Isabella "Daisy" Mary 

Isabella's nickname came from someone who saw her playing in a field of daisies, she said in an interview.

The name stuck with most of her family and friends.

Daisy was the daughter from Hugh’s first marriage with Jean Macdonald, who died when Daisy was about four-years-old.

She attended Miss Harmon’s School for Girls, a boarding school in Ottawa. While living out east, she’d spend her weekends with her grandfather, Sir John A. Macdonald, in Earnscliffe. Her grandfather also nicknamed her his little 'Puss'. 

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

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

Not only was she close with her grandfather, but also close with her grandmother, Agnes Macdonald. In May 1894, Agnes convinced Daisy’s parents to enroll her to a school in England.

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

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

Daisy went to St. Mary's academy for about a month in 1887 just before she left to go to boarding schools in Montreal and Europe. /Dalnavert 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" and it would yell it at people who walked by the house. This parrot is in the parlour on top of the original china cabinet. /Dalnavert Archives

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

Her unconventional hobbies and interests

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

Sergeant Major Page taught her to shoot. One a rainy day, he told her to shoot inside, but Daisy got distracted.

“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 played a lady reading a letter by someone dear to her, who was away at the front in Home Sweet Home.

Her later years

On February 10, 1915, Daisy married George Gainsford.  They 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 to Canada's first Prime Minister and one of Manitoba's earliest premieres, but they would never share the same namesake. Instead, 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 grandparent's and mother's 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.