Isabella "Daisy" Mary 

The only daughter of Sir Hugh John Macdonald went by a few different nicknames. Her father called her his "little brick" and her grandfather called her"Puss", but others referred to her as Daisy. 

The nickname Daisy came from someone who saw me playing in a field of daisies, said Daisy in a 1959 interview. 

Daisy's mother was Hugh John’s first wife, Jean Macdonald, who died when Daisy was about four-years-old. 

When she was a young lady, she attended Miss Harmon’s School for Girls, a boarding school in Ottawa. During that time, she spent many of her weekends with her grandfather, Sir John A. Macdonald, in Earnscliffe.  

“We never talked about politics. He’d leave that outside of the house,” Daisy said in a broadcast interview. “I spent most holidays with him.”

After living in Ontario, Daisy moved to Winnipeg with her father and briefly attended St. Mary's Academy.

By 1890, she lived in Montreal and attended the Sacred Heart Convent, Sault au Récollet, which was a girls school led by nuns. 

Daisy who spent much of her time with her grandmother, Baroness Agnes Macdonald,  formed a close bond, so much so, the baroness convinced Daisy’s parents to enroll her in a school in England.

While living in Europe, her grandmother and Daisy traveled often.

Daisy went to St. Mary's Academy for about a month in 1887 before she left to go to boarding schools in Montreal and Europe. /DMVC Archives

Daisy went to St. Mary's Academy for about a month in 1887 before she left to go to boarding schools in Montreal and Europe. /DMVC Archives

“One time we rode donkeys up a mountain in Italy and my grandmother said we’d walk down,” Daisy said in a news article about her grandparents. “We did everything but walk. We rolled, stumbled, tumbled, and fell.”

The well-trained pet

 While living at Dalnavert, Daisy had a parrot.

 “There was one time she was sitting on the veranda and a couple was walking by the house,” said Daisy’s son Hugh Gainsford in a 1995 interview.  “The parrot yelled at them, “c’mon gimme a kiss”.

Daisy had a pet parrot she trained to say, "c'mon gimme me a kiss." It would yell at people who walked by the house. This parrot is in the parlour on top of a original china cabinet to Dalnavert. /Dalnavert Archives

Daisy had a pet parrot she trained to say, "c'mon gimme me a kiss." It would yell at people who walked by the house. This parrot is in the parlour on top of a original china cabinet to Dalnavert. /Dalnavert Archives

"My mom said she had to show where the parrot was since the couple thought it was her bugging them. She was so embarrassed,” he added.

hobbies and interests

As an unconventional Victorian woman, Daisy loved fencing and pistol shooting.

Her instructor, Sergeant Major Page, taught her how to do both activities.

One a rainy day, he told her to shoot inside, but Daisy got distracted, according to DMVC archives.

“He told me it was safe to fire, so I did. Unfortunately, I was looking out the window at some soldiers when he said to shoot,” she said. “The shot was wide and the bullet went through the window. I fled in terror. No one was hit and the only damage done was to my pride and the window.”

Daisy also played the piano and harp, and dabbled in acting. In 1900, she performed in the play Home Sweet Home, playing the role of a woman distanced from her sweet heart by war. 

Her later years

On February 10, 1915, Daisy married George Gainsford.  The couple had two children, Lionel and Hugh Gainsford. In 1959, she passed away. She is buried alongside her farther, stepbrother, and stepmother at St. John’s Cemetery.


The end of the Macdonald's namesake

Lionel and Hugh Gainsford were direct descendants of Canada's first Prime Minister and one of Manitoba's earliest premieres, but they would never share the same surname. For years, Hugh Gainsford led tours and volunteered at his grandfather's former house while working as a liquor commission inspector. He was honoured with the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal for his community service in 1977, but his connection to the museum didn't end there. He shared stories and personal items belonging to his grandparents and mother until the 1990s. He married, moved to Saskatchewan, and had two children. He died at 96 on November 24, 2014.

For more information visit, call, or email us at info@dalnavertmuseum.ca.