George Pirie (1799-1870) was a Canadian newspaper publisher.
He emigrated to Canada from Aberdeen, Scotland. His father, also George Pirie, was a prominent Aberdeen merchant and ship owner. His mother was Katherine (Catherine) Mitchell Pirie, a daughter of the Rev. Thomas Mitchell, of the parish of Tarves, Aberdeenshire. He was educated in Scotland and in London, where he was apprenticed to his relative, Sir John Pirie, at one time the Lord Mayor of London.
Mr. Pirie and his first wife, Mary Robieson, and their children, arrived in Canada in 1838. They settled in a Scottish settlement named Bon Accord after the town motto of Aberdeen. This settlement was located in Upper Nichol Township near present day Elora. The transition to Canadian pioneer life was much more difficult than had been anticipated during the planning stages in Scotland. Mr. Pirie's wife died a few years later and was one of the earliest burials from the settlement. The Pirie's, formerly residents of downtown Aberdeen, had no prior experience with farming.
Mr. Pirie decided to abandon farming and purchase a newspaper. In 1848 he took over the two year old Guelph Herald and moved with his family to downtown Guelph. The printing and publishing office for the Herald was on Wyndham Street. The paper was printed once weekly and the office covered job printing and issued marriage licenses.
Mr. Pirie's correspondence to his eldest son George Mitchell Pirie detailed his struggles to make the newspaper profitable and collect payment for advertisements and subscriptions. He also faced lawsuits over content. They were often short staffed with his son, Alexander Fraser Pirie, running the Washington Press, and his second wife, Jane Booth (1825-95), at work in the office - "...Mamma is run off her feet". Another son, Charles Napier Pirie, worked at the paper, and other children may have assisted. During this time his priority was to pay his staff and in one letter to his son he wrote that they were now dangerously low in candles. In many cases he asked his son to search for potential advertisers in Hamilton, or chase after missed payments. In one case his son suggested that Mr. Pirie might attempt to take some work on the Canadian census to help make ends meet. The sale of his original farm Maryville was also a headache. His son arranged for the sale but the new landowner felt that he had overpaid and that the land was impossible to work and unprofitable.
Mr. Pirie was a poet, and was remembered as one of Canada's Scottish Canadian poets in a 1900 book published in Toronto by the Caledonia Society. His poetry generally dealt with Canadian patriotism, and social issues such as poverty, and temperance. One of his best known poems was "The Volunteers of Canada". He also tackled contemporary issues such as Louis Riel in his poem entitled: "The Murder of Thomas Scott". He wrote on the Fenian Raids, the difficulties faced by new immigrants, the exploitation of textile workers, and Scottish history. His private and unpublished papers included some romantic poems, and poems relating to death and mourning. A selection of his poems were published in pamphlet form by the Guelph Herald as "Lyrics of the Late George Pirie, Esq." Much of his writing was lost in a house fire, although a booklet of handwritten unpublished poetry, primarily romantic, has been preserved.
As to his writing ability, the following statement appeared in Selections from Scottish Canadian Poetry (1900): "William Lyon Mackenzie, a Scotsman like himself, although opposed to him in politics, said of him that he was one of the ablest writers in Canada."
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