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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Chapter Thirty Continued: Ernest and Muriel

A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada

Muriel Aileen Preston was born on March 30, 1911 in Saskatoon, the daughter of William Preston and Mary Hutchinson.

Her father was born in 1871 at Quernmore Parish, Lancashire, England and emigrated to Canada in 1906. Her mother was of Scottish descent, but born in Ontario in 1881. By the time of the 1916 census, they had settled with five-year-old Muriel in the small municipality of Sewell, near Saskatoon. (1)

On April 14, 1916, William enlisted with the 210th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. His occupation was given as musician and clerk. On November 29, 1916, he was discharged, being declared unfit for duty. I suppose his age was a factor.

At the time, William and Mary were separated and Muriel was placed in several convents, while her mother took a variety of teaching jobs across the West. It was at the Sacred Heart Convent in Calgary that Muriel was taught to play the piano and she would become an accomplished musician, a trait no doubt passed on from her father. (2)

In 1923, Mary Hutchinson Preston, joined the congregation of the Westbourne Baptist Church in Calgary, where William Aberhart was then acting as a lay preacher. Though often criticized for never speaking of baptism, and being far too fond of railing against the devil, his Bible classes were immensely popular, and by the time that Mary joined, he was virtually in control of all aspects of the church. (3)

She was then teaching at Riverside school and her students would go on to Crescent High where Aberhart was acting principal. By then Muriel had joined her mother and it was Aberhart who encouraged her to begin playing "sacred" music. In 1925, when the regular organist at Weybourne moved to Vancouver, Muriel, though only 14, was given her job. (4)

Then when the Calgary Prophetic Institute was opened, Muriel would become the musical director. It was here that she met her future husband, Ernest, who would become the institutes's first graduate.

Muriel Aileen Preston would marry Ernest Charles Manning, on April 14, 1936, twenty years to the day when her father walked out on the family to join the CEF. Premier William Aberhart, gave the bride away.

Muriel and Ernest would have been married for almost 60 years when he passed away in February of 1996. She died on April 21 , 2006 , at Rockyview General Hospital in Calgary, Alberta , at the age of 95.

The couple raised two sons, Keith and Preston. Keith was injured at birth but led a productive life, and Preston would go on to found the Reform Party, where another young man would assume the role of his lieutenant. A role that his father had played for William Aberhart.

His name was Stephen Joseph Harper.

Chapter Thirty-One: On Becoming Premier


1. "Census returns for 1916 Census of Prairie Provinces." Statistics of Canada Fonds, Record Group 31-C-1. LAC microfilm T-21925 to T-21956. Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa.; Census Place: Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, 03A; Roll: T-21944; Page: 66; Family No: 803

2. The New Canada, By Preston Manning, 1992, MacMillan Canada, ISBN: 0-7715-9150-0, Pg. 7-8

3. Bible Bill: A Biography of William Aberhart, By: David R. Elliot and Iris Miller, Edmonton: Reidmore Books, 1987, Pg. 29

4. She's Seen Depression, War, Oil's Great Cycle, By David Bly, The Calgary Herald

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