg)

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Riley House (186 West Gate, Winnipeg)


A History of Manitoba: Its Resources and People by Prof. George Bryce, Toronto: The Canadian History Company, 1906.

Who’s Who in Western Canada: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Living Men and Women of Western Canada, Volume 1, edited by C. W. Parker, Vancouver: Canadian Press Association, 1911.

The Leading Financial, Business & Professional Men of Winnipeg, published by Edwin McCormick, Photographs by T. J. Leatherdale, Compiled and printed by Stone Limited, c1913. [copy available at the Archives of Manitoba]

Pioneers and Prominent People of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Canadian Publicity Company, 1925.

“R. T. Riley, business executive, dies at 93,” Winnipeg Free Press, 29 July 1944. [Manitoba Legislative Library, Biographical Scrapbook B9, page 154]

R. T. Riley, c1947. “Memoirs,” Manitoba Legislative Library, CT-1, Riley R, 119 pages.

Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 3 April 2020

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

This is a collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society.

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