"James Sinclair"

Published in the "Historical (and Interesting) Profiles Corner" in Bulletin No. 5, Litir à Clann (Family Newsletter) of 4 July 1983, and from the "Profiles Corner" of Bulletin No. 5, October 1983, from CSAC President R.M. "Mac" Sinclair. More information may be found in other issues.

Interestingly, the name James Sinclair often appears in informative articles about our clan members, both past and present.

JAMES SINCLAIR (1805-1856) (see, also, Bulletin No. 4*)

The Canadian history of this James appears to have started when he became a trader / explorer for the Hudson's Bay Co. probably at Norway House and/or Lower Fort Garry in what is now Manitoba. It is probable that descendants live in the Winnipeg and Selkirk areas and mention is made of some in Women of Red River, a book published and sold by the The Women's Canadian Club of Winnipeg.

This man led families migrating from the Red River area to Oregon; and mention is made of his trip with 29 families through the Rockies in 1842, in "A History of Alberta" by James MacGregor (Hurtig Publishers, Edmonton). One can imagine that it was during such expeditions that Sinclair Pass and Canyon were named - also, a Sinclair's Creek which is in northern Montana and was rediscovered (big sign) by Eileen and Mac while visiting friends in the Crow's Nest Pass district in June.

Dolly (Sinclair) Kennedy has volunteered to do a paper on this James Sinclair.

JAMES SINCLAIR (1901-1979) (Late of Victoria, B.C. - formerly Winnipeg and Regina)

This James was born in Regina, a son of the Reverend John A. Sinclair of the Scotch Corners, nr. Carleton Pl.,Ont., line. He started business as an office boy in a wholesale grocery firm (Campbell Wilson, Strathdee) and by 1936 became president and general manager. During WWII Jim was Director of Food Trades (Wartime Controls) and in 1945 organized his own firm J.M. Sinclair Ltd. in Winnipeg.

A community-minded person, Jim was on the advisory board of the Salvation Army for 40 years and in addition served his own Prebyterian Church in many capacities at the local congregational level. he was a member of the Greater Winnipeg Transit Commission, the Winnipeg Traffic Commission and first president (founder) of the Greater Winnipeg Safety Council; the Winnipeg Community Chest; the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra; the Winnipeg Children's Theatre and the Manitoba Arts Council. his hobbies included drama (directing and adjudicating) and woodworking.

A task which Jim undertook during retirement was to bring together in a book the many notes and pictures of his father's missionary work in the Klondike at the time of the famous Gold Rush. This very fascinating and first hand account of life in the North during that short, explosive era is published as Mission, Klondike by the Mitchell Publishers of Vancouver. We have arranged a supply of copies... [see our Shop page]. We highly recommend this for your library!!

JAMES SINCLAIR (1914-1981) (late of Ceylon, Grey Co., Ont.)

Jimmy was born in Barrie Ont., son of Archie Sinclair (a descendant of the same pioneer as James ... above). He established a farm early in his young adulthood where he could raise animals. This was as much a hobby for him as a vocation. His farm became one of the first fox and mink ranches of this Grey Co. district and his animals won many awards for excellence at Toronto and other livestock shows. At the time of his death, Jimmy and his son Doug also had a herd of 250 beef cattle and his grandson, following in his footsteps, was winning 4H Club prizes at the Toronto Royal Canadian Winter Fairs.

Jim and Margaret had five children (most are current members of our Association) and their home in Ceylon was noted for its cheerfulness and hospitality; and for being a haven for young people of the community.

We have information (more on some than on others) about James of Vancouver (former M.P. and Cabinet Minister) and James Otis St Clair of Mabou Co., Cape Breton; and James of Langley, B.C.; James of Halifax (son of Harold and Mina who are active participants in organizing our "gathering" at Antigonish and Goshen); and a James who lives in London, Ont., -- We'll provide our information on them in our next following Litir à Clann. Meanwhile, if you have knowledge of others, please let me know.


Here is information on two James Sinclairs, both retired and living in Vancouver.

JAMES "JIMMY" SINCLAIR (Former M.P. - Vancouver)

This James Sinclair was born in Banffshire, Scotland, and came to Canada as a very young boy when his father chose to emigrate and re-establish in Vancouver (1910).

