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Memorable Manitobans: John Braithwaite Wallis (1876-1962)

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John Braithwaite Wallis
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Educator, naturalist, entomologist.

Born at Erith, England on 26 December 1876, son of John Braithwaite Wallis and Charlotte Elizabeth Wallis, he emigrated to Canada in 1894 where he began a life-long teaching career in Manitoba schools. After teaching at Pelican Lake School (1899), Treesbank School (1899-1900), and Russell School (January to June 1903), at the invitation of Daniel McIntyre, he became Supervisor of Nature Study for Winnipeg schools and was later appointed Principal of Machray School (1904-1921), and finally Assistant Superintendent of Winnipeg public schools. He was President of the Manitoba Educational Association (1928-1929).

A close friend of Ralph D. Bird, the men shared a passion for entomology. Wallis wrote many scientific articles on insects and, in 1927, the book “A Colour Key to the Manitoban Butterflies.” His greatest interest was in Odonata, Lepidoptera and Coleoptera, and later water beetles and tiger beetles, about which he wrote an important monograph. He made insect collections for the museum at the University of Manitoba and, after his retirement, he made field trips around Canada on behalf of the federal government. He was made an honorary life member of the Entomological Society of Canada. He was a member of the Scientific Club of Winnipeg and a founding member of the Manitoba Naturalists Society, serving as its President in 1927-1928.

He was married twice, first on 30 June 1915 to teacher Martha Isabel Duncan (c1885-1964) with whom he had a son, John Braithwaite “Tony” Wallis (?-2008). His second marriage was to teacher Edna Irene Riley (?-1977). He was an original member of the Men’s Musical Club and he helped to organize the Manitoba Musical Festival.

He died at Winnipeg on 14 March 1962 and was buried in the Brookside Cemetery.


Birth registration, FamilySearch.

1901 Canada census, Automated Genealogy.

“Two Principals are selected,” Manitoba Free Press, 9 March 1904, page 3.

Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 15 March 1962, page 30.

Obituary [Martha Isabel Wallis], Winnipeg Free Press, 21 February 1964, page 24.

The History of the Manitoba Educational Association by Ernest Butterworth, MEd thesis, Faculty of Graduate Study and Research, University of Manitoba, 1965.

And So ... Ninette, 1879-1919 by Eva Calverley, circa 1966.

Obituary [Edna Irene Wallis], Winnipeg Free Press, 5 October 1977, page 63.

Beneath the Long Grass by Glenboro and Area Historical Society, 1979, page 97.

Norman Criddle: Pioneer Entomologist of the Prairies by N. J. Holliday, Manitoba History, Number 51, February 2006.

Obituary [John James Arthur Duncan Braithwaite Wallis], Winnipeg Free Press, 25 September 2008, page 38.

We thank Charles Bird for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 17 May 2020

Memorable Manitobans

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