Barney Asgeir Egilson

Barney Asgeir Egilson

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Taken from the Icelandic Appeal website, circa 2000.
Egilson, Mayor Barney

By Patricia (Guttormson) Peacock
Adapted from the Gimli Saga; additional information provided by Dr. Harold Bjarnason

One of Gimli's important leaders throughout the late forties until the early sixties was Barney Asgeir Egilson (Bjarni Ásgeir Egilsson). He was truly an outstanding member of the community and a highly respected gentleman. Together with his fellow townsmen, Barney was able to bring positive change to the development of Gimli, directing it towards a progressive future, and making it a place where one would want to live and raise a family.

Barney was born February 11, 1901 in Winnipeg and died February 27, 1965 in Gimli. His parents came from Reykjavík, Iceland in 1897.

His father was Egill Egilsson, (b. March 30, 1862-d. March 4, 1954, Gimli, Manitoba, son of Egill Steinþórsson of Gerðakot in Árnessýsla and Guðrún Magnúsdóttir) and his mother was Guðveig Jónsdóttir (b. May 16, 1858 at Grímsstaðir, Álftáneshreppur in Mýrasýsla-d. Sept. 24, 1948 in Gimli).

Guðveig’s father, Jón Jóhannesson (b. Sept 12, 1828 at Ingjaldshóll in Snæfellsnessýsla-d. 1881), who was a farmer at Grímsstaðir, married Guðveig’s mother, Þjóðbjörg Sigurðardóttir (b. May 20, 1822, Litlagröf in Mýrasýsla-d. June 4, 1862) in 1849. Her mother died when she was four years of age so Guðveig and her nine siblings were sent to various foster homes. She lived at Lækjarbugur, Hraunshreppur until she was 15, then in Vogarbak, Álftáneshreppur until age 18, then in Straumfjörð until age 24 and finally in Knararnes with Ásgeir Bjarnason and Ragnheiður Helgadóttir.

In 1889, she emigrated to Canada with her nephew Jón (J.J. Swanson), who became a well known and respected realtor, businessman, and Winnipeg Alderman. Two of her sisters, Guðrún and Sigurlaug later joined her in Winnipeg.


Guðveig married Bjarni Árnason in Winnipeg on December 10, 1892. They had a daughter Ánna, a year later, who died at the age of three, then Thorbergur (Harold, or Halli) Bjarnason, born February 26, 1894. Bjarni worked for the City of Winnipeg, but died from typhoid fever on November 7, 1897. The young child, Harold would have been about three years old. Bjarni Árnason also used the name Anderson. Guðveig changed Harold’s name to Bjarnason, according to Icelandic custom.

Barney left school early. He attended St. John's Technical High School for two years, then went to work at Banfield and Sons Furniture Company as a salesman and collector. He considered himself well paid at the time, $25.50 a week, plus ten per-cent commission over $200.00. His one regret was having left school. Barney moved to Gimli in 1925 to work on Lake Winnipeg as a fisherman. He did this for about four years and knew that it was not what he wanted, so he worked at various jobs over the next few years.

September 10th, 1926 Barney married Guðrún Vilborg (Oddsdóttir) Anderson, (b. 6 Jan.1905 in Gimli, Manitoba), the eldest daughter of Oddur (Árnason) Anderson, born at Hringsdalur in Suður-Þingeýjarsýsla, and Guðlaug Björg Gísladóttir, born at Njardvík in Norður-Múlasýsla, of Gimli. The couple moved to Winnipeg in 1930, but settled in Gimli the following year. Barney worked at many types of jobs over the next decade, painter, plumbing, and contract work for the Canadian Pacific Railway. Eventually he went to work in his brother's store in Gimli, until 1938. When the Royal Canadian Airforce base was located in Gimli during World War II, Barney worked there until 1942, then he went into the general insurance business. He had sold life insurance part time for several years previous.