A Blupete Biography Page

Richard Bulkeley

Bulkeley was born in Dublin, Ireland. His father, Sir Lawrence Bulkeley, was a well connected Englishman with large estates in Ireland. Sir Lawrence "was a splendid huntsman, kept a pack of hounds, was a noted breeder of blood horses, and the Bulkeley stud and kennels were long remembered by Irish breeders and sportsmen."1 Richard was educated privately and then sent off to Trinity, Dublin. With his elder brother, Anthony, due to inherit the title and the family estates, Richard Bulkeley took a common route for second sons: he joined the army. Richard served in the Dragoon Guards purchasing a captaincy in 1741. While Bulkeley was in the army he was to become acquainted with Edward Cornwallis. With the death of his mother in 1747, giving up the army, Richard returned to his family in Ireland. There on his father's estates he lived the life of a country gentleman, "in hunting and sports." Early in 1749, he happened to be in London and was there to meet up with his old army acquaintance, Cornwallis. He soon was to learn of the royal plans to send Cornwallis to Nova Scotia to establish a new capital. Cornwallis talked Bulkeley into coming with him as his "aid-de-camp and companion."

So it is, at the end of June in 1749, on the woodsy shore of Chebucto Bay, in an area which was to become the City of Halifax, we would have seen, Richard Bulkeley stepping ashore with three of his servants.2 He came to Nova Scotia as part of that group commissioned to establish a new British capital, Halifax. Richard Bulkeley was, as already mentioned an aid-de-camp to Governor Cornwallis; and, indeed, he was to carry on in that capacity for a succession of governors, including Hopson and Lawrence. Bulkeley not only had superior organizational skills, but also was able to speak, in addition to English, French and German -- this was invaluable to the governors in the earlier years, as they had to deal with both the French Acadians, long residents of the province; and German immigrants which had arrived during the years, 1750-52.

Richard Bulkeley was described as a man, who,

"had a high opinion of his ability and worth. He was a man of good personal appearance, of slight build, red hair and dark blue eyes, with a powerful voice, and a very kindly manner. He was a great favorite among the new settlers ..."3
Bulkeley was active in his community. In the first place, in 1750, he married Captain John Rous' daughter, Mary, or Amy.4 We learn from the DCB, that Bulkeley was one of the first members of the masonic lodge at Halifax set up in 1750 and its grand master in 1791. In 1786, he helped found the Charitable Irish Society and served twice as its president. Also he was the president of a society for the promotion of agriculture founded in 1789. Interestingly, Bulkeley was to be the "president of a chess, pencil, and brush club in Halifax from about 1787." He was a churchwarden at St. Paul's and a vestryman until his death; and, was, for a time, its organist and led the choir. Bulkeley "constantly entertained"; his dining room could seat fifty quests.5. During the Seven Years War, especially in the season just before and after the Siege of Louisbourg, Bulkeley took pleasure in entertaining the numerous high ranking officers who were to be at Halifax for periods of time, Wolfe being one of them.

Bulkeley held down numerous governmental positions6 during his lifetime, many at the same time, including: Overseer of Public Works, Paymaster, Provincial Secretary (1757-92), Member of Council (1755-1800), Judge of the Vice-Admiralty Court (an office he held beginning in 1769), Master of the Rolls and Registry in Chancery (1789-1800).7

Richard Bulkeley died on December the 7th, 1800; and, of course, was buried at St Pauls.

The entry in the DCB summed up Bulkeley's life, as follows:

"... Bulkeley, a healthy, vigorous, and hard working civil servant, assisted 13 governors and lieutenant governors from Cornwallis to Wentworth. In half a century of service he took part in the founding of Halifax, the immigration of New Englanders and loyalists, and the prosperity of the French revolutionary wars. A man of 'Inflexible integrity,' in his obituary he was called 'the Father of the Province.'"8

[1] See short biography, "Richard Bulkeley" in NSHS, vol. 12 (1905) p. 62.

[2] We see that by this time Bulkeley was a relatively rich man; his mother, a Welsh woman, on her death left him a fair sum of money. At least initially, Bulkeley was to receive no pay for his services, but received "rations" for himself and his servants. Interestingly, Bulkeley was to never return to Ireland having spent his entire and long life at Halifax. On his second marriage, in 1782, he did, however, go to the old country for a period of four months. (NSHS, vol. 12 (1905).)

[3] NSHS, vol. 12 (1905) p. 67.

[4] DesBrisay's History of the County of Lunenburg (1870), p. 29; and DCB. It would appear that there were four sons of this first marriage. With the exception of the youngest, who moved to London with his step mother, all the boys, it would appear, predeceased their father. (NSHS, vol. 12 (1905) pp. 83-6.) One of my helpful correspondents wrote me: "Mary Rous ... was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts February 12, 1729 according to both church and vital records there." The DCB informs us that Bulkeley married a second time in 1776 to Mary Burgess. Now, I do not know what became of this second wife, but we see from an article in the NSHS, that, in 1782, Bulkeley married again, this time to a Miss Mostyn, a daughter of Capt. Mostyn of the Royal Navy.

[5] NSHS, vol. 12 (1905) p. 68. "In 1759, Bulkeley purchased the land north of his first residence, situated on the corner of Argyle and Prince streets, and erected a house, for many years considered the most roomy and elegant in Halifax. Before building, he chartered a vessel and proceeded to Louisbourg, and there procured a quantity of cut stone from the ruins ..." (Ibid.) This house, though renovated on a couple of occasions, still stands and has long been known as the "Carleton Hotel."

[6] The offices held by Bulkeley in his long years of service to this province are listed in detail in NSHS, vol. 12 (1905) at a fn on p. 86.

[7] See, "The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia and Its Judges - 1754-1978" (The N. S. Bar. Soc., 1978).

[8] DCB, vol.iv, p. 112.


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Peter Landry
2012 (2020)