John Nairne

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For the Scottish central banker, see John Nairne, 1st Baronet.
John Nairne

Lieutenant-Colonel John Nairne (1 March 1731 – 14 July 1802) was a Scottish-Canadian soldier and seigneur. Nairne came to Canada in 1758 as a lieutenant, and participated in the captures of Louisbourg and Quebec City. Given Nairne's lack of prospects back in Scotland, he decided to remain in Canada, and in 1762 he received, along with his friend Malcolm Fraser, the seigneury of La Malbaie, with Fraser taking Mount Murray and Nairne receiving Murray Bay and the town of La Malbaie. Nairne retired on half-pay as soon as he received his land.

Devoting himself to his seigneury, Nairne had it surveyed, and brought some soldiers from the regiment with him to settle the land. Nairne hoped to establish a Protestant settlement on his lands, but found it impossible to bring a Protestant priest in with only five Protestant families living in his seigneury. Although Nairne turned out to be an excellent farmer, it was difficult to make much revenue off of his land, and many of his requests (such as asking for a road to be built) went unanswered.

In 1769, Nairne married a fellow Scot, Christina Emery. With Christine, Nairne had four children, but by the time Nairne returned from a 1773 trip to Scotland, three of them had died. Eventually, he would have five more, and life in La Malbaie improved, with Nairne building a large manor house and working hard to promote his products.

In 1775, with an American invasion imminent, Governor Guy Carleton charged Nairne with organizing a regiment from his seigneury and the surrounding communities. On 12 August, Nairne offered himself for any available Captaincy. He was appointed a Captain in the Royal Highland Emigrants the next month, a group largely composed of soldiers from Nairne's old regiment, the 78th Regiment of Foot. Nairne played a key role on the Loyalist side during the Siege of Quebec, although he was extremely reluctant to fight men who spoke the same language and had been raised as he had. This stage of his military career was to last eight years, with Nairne serving with distinction and eventually reaching the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the army. During his time with the army, Nairne fought at Montreal and Île aux Noix, and also supervised the building of a fort and at Carleton Island. He also supervised the building of a jail at Murray Bay. Finally, in 1783, after his promotion to Lieutenant-Colonel, he sold his rank in the Royal Highland Emigrants, receiving 3000 pounds for it, and returned to Murray Bay, where he settled permanently.

By the time of Nairne's death in 1802, his segneury had more than 500 inhabitants and was prospering economically. Nairne had little to regret, although he deeply wished that his attempts to implant Protestantism had been successful. Still, he was on good terms with the Roman Catholic priest. His source of greatest sadness was the death of his son John in India. Although Nairne had many children, only one of his sons survived his death, Tom, who followed his father's foot-steps and joined the army. Tom Nairne was killed at Carleton Island in 1813, fighting at the fort his father had built.

External links

  • Biography at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online
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