Memorable Manitobans: Robert McDonnell Thomson (1869-1916)
Lawyer, real estate developer, military officer.
Born at Hamilton, Ontario on 4 July 1869, son of James Thomson, he came to Manitoba as a child. During the 1885 North West Rebellion, he served with the 13th Winnipeg Field Battery. He later worked as a lawyer with the Winnipeg firm of Thomson, Jameson and McWilliams but remained active in military affairs, helping to organize the 79th Winnipeg Cameron Highlanders in 1910.
Thomson developed the Wildwood Park area of south Winnipeg, where he had a large mansion designed by local architect Cyril Chivers. Before he could occupy the house, however, he joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the early days of the First World War and went overseas, where he was killed in battle. Prior to departing Canada, he offered the house to the federal government for use as a convalescent hospital for soldiers but the offer was not accepted. In 1934, after sitting empty since its construction, the Thomson residence became home for the Ravenscourt School for Boys, predecessor of St. John’s Ravenscourt School.
Around 1913, he married Janet Catherine Taylor Gordon (?-?), a daughter of Thomas Wardlaw Taylor and widowed sister-in-law of Rev. Charles W. Gordon. He was a founding member of the St. Charles Country Club (1905).
He died on 8 October 1916.
Attestation papers, Canadian Expeditionary Force, Library and Archives Canada.
“Lieut.-Col. Thomson dead of wounds,” Manitoba Free Press, 12 October 1916, page 1.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 4 July 2020