Saanich History: Scottish families among earliest settlers in Saanich

When Colony of Vancouver Island was established in 1849, Scottish farmers, miners were among first to arrive

George and Annie Deans were one of the Scottish families to settle in Saanich.

George and Annie Deans were one of the Scottish families to settle in Saanich.

When the Colony of Vancouver Island was established in 1849, Scottish farmers and miners employed by the Hudson’s Bay Company were among the first to arrive. Many of these Scottish families settled on the rich farmland of Saanich and helped to establish the community we enjoy today.

One of these settlers was Kenneth McKenzie who arrived on Vancouver Island in 1853 aboard the HBC ship Norman Morison with his wife, six children and numerous in-laws. McKenzie, facing financial ruin in Scotland, had accepted the position of bailiff for a proposed Company farm at Maple Point, later called Craigflower.

Responsible for recruiting his own labourers, he placed an advertisement in the East Lothian and Berwickshire Monthly Advertiser on 12 May 1852 seeking “for the service of the Hudson’s Bay Company, Vancouver’s Island, in North America, a few good PLOUGHMAN and FARM LABOURERS, also a HOUSE CARPENTER and BLACKSMITH. Apply to Mr. McKenzie.”

Within a few weeks McKenzie had a workforce of 27 men together with their wives and a total of 24 children.

Brothers George and James Deans were among the group. James had worked for the McKenzie family’s tile works near Haddington and George was a skilled carpenter.  In the colony their relationship with McKenzie and the HBC was strained and the brothers were no doubt pleased to purchase their own land in the Mount Tolmie area in 1858.

James Deans was known for his poetry and his nostalgia for Scotland is evident in his “Farewell, Farewell dear Caledonia” and other verses.

McKenzie’s Scottish recruits included carpenter Robert Anderson whose daughter Eliza was born during the six-month sea voyage on the Norman Morison. She was aptly named Eliza Norman Morison Wishart Anderson, Wishart being the name of the ship’s captain. Eliza’s name can be seen in the Fort Victoria baptism register for 21 Feb 1854, just above the entry for the first McKenzie child born in the colony, Andrew Colvile McKenzie, named after the influential governor of the HBC whose ancestral Scottish estate ‘Craigflower’ lent its name to McKenzie’s farm.

Also bound for Craigflower was Duncan Lidgate who, at the end of his HBC contract, settled on 50 acres along Mount Newton Cross Road.  Lidgate helped to build Craigflower School in 1854 and his son William was one of the many students educated there. The schoolhouse, which survives on its original site along the Gorge, is one of Saanich’s most important heritage structures and is today occupied by the Hallmark Heritage Society. Craigflower Manor, completed for the McKenzie family in 1856, now appropriately houses the Victoria Highland Games Association which continues to promote Scottish culture.

McKenzie had mixed success at Craigflower and moved his family to Lake Hill Farm near Swan Lake in 1866. At his funeral in 1874 his coffin was carried by fellow Scots Sir James Douglas, Roderick Finlayson and William Fraser Tolmie.

Caroline Duncan is the archivist at Saanich Archives. Explore Saanich history online at


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