A Blupete Biography Page

Early Days, Part 2 to the Life & Works of
Richard John Uniacke

Strange name: Uniacke. And Irish, too! It seems there was an ancient Irish knight called Fitzgerald. The group he belonged to was attempting to overrun a neighbouring castle. It did not seem possible as there was only one small entrance heavily defended. A call went out for someone to lead the column through this small entryway. Fitzgerald stepped up, only him, and said he was the man that could do it; and, he did so -- beyond all expectations. From then on, Fitzgerald carried the name, which became the family motto, in Latin, Unicus est (the only one) and "this name remained among his posterity in the form of 'Unick' or 'Unak' and gradually glided into the present family name of Uniacke."1

Richard John Uniacke was born in Ireland (Castletown Roche, County Cork) on November 22nd, 1753. He was placed with a Dublin attorney in 1769. A quarrel with his father2 led him to give up his legal studies and to head for America. Fergusson wrote a concise statement of his journey, his reasons for coming to Nova Scotia, and his marriage to the boss' daughter.

"After a short stay on the island of St. Kitts, he proceeded to Philadelphia where in 1774, according to tradition, he met Moses Delesdernier (1716-1811), who was looking for settlers to place upon lands near Fort Cumberland, in Nova Scotia. Accepting employment with Delesdernier, Uniacke went to Nova Scotia where on May 3rd, at the age of 21, he married Delesdernier's daughter [Martha Maria], who was then not 13 years of age."3

It will be remembered that, during these years, there was some serious trouble brewing in the British colonies to the south. The American Revolution got underway in 1776. It would appear, though there is not much information to be had about it, that the 23 year-old Uniacke caught the revolutionary fever as did a number of young men in the Cumberland area. This group of determined revolutionaries were led by Jonathan Eddy. They set out to capture Fort Cumberland, but not much came of that, as a reading of my piece will show. Most of the "Eddy invaders" were more or less forgiven by the local British officer in charge, thinking to keep these farmers on their land and with their families. There had to be close to 200 men who had joined Eddy in his attack on Fort Cumberland, only four of them were sent to Halifax to be tried for treason. Among these four was Richard John Uniacke. As for the young Uniacke: arraigned at Halifax, he was rescued by certain of his friends and bundled out of the country before he was tried.4

By this time, 1777, Uniacke's 15 year-old wife was pregnant. He left her behind to be cared for by her relatives while he sailed for Ireland so that he could, once again, take up his legal studies. After his studies, his well connected Irish relatives arranged for Uniacke to be interviewed by powerful people at London. Uniacke -- and everything points to him as being a charmer of the first order -- received a promise that he would be appointed attorney general in Nova Scotia upon the first vacancy appearing. With this promise and letters of recommendation, he arrived back at Halifax early in 1781.5

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Peter Landry
2011

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