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St John's College Retired Fellow Gerald Friesen Launches "Norquay"

Decades of work recently released in long-awaited Norquay book

Distinguished Professor Emeritus of history and SJC retired fellow Gerald Friesen launches his new book

April 11, 2024 — 

Gerald Friesen has been waiting a long time for the launch of his book on John Norquay.

Over a decade ago, he set out to write a biography on the former premier. What started as a small part of his thesis work as a Ph.D. student at the University of Toronto later became a project Gerald pursued after finishing his forty-year teaching career at the University of Manitoba.

The Distinguished Professor Emeritus of history and retired St John’s College fellow expressed relief as the long-awaited Norquay book arrived and was ready for launch this month. The book has been published by UM Press, located in St John’s College

“The immediate research took about five to seven years, the writing two to three years, and preparing for the topic began decades ago. It is a happy moment to have the book in my hands after such a long time.”

In an interview Dr. Friesen mentioned the book’s connection with the late John Bovey, then the provincial archivist and husband of Patricia Bovey, recent recipient of an honorary doctorate at the College:

“Fifty years ago, having decided that John Norquay would make an ideal subject for a biography, I consulted John Bovey, a family friend who was then the provincial archivist of Manitoba. He urged me not to undertake the project. I swallowed my disappointment, knowing that he knew the archive better than I did. I came to appreciate only later that he was saving me from the disaster of doing a lot of research and publishing a flawed book that failed to employ a crucial resource. Bovey could not tell me, for fear it might ruin a potential transaction, that practically all the letters received in and sent from Norquay’s office in the 1880s rested in a trunk in the home of historian Ellen Cooke. He was negotiating to obtain this collection, between five and seven thousand documents. It eventually reached the shelves of the provincial archives and I relied on them. John Bovey can take some responsibility – and credit — for the delay in delivery and the consequent depth of this biography.”

With the book ready for launch, Gerald will have busy months ahead, with book launches in McNally Robinson, a Lieutenant Governor’s evening at Government House, the Selkirk Heritage Fund Evening of History, and visits to Saskatoon, Calgary, and Banff.



To learn more about the book, visit the UM Press website


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