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Robert Gourlay (1778-1863), Scottish born Canadian reformer
While visiting Toronto in summer 2005, I came across the statue of Robert Gourlay, an early reformer. His name sounded Scottish - was he? When I returned home I was determined to find out more about him. The following is the results of some preliminary research. Not all facts have been verified so far.
Robert Fleming Gourlay was born in 1778, the youngest son of Oliver Gourlay of Craigrothie and Janet Fleming. He was educated at the University of St. Andrews, gaining a Master of Arts degree. Following that he studied agriculture at the University of Edinburgh1, where his courses included Natural History.
He moved to Upper Canada in 1817, where he became a severe critic of the Family Compact and was banished for sedition in 1819. This lasted until 1839. His 'Statistical Account of Upper Canada' (1822) continued his criticism of Canadian government. He was however also critical of the rebellious tactics of William Lyon Mackenzie, favouring more constitutional solutions.
After he moved to England in 1824, he was detained in Cold Bath Fields (a prison in Clerkenwell, London) as someone of unsound mind, where he remained until 1828. He unsuccessfully tied to attain the Chair of Agriculture at the University of Edinburgh in 1831 and a seat in Parliament the following year. He travelled to the United States, but was back living in Scotland between 1846 and 1856, where again he was unsuccessful in getting elected to Parliament. He returned to Canada, to land which he had inherited from his late wife. While there he was again unsuccessful in becoming an elected politician. He married his former housekeeper, Mary Reenan, and returned to Scotland in 1858, dying at Edinburgh in 1863.
Robert GOURLAY married, 23 Nov 1727 Scoonie, FIF, SCT, Barbara BEATH
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