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John Lymburn

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John Farquhar Lymburn
John Lymburn.jpg
Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta
In office
June 28, 1926 – August 22, 1935
Serving with David Duggan (1926–1935)
Charles Gibbs (1926–1935)
William Atkinson (1930–1935)
William R. Howson (1930–1935)
Frederick C. Jamieson (1931–1935)
Charles Weaver (1926–1930)
Warren Prevey (1926–1930)
Preceded by John Bowen, Jeremiah Heffernan, William Henry, Nellie McClung, Andrew McLennan
Succeeded by Samuel Barnes, David Duggan, William R. Howson, David Mullen, Charles Gerald O'Connor, George Van Allen
Constituency Edmonton
Attorney-General of Alberta
In office
June 5, 1926 – September 3, 1935
Preceded by John Edward Brownlee
Succeeded by John Hugill
Personal details
Born September 25, 1880
Ayr, Scotland
Died November 25, 1969 (aged 89)
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Political party United Farmers of Alberta
Spouse(s) Isabella Marguerite Clark
Children Marguerite Dormer, Mary Doreen Farquhar, and Constance Clark
Alma mater University of Glasgow
Occupation Lawyer
Religion Presbyterian

John Farquhar Lymburn (September 25, 1880 – November 25, 1969) was a Canadian politician who served as Attorney-General of Alberta from 1926 until 1935.

Born and educated in Scotland, he came to Canada in 1911 and practiced law in Edmonton. In 1925, John Edward Brownlee became Premier of Alberta, and sought a lawyer without partisan affiliation to succeed him as attorney-general. Lymburn accepted the position, and was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta in the 1926 election.

As attorney-general, Lymburn took part in negotiations between the Alberta and federal governments over natural resource rights, prepared Alberta's submission in the Persons case, and played a minor role in the sex scandal that forced Brownlee from office.

In the 1935 provincial election, Lymburn and all other United Farmers of Alberta candidates were defeated, as William Aberhart led the Social Credit League to victory. Lymburn briefly returned to prominence during the Bankers' Toadies incident, and made an strong but unsuccessful attempt to return to the legislature in 1942, before dying in 1969.

Early life[edit]

Lymburn was born in Ayr, Scotland to William and Margaret (Farquhar) Lymburn. He attended Ayr Grammar School and Ayr Academy before studying law at Glasgow University. After graduating, he apprenticed with Dougall, Gouldie, and Douglas; he qualified as a solicitor in 1903. In 1911 he emigrated to Canada, settling in Edmonton where he joined Short, Cross, and Biggar. Two years later, he co-founded Lymburn, Mackenzie, and Cooke (later renamed Lymburn, Reid, and Cobbledick).[1][2] In the interim, he had married fellow Scot Isabella Marguerite Clark on July 19, 1912. The couple would have three daughters: Marguerite Dormer, Mary Doreen Farquhar, and Constance Clark.[1] John Lymburn was made King's Counsel in 1926.[3]


In 1925, attorney-general John Edward Brownlee succeeded Herbert Greenfield as the leader of the United Farmers of Alberta (UFA)'s provincial caucus and Premier of Alberta. Brownlee was the only lawyer in the UFA caucus, which was dominated by farmers. In appointing an attorney-general to replace himself, he looked outside his caucus and appointed Lymburn, in part because of his lack of affiliation with any provincial political party. By convention, cabinet ministers, including attorneys-general, were expected to sit in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta. Accordingly, Lymburn ran in the 1926 provincial election in Edmonton as a UFA candidate. He finished first of eighteen candidates in Edmonton, and became one of Edmonton's five Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs).[4]

As attorney-general, Lymburn was involved in many of the Brownlee government's most important initiatives. He was a major figure in securing the transfer of resource rights from the federal government to the Alberta government.[5] Once the Great Depression proved fertile breeding ground for labour militancy, at Brownlee's request he prepared a list of Communist leaders so that the government could take action to deport the non-naturalized residents among them, (although no deportations were ordered).[6] Alberta was the only provincial government to support the appellants in the "Persons case", and Lymburn was responsible for its submission.[7]