Jimmy's great-grandfather (Francis) was skipper of a herring drifter - a ship of two masts, schooner rigged with a crew of five and no engine - and spent fifty years with the herring fishery of the North Sea. A memento of this Sinclair, a hand-carved oak needle for mending fish nets, in a brass case inscribed "Francis Sinclair, Wick, 1839", was presented to the ship James Sinclair when it was launched by Jimmy's wife Kathleen, May 1990.

Jimmy's grandfather was trained as a watchmaker and carried his trade in the watch / compass / chronometer / barometer business in Wick. His children chose varied vocations and some migrated rather far from Caithness. Jim's father, James, trained as a school teacher in Ross-shire; he married Betsy Ross whose father, a coal merchant, carried on his father's business after a brief sojourn in Manitoba including the Riel rebellion. A relative, Frank Ross, was a prominent industrialist and became Lieutenant Governor of B.C. in the late fifties.

James (Jimmy) studied engineering at U.B.C., mathematics at Oxford (a Rhodes scholar) and mathematics and physics at Princeton. He served in the RCAF 1939-45, mainly in North Africa and the Mediterranean. An M.P. from 1940-1958, he was a parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance and, later, was Minister of Fisheries for five years. He has served Canadian interests as a representative on many important trade negotiations and Commissions and Economic Missions (Geneva, New Delhi, Moscow, France, etc.).

In private life, James (Jimmy) Sinclair has, until 1973, been President or Chairman of Lafarge Cement of North America of Canada Cement Lafarge. In addition, he has been a director of many prestigious Canadian corporations (Bank of Montreal, Sun Life, Alcan, Cominco, C.I.L. and I.C.I. of the Americas).

Although I do not have details of his children and their families, I can report that one daughter, Margaret trudeau, is keen to assist our Association survive (and thrive) and has been most helpful. She has three sons, currently living in Ottawa.


This Jim Sinclair has roots in the Goshen district of Guysborough Co., Nova Scotia, from whence his father, a medical doctor, migrated to Winnipeg. After several years the doctor moved to New Westminster and carried on a large practice for many years.

Jim was educated in the Vancouver area and spent the major part of his business career as a principal owner of a manufacturing firm in Surrey, specializing in store fixtures. His wife, Doreen, is a native of Vancouver's Kerrisdale district and they have three children (all married): James, Jr. (Jim) lives in Edmonton; Michael with his wife and three boys lives in Langley and they jointly carry on a manufacturing business custom making furniture and interesting "things" out of wood. Stephen and his wife live in Vancouver where they pursue careers in architecture.

Jim (Sr.) is now retired and although he has had health problems in recent years, he is now golfing and gardening and enjoying life again. His brother, Bob, is also retired (from lumbering in the interior of B.C.) and lives in a cottage on the same estate as Jim, in Langley.


*Note re: James Sinclair (d.1856) above:

In News Bulletin No. 2 of 28 May 1982, in the "Did You Know?" section, Mac wrote,
- that there is a 'Sinclair Mountain' and a 'Sinclair Canyon' at Radium Hot Springs, south of Golden (near Lake Louise) in the Rocky Mountains? Do you have any information or references which would tell us about the families honoured in this way?"

In Bulletin No. 4 of February 1983, included a report from Doreen (Mrs. James Sinclair):
"Sinclair Canyon, Pass and Creek, all in the same place were named for James Sinclair who lived from 1805-1836. The canyon was formerly known to the Indians as Red Rock Gorge. He led a party of Free Traders thru here in 1841, and worked out of H.B.C. Also he was a champion of the Métis. I phoned the History and Geographical department of the Vancouver Public library, and a very nice girl looked this up and told me. "

Doreen Sinclair also forwarded a letter from a B.C. government office, which said (in part),
"Our records state that Sinclair Creek and Pass were named officially by the Geographic Board of Canada in 1915, to commemorate one James Sinclair, who 'conducted a party of emigrants to the Columbia River in 1854'. There is also a Mount Sinclair in the same area commemorating the same person. It was adopted February 5, 1924. Also in this area, the Post Office at Radium Hot Springs was known previously as Sinclair. We do not know if the names were used earlier than 1915.

"'Sinclair Canyon' was officially adopted March 5, 1953, after the creek, though was certainly used earlier. "

It should be noted that James Sinclair did, in fact, successfully conduct two parties of emigrants from the Red River area to the Oregon territory, in 1841 and 1854.


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