Henry Cook Moir

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© Courtesy of Tom Moir


Henry Cook Moir was born in 1885 into a farming family from Netherley, near Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire. He joined the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1904 and was posted first to God’s Lake in northern Manitoba where he worked as an apprentice clerk. He spent the next nine years working at Big Trout Lake, Ontario, and at York Factory, Manitoba, and in 1913 was promoted to the post of Manager at Churchill. In 1912 Henry Moir married Christina Massan (1886-1936), whose family had worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company for many generations.

White foxes at Churchill, c. 1910.
© Provincial Archives of Manitoba. J.G. Jones. N20120

The Moirs had four children, John, Jessie, Tom, and Ronald, though sadly John and Jessie both died of childhood illnesses. In 1919 Henry Moir returned to Scotland on holiday, leaving his family behind in Churchill. He became ill on the sea-crossing back to Canada and though he was able to reach Winnipeg, his health deteriorated. He died, aged 35, in the Empire Hotel in Winnipeg.

An obituary printed in the Winnipeg Evening Tribune on 17 February 1920 noted that “Mr. Moir was highly respected by the natives whom he dealt with, his colleagues in the fur trade and by everybody else with whom he came in contact. He was a recognised authority on all matters pertaining to Arctic travel and northern life.”

After Henry Moir’s death, his young sons, Tom and Ronald, were sent to Scotland to be raised by their grandparents. Although their mother, Christina, wrote to them when she could, they were never to see each other again and eventually they lost touch. Family stories suggest that the boys were given some beadwork by their mother when they left so that they would not forget where they were from. These and other beadwork and silk embroidery gifts sent by Henry Moir to his family are cared for still by his and Christina’s descendents in the UK. Three further pieces were donated to Glasgow Museums in 1998 by one of Christina and Henry’s grandsons. The donation of these pieces became the starting point to reconnect family members on both sides of the Atlantic.

Key Artefact - Beadwork bands

© Glasgow City Council A.1998.14c+d

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