He was also involved in scandal: the former head of the Liquor Investigation Bureau made allegations against him after Lymburn eliminated the Bureau to save money, though the charges had little effect either in the legal system or in the public eye.[8] During the John Brownlee sex scandal, in which Brownlee was sued for the seduction of a family friend, Lymburn became the focus of controversy after his department hired a private investigator to look into claims that a Liberal lawyer had offered a young woman money to "put Mr. Brownlee in such a position that Mrs. Brownlee could get a divorce".[9] Taking the stand during the trial, Lymburn stated that the investigation had been initiated not to aid in the premier's defense, but because the alleged solicitation was a criminal offense. He noted further that Brownlee had insisted on refunding to the government the cost of the investigator.[10]

When the scandal forced Brownlee's resignation as premier, Lymburn stayed on as attorney-general in the short-lived government of Richard Gavin Reid. The popularity of the Reid government faltered during the Great Depression due to its inability to take radical action to ensure employment and a reasonable standard of living for all Alberta residents, while radical economic theories, most notably the version of social credit espoused by Calgary evangelist William Aberhart, gained support among the public. The government's position was that Aberhart's proposals were beyond the legal authority of the provincial government, since they involved banking, which the Constitution of Canada makes a responsibility of the federal government. As attorney-general, Lymburn played a major role in defending this position. When Lymburn's UFA government brought Social Credit leader C. H. Douglas from the United Kingdom as an advisor, Lymburn provided him with a copy of one of Aberhart's speeches and asked him to critique it; Douglas concluded that Aberhart's proposals did not align with "Douglasite" social credit, and that many of them would not have the desired effect.[11]

Later life[edit]

In the 1935 provincial election, the UFA was wiped out of the legislature by Aberhart's upstart Social Credit League. As historian Franklin Foster has noted, "it was an ironic footnote to the demise of the most politically successful farmers' group in history that the one UFA candidate who came closest to re-election was lawyer John Lymburn in the City of Edmonton."[12]

After defeat, Lymburn remained active in community life as an elder in Edmonton's First Presbyterian Church, chairman of the Advisory Board of the Students' Christian Movement, chairman of the Board of Directors of the Beulah Home for unmarried mothers, and president of the Edmonton Scottish Society.[1] He was also a long-standing member of the Mayfair Golf and Country Club.[13] He was an aficionado of the work of fellow Ayrshire native Robbie Burns, whose poetry he could recite in Gaelic, and often spoke at Burns suppers.[13]

Lymburn briefly re-entered the public eye in 1937, when he was named in a Social Credit-produced pamphlet as one of eight "Bankers' Toadies" who should be "exterminated"; Social Credit whip Joseph Unwin was convicted of criminal libel in relation to the pamphlet.[14]

In 1942, Lymburn contested a by-election in Edmonton; In the initial vote count, he finished third of five candidates. After subsequent re-distribution of the votes as per the STV system in use, he came in second in the final vote count, with Elmer Roper of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation emerging victorious.[15]

Marguerite Lymburn died in 1958. John Lymburn died eleven years later, on November 25, 1969.[1]

Electoral record[edit]

