BOURCHIER, HUGH PLUNKETT, army officer; b. c. 1800, son of Major-General John Bourchier of Ardcloncy, County Clare (Republic of Ireland), and of his wife, née Macnamara; d. 24 Jan. 1862 on Point Frederick, near Kingston, Canada West, leaving his widow, one son, and four daughters.
Hugh Plunkett Bourchier, whose brother Thomas was later a naval hero in the 1st China War of 1839–42, entered the British army in 1814 and served in Portugal and at Gibraltar. He fought under the Duke of Wellington in France with the 19th Light Dragoons. In 1837 Bourchier came to Canada as a captain in the 93rd Regiment and after some time at Halifax and Toronto was posted adjutant of Fort Wellington near Prescott, Upper Canada, under Colonel Plomer Young. In May 1839 he succeeded Thomas Fitzgerald as town major of Kingston.
In his new post Bourchier assumed responsibility for all the physical aspects of the military establishment at Kingston. The town major also led state processions, countersigned the police permits required for passage over the international boundary during emergencies, and assumed other functions when necessary during the absence of senior officers. Thus, Bourchier, who was town major at Kingston until his death, served at various times as commander of the forces in Canada West, commander of the Kingston garrison (1855–62), acting assistant deputy adjutant-general, and deputy assistant quartermaster-general of the forces. He was promoted brevet colonel in 1859.
Bourchier also participated in the volunteer militia movement at Kingston, made possible by the passage of the Militia Act of 1855. Holding the rank of colonel in the Canadian militia, he commanded for five years the three volunteer companies raised at Kingston: the predominantly Roman Catholic infantry unit which James O’Reilly* helped raise, another infantry unit raised by David Shaw and John Sutherland, and a cavalry unit raised by Maxwell William Strange, the last two dominated by members of the Orange Order. At the time of the outbreak of the Civil War in the United States he was one of the few senior military officers in Canada West who did not perceive Irish Roman Catholics as a major threat to the security of Canada and who was willing to admit them to important military roles. His influence might have enabled the militia in Kingston to avoid Orange domination at a time when moderation was most needed in view of Fenian threats against Canada, but he resigned on 13 Aug. 1861 because of ill health and was succeeded by Strange. Bourchier died less than a year later of heart disease, aggravated perhaps by overwork during the Trent crisis.
As town major Bourchier had played an important and visible role in the military life of Kingston. He was also an active and prominent participant in the social life of the community. An obituary commented that “his urbanity of manner and careful consideration for others gained him many friends.”
PAC, RG 8, I (C series), 1284, pp.1–2, 179–81. PAO, Kingston Garrison order book, 1837–38 (mfm. copy). PRO, CO 42/614, p.71; 42/627, pp.141–47. Globe, 28 Jan. 1862. O’Byrne, Naval biographical dictionary (1849). J. W. Spurr, “The Kingston Garrison, 1815–1870,” Historic Kingston (Kingston, Ont.), 20 (February 1972), 14–34.