A question a lot of guests have been asking lately is: did Frederick Banting ever have any children? The answer to that question is yes! He had a son named William “Bill” Banting with his first wife, Marion Robertson. Bill Banting lived a very interesting life that I’ve been learning more about through documents in our recent acquisition. While I could never capture the full life of Bill Banting in a single blog post I wanted to introduce Banting’s only child.
In 1924, Frederick Banting met Marion Robertson, an X-Ray technician at Toronto General Hospital. She was well-connected to the medical world as her father was a doctor. The pair fell quickly in love and Banting finally ended his relationship with his long-time on-again, off-again fiance, Edith Roach, in May of 1924. Fred and Marion married in June 1924 and went on a honeymoon together until September.
They returned to Toronto where they settled into married life. Fred and Marion realized that their quick courtship was a mistake. They didn’t know each other very well and discovered that they wanted different things out of life and marriage. However, the two remained together for a few more years as divorce was looked down upon in the conservative Canadian society. In 1938, the couple became excited when Marion discovered she was pregnant.
Their son, William Banting, was born on 4:30AM on April 3rd, 1929. He was given the same name as his paternal grandfather. Bill Banting recalled his childhood in an interview with a CBC reporter in 1984. He said that there was a duality to his relationship with his father. On one hand, Frederick Banting was a father-figure that taught him about discipline and hard work. He felt that his father expected a lot from him. However, Fred was also his “buddy”. Bill spoke of long walks they would take together in nature where his father would make whistles out of willow branches and find four leaf clovers.
Marion and Frederick divorced in 1932 when Bill was three years old. The divorce was reported on constantly in the newspapers and became a huge scandal. After the divorce, Bill spent his weeks living with his mother and most weekends with his father. This custody arrangement switched when Frederick Banting was remarried in 1938.
In 1941, Frederick Banting died of exposure after a plane crash. Only a few years later in 1944, Marion Robertson also passed away. Bill Banting became an orphan at fifteen years old. After the deaths of both of his parents, lived at a boarding school and created a new family with his group of friends.
Bill Banting went on to become a photographer, producer, director, researcher and writer. He worked with CBC, BBC, and freelanced to create wildlife documentaries. These jobs afforded him the opportunity to travel all over the world to film. He was awarded the Best Canadian Documentary Film at the Canadian Film Awards in 1970 for his documentary entitled, Wild Africa, The Way it Was.
Bill Banting died in 1998. He was survived by his wife Nancy Hardy-Banting and his step-son Duncan Hardy Cline. Bill Banting never used his famous father’s name to get ahead in life but said he was always proud to be a “Banting”.
This post was written by Rachel Delle Palme, Graduate Research Assistant at
Banting House NHSC. Rachel is currently completing her M.A. in Public History at