Alberta general election, 1926: Edmonton
Party Candidate Votes
1st count
% Votes
final count
% Elected
United Farmers John Lymburn 3,046 16.27% 3,026 21.19% Green tickY
Conservative Charles Weaver 2,202 11.76% 3,026 21.19% Green tickY
Liberal Warren Prevey 1,517 8.10% 2,940 20.58% Green tickY
Independent Liberal Joseph Clarke 1,179 6.30%
Liberal John C. Bowen 1,147 6.13%
Independent Samuel Barnes 1,060 5.66%
Labour Alfred Farmilo 973 5.20%
Conservative F. J. Follinsbee 881 4.71%
Labour Charles Gibbs 879 4.70% 3,026 21.19% Green tickY
Liberal William Thomas Henry 858 4.58%
Conservative David Duggan 857 4.58% 2,265 15.86% Green tickY
Conservative Herbert Crawford 782 4.18%
Labour James Findlay 628 3.35%
Labour Jan Lakeman 605 3.23%
Liberal William Rea 561 3.00%
Labour Elmer Roper 478 2.55%
Conservative M. W. Robertson 361 1.93%
Independent J. W. Leedy 140 0.75%
Votes cast 18,721
Eligible electors / Turnout 33,741 55.5%
Source: "Election results for Edmonton, 1926". Alberta Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
Alberta general election, 1930: Edmonton
Party Candidate Votes
1st count
% Votes
final count
% Elected
United Farmers John Lymburn 3,230 14.76% 3,028 17.54% Green tickY
Conservative David Duggan 2,665 12.18% 3,028 17.54% Green tickY
Labour Charles Gibbs 2,262 10.34% 3,028 17.54% Green tickY
Conservative Charles Weaver 2,013 9.20% 2,903 16.82% Green tickY
Liberal William R. Howson 1,835 8.39% 2,915 16.89% Green tickY
Conservative William Atkinson 1,786 8.16% 2,360 13.67% Green tickY
Liberal Warren Prevey 1,331 6.08%
Liberal James Collisson 1,040 4.75%
Labour Alfred Farmilo 832 3.80%
Labour Samuel Barnes 818 3.74%
Independent Jan Lakeman 752 3.44%
Labour K. Knott 745 3.41%
Conservative N. C. Willson 451 2.06%
Liberal G. V. Pelton 442 2.02%
Conservative J. A. Buchannan 424 1.94%
Independent Joseph Clarke 374 1.71%
Conservative R. D. Tighe 189 0.86%
Turnout 55.8%
Source: "Election results for Edmonton, 1930". Alberta Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
Alberta general election, 1935: Edmonton
Party Candidate Votes
1st count
final count
Liberal William Howson 9,139 5,324 Green tickY
Social Credit Samuel Barnes 4,476 5,324 Green tickY
Social Credit W.S. Hall 2,818
Social Credit D.B. Mullen 2,500 4,932 Green tickY
United Farmers J.F. Lymburn 2,092
Social Credit Orvis A. Kennedy 1,781
Conservative D.M. Duggan 1,466 5,078 Green tickY
Liberal G.H. Van Allen 1,255 5,324 Green tickY
Social Credit M.W. Robertson 1,243
Liberal Marion Conroy 1,238
Conservative William Atkinson 1,220
Liberal Gerald O'Connor 1,116 4,922 Green tickY
Communist Jan Lakeman 1,096
Conservative Frederick Jamieson 1,029
Social Credit G.L. King 843
Liberal J.C.M. Marshall 673
Conservative J.E. Basarab 671
Liberal Walter Morrish 612
Labour James East 505
Conservative Emily Fitzsimon 363
Labour J.W. Findlay 331
Economic Reconstruction Elsie Wright 192
Labour Carl Berg 192
Labour S.S. Bowcott 166
Labour A. Farmilo 127
Conservative D.M. Ramsay 71
Labour Sidney Parsons 52
Total votes cast 38,052 38,052
Elegible electors / Turnout 49,212 77.3%
Source: "Election results for Edmonton, 1935". Alberta Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
1942 by-election results (Edmonton)[15] Turnout N/A
     Cooperative Commonwealth Elmer Roper 4,834 24.76%
     Social Credit G. B. Giles 4,432 22.70%
     Independent John Lymburn 4,032 20.65%
     Soldier Representative W. Griffin 3,389 17.36%
     Liberal N. V. Buchanan 2,838 14.53%

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d "John F. Lymburn fonds". Archives Canada. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  2. ^ Munro 277
  3. ^ Munro 277–278
  4. ^ Foster 127
  5. ^ Foster 166
  6. ^ Foster 177
  7. ^ Sharpe 175
  8. ^ Foster 207
  9. ^ Foster 225
  10. ^ Foster 252–253
  11. ^ Elliott 187
  12. ^ Foster 271
  13. ^ a b Munro 278
  14. ^ Barr 109–110
  15. ^ a b "Past By-Election results". Elections Alberta. Retrieved 2009-09-23.