RABY, AUGUSTIN, ship captain; b. c. 1706, eldest son of Mathieu Raby and Marie-Françoise Poireaux, née Morin; buried 19 Dec. 1782 at Quebec.
Augustin Raby was already a ship’s captain on 23 April 1731 when he married Françoise Toupin, dit Dussault (née Delisle), at Quebec. The son of habitant parents, he clearly had risen in colonial society. His wife was the widow of the seigneur of Bélair, and Raby was able to present her with a dower of 1,000 livres. During the 1730s he was employed by François Martel* de Brouague and Pierre Trottier* Desauniers, who were exploiting concessions along the coast of Labrador, and Raby regularly sailed the St Lawrence carrying foodstuffs downstream and returning with sealskins and oil. By 1745 he was an acknowledged authority on the pilotage of the St Lawrence and resided comfortably in Quebec on the quay of the Cul-de-Sac with his wife, one child, and a domestic.
Early in the Seven Years’ War, Raby was captured and taken to England. In January 1759 he was placed on the Neptune (90 guns), the flagship of Vice-Admiral Charles Saunders, and prevailed upon to act as a pilot in the forthcoming expedition to Quebec. An old acquaintance, Théodose-Matthieu Denys de Vitré, sailed in this ship also but was transferred to Rear-Admiral Philip Durell*’s squadron before it entered the St Lawrence. The Neptune was off Île aux Coudres for some time in the summer, apparently because of the difficulties of piloting so large a vessel, but she finally dropped anchor off Île Madame on 4 August. James Murray later referred to Raby as “the principal pilot of our fleet in 1759.” In October, after the fall of the city, Raby sailed to England with Saunders, but the following year he returned to Canada as “pilot extra” in the Kingston. He again went back to England at the end of the season and continued to serve in naval ships until he was paid off in August 1761. Soon afterwards he returned to Quebec.
Raby’s home had been burnt and pillaged during the siege, and he was reduced to indigence. The hostility of his countrymen and fear of being tried for his life should he move to France led him to petition James Murray for protection and assistance. The governor, who wanted to restore the colony’s services as rapidly as possible, commissioned Raby and one Savard as river pilots in April 1762. He also forwarded Raby’s petition to London with a strong recommendation that he be rewarded. “It would be a great discouragement to others,” he wrote, “if his services were forgot or neglected.” A similar recommendation was transmitted to the Privy Council by Admiral Saunders and early in 1764 Raby was granted a life pension of 5s. per diem. He spent the remainder of his days as senior pilot at Quebec.
AN, Col., F2B, II. ANQ-Q, Greffe de Claude Barolet, 21 avril 1731; Greffe de J.-É. Dubreuil, 6 mars 1714. BL, Add. mss 11813, f.72. G. B., Privy Council, Acts of the P.C., col., 1745–66, IV, 665. Inv. de pièces du Labrador (P.-G. Roy), I, 253. “Recensement de Québec, 1744,” 122. P.-G. Roy, Inv. ord. int., II, 145. Tanguay, Dictionnaire, VI, 416, 490. Burt, Old prov. of Que. (1968), I, 35–36. P.-G. Roy, “Le pilote Raby,” BRH, XIII (1907), 124–26.