Manitoba Historical Society
     Keeping history alive for over 144 years

Reluctant Recruits

Manitoba Pageant, April 1962, Volume 7, Number 3

This article was published originally in Manitoba Pageant by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

Please direct inquiries to

Help us keep
history alive!

An excerpt from History of Manitoba, by Gunn and Tuttle, 1880.

The servants who had been engaged by his Lordship's agents in Ireland, in Glasgow and in other parts of Scotland met at Stornoway, in the Island of Lewis, in the month of May, 1811.

The Hudson's Bay ships did not arrive until sometime in June. The servants, who, as we have said above arrived in May, had time for reflection; unfavorable reports of the country to which they were to be transported were circulated; it was known then in the Highlands and North of Scotland by the significant and appropriate name of "The land of the cold", the abode of perpetual winter. They became terrified at the thought of being doomed to suffer the intense severity of the arctic winter of Hudson's Bay and the extraordinary labor and drudgery to which they would be subjected in the Hon. Company's service. The effect of these fears soon became manifest.

A few days after the ships came to anchor before the ancient village of Stornoway, the Captains called for all those, whom they were ordered to convey to Hudson Bay; on the day appointed for their embarkation some went on board, others sent their chests or trunks on board emptied of their usual con-tents, a few stones, some sand and straw having been put in to make some weight, and to prevent suspicion in the minds of those who were receiving them; the owners of these empty chests set off to the hills and mountains and could not be found.

Inauspicious as this was, it was only the beginning of trouble; some of those who had embarked refused to go further, threatened the captain's life, and at the same time threatened that if he would not order them to be conveyed to the shore that they would seize the boats and go to the land. A few, in the height of their fury sprang over-board, swam unmolested to the shore, and fled to the hills, and were never retaken.

The troubles on board the ships were soon made known in the town. A Captain McKenzie went to the ships, and invited all who were dissatisfied with their position to come on board his boat, promising to set them free; however Jack Tar had something to say on the subject, and showed that he was not willing to be so easily deprived of his freight, and adopted an expedient, which relieved him for the present from all trouble from the gallant Captain.

Some one of the ship's crew pitched a nine-pound round shot into the boat, which passed through her bottom, leaving those who were in her to choose between sinking or a speedy retreat for the shore. They prudently embraced the latter alternative ... A fair wind sprang up that night and the ships left the harbor.

Page revised: 1 July 2009

MHS YouTube Channel

Back to top of page

For queries on the above page, please contact the MHS Webmaster.

Home  |  Terms & Conditions  |  FAQ  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy  |  Donations

© 1998-2023 Manitoba Historical Society. All rights reserved.