George Fowlie

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© Courtesy of Marjorie Medford


George Fowlie (1902-1985) was from Alford in Aberdeenshire. Before joining the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1923 he worked in a local bank and gained experience in accountancy and record-keeping, skills which were extremely useful for apprentice clerks. He was based at York Factory, where he became good friends with several other men from the northeast of Scotland, including Taylor Third and Ernest Hampton. His friendship with Taylor Third was to continue long after both had retired from the Company and had returned to Scotland.

Working for the Hudson Bay Company could be dangerous in many ways. The climate, the presence of wild animals and the sheer isolation of Company posts all brought risks. During the early years of Fowlie’s career he experienced a near-fatal illness and was rescued by his HBC colleague, James Thom, himself an Aberdonian. According to one report, Fowlie had become dangerously ill with blood poisoning, and Thom volunteered to take Fowlie by dog team and canoe to the nearest hospital several hundred miles away.

Thanks to Thom, Fowlie recovered and was undeterred from continuing to work in Canada. Like most HBC men, he initially signed up for a five year contract, and returned briefly to Scotland in 1929. He spent part of the 1930s in Canada, most likely in continued involvement with the fur trade, leaving permanently in 1937. During World War Two Fowlie was a clerk in the Royal Air Force and was billeted to Yorkshire, where he met his future wife, Madge Briggs. The Fowlies settled in the northeast of Scotland, where their daughter, Marjorie, was born and continues to live.

HBC staff and their families at York Factory, c. 1925.
© Courtesy of Marjorie Medford.

Fowlie was a keen photographer and during his time in York Factory he took many photographs of his dogs, of local people and of his HBC friends and colleagues. He also sent many pieces of silk embroidery and beadwork from York Factory made by local Cree women to family members as gifts. These have since been passed down within the family. George Fowlie told his daughter something of his experiences in the north, but perhaps the most lasting reminders of his service in the Hudson Bay Company are these visual and material records.

Key Artefact - Bible bag

© Photograph by John McIntosh

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