|Date of Birth||May 3, 1872|
|Place of Birth||River Philip, Cumberland County, Nova Scotia|
|Next of Kin||Mrs Augusta Donkin, mother, Kenora, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||Marine Engineer|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Battalion||No 110 Company|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Branch||Canadian Forestry Corps|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Address at Enlistment||Kenora, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||February 8, 1916|
|Age at Enlistment||43|
|Theatre of Service||Great Britain|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||March 3, 1929|
|Age at Death||57|
|Buried At||Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario|
Rupert Edgar Donkin was born on 3 May 1872 in River Philip, Cumberland, Nova Scotia. As the name would suggest the community was located in a valley along the River Philip in northwestern Nova Scotia. Around 1774 several families from Yorkshire in England were enticed by the Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia to immigrate to the area and were given grants of land along the river by King George III. In return one grant of land was to be felled of timber, with the pines being shipped to England for ship building. Family names included in this early settlement, and from which came Ed’s roots, were Blacks and Donkins among others.
Ed’s parents were Rupert Bent Donkin, farmer, and Augusta Elizabeth Black who had married in 1869 in River Philip. Children born to the family were Janet Amelia (1871-1878), Rupert Edgar, Robert Christie (1874-1874), Ada Black (1875), and Bessie Christie (1878). In 1882 the family relocated to Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora) in northwestern Ontario where Rupert had found work as a carpenter during the Canadian Pacific Railway construction. In 1883 Rupert was appointed as a Dominion constable during the disputed territory period, a job that ceased once Rat Portage officially became part of Ontario in 1889. He then took up building work for the town, later serving as bailiff for the district. As Ada had married Herbert Holland in 1899 in Rat Portage, the 1901 census for the family included Rupert, Augusta, Ed who had begun his career as a boat engineer, and Bessie. Ed was one of the first members of the local fire brigade, joining shortly after their arrival to the town.
With occupation given as marine engineer and next of kin as his mother Augusta, Ed, age 43, signed his attestation papers in Kenora on 8 February 1916. He listed two years of military service with the 98th Regiment. With recruitment taking place throughout northwestern Ontario, the 94th Battalion had its headquarters in Port Arthur. In mid May of 1916 Private Rupert Edgar Donkin, along with a number of other local fellows, left Kenora by train for the Lakehead, wished well by a large crowd that gathered to see the boys off. In early June the battalion moved to Valcartier, Quebec for further training before embarking for England from Halifax aboard the SS Olympic on the 28th.
Once in England Ed was transferred to the 17th Reserve Battalion where he served until early February of 1917 when he was transferred to the Canadian Forestry Corps. With the No 110 Company, he would have been employed in Glenmore in Scotland, moving on with the company to Abernethy, Nethybridge in Highland Scotland in October of 1917.
In early January of 1918 Ed was admitted to the 3rd Scottish General Hospital Stobhill Glasgow suffering from rheumatic fever/rheumatism. Discharged in February it was decide that he would return to Canada, embarking from Liverpool on the 12th of March aboard the SS Olympic. Found medically unfit for further service, he was discharged in Winnipeg on the 20th of May.
Returning to Kenora, Ed continued to work as a marine engineer on passenger steamships on Lake of the Woods. He was an active member in the Kenora Branch of the Canadian Legion. Predeceased by his siblings Janet and Robert back in Nova Scotia in childhood, his father Rupert in 1919, his mother Augusta in 1921, and his sister Bessie in 1922, all in Kenora, Ed died on 3 March 1929 in the Kenora General Hospital due to pneumonia of four to five days. He was survived by his sister Ada Holland and family of Goldpines, Ontario. With members of the Kenora Legion and the Kenora Fire Department acting as pallbearers, Ed was interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora. His original gravemarker was replaced in 2015.
Ed is commemorated on the St. Alban’s Pro-Cathedral First World War Roll of Honour.
‘For many years he has been engaged as a marine engineer here and was known to almost every citizen, as one possessing a bright cheery personality, who had always a new joke to tell, or a bright greeting for everyone. Rich in lore of early days in mining and lake experiences, pioneer lake men will deeply regret his passing.’ (Kenora Miner and News, 6 March 1929)
by Judy Stockham