CURRIE, DONALD, educator, journalist, and civil servant; b. between 1831 and 1834 at West River, P.E.I.; d. 9 March 1880 in Charlottetown, P.E.I.
After completing his education at the Central Academy, Charlottetown, and the Free Church Academy, Halifax, N.S., Donald Currie became a teacher in the public schools of rural Prince Edward Island. On 1 Feb. 1859 he was appointed assistant master of the Central Academy, a position he held until the new Conservative government replaced the academy with Prince of Wales College 16 months later. Currie then turned to journalism, first writing for James Barrett Cooper* of the Monitor, whom he left in 1861 for David Laird* of the Protestant and Evangelical Witness. The role of religion in education was a dominant issue in the early 1860s, and Laird’s paper was the most strident of the Conservative and Protestant camp. Many years later, James Hayden Fletcher, a fellow editor, recalled that at this time Currie was a rabid partisan, and “could see nothing good in a political opponent.”
When controversies with less sectarian content arose, Laird changed the name of his paper to the Patriot, and placed more emphasis upon secular affairs. Currie became his associate editor in 1865, and after 18 months they were able to make the Patriot into the first successful semi-weekly journal on the Island in many years. By 1871 it was probably the leading newspaper in the colony; its editorial policy was strongly anti-confederation, and the two editors eventually left the Conservative party because of the strength of pro-confederate elements within it. They opposed the railway legislation of the premier, James Colledge Pope*, on the grounds that the consequent financial burden would force the colony into confederation.
In a by-election held on 5 July 1871, Laird defeated James Duncan, the newly appointed chairman of the Railway Commission. Currie’s role became that of an aide to Laird both in politics and in journalism. When the latter was made by Alexander Mackenzie* federal minister of the interior in late 1873, Currie, who had occupied minor bureaucratic posts, was appointed collector of customs for Charlottetown. He continued to hold the office until a few months before his death from consumption in 1880. He was survived by a wife and several children.
Currie’s main contribution to Island public life, particularly after the founding of the Patriot, was his work as a journalist. He was generally admitted to be an able writer, and was reputed to have played an indispensable role in the anti-railway campaign of 1871 and 1872 which propelled Laird into a successful political career. When Currie died, Henry Lawson, who was then editor and proprietor, wrote that “as editor of the Patriot he made this journal a power in the land.”
[PRO, CO 226/89, 212. Currie’s editorials appeared regularly in the Monitor (Charlottetown), 1860–61, the Protestant and Evangelical Witness (Charlottetown), 1861–65, and the Patriot (Charlottetown) 1865–80. Unfortunately there is no way of knowing which commentaries were written by him and which by his associates. For particular details of his journalistic career see: Presbyterian and Evangelical Protestant Union (Charlottetown), 30 March, 20 April 1876, and Patriot, 21 April 1876. For obituaries see: Examiner (Charlottetown), 10 March 1880, and Patriot, 11, 13 March 1880. See also: J. H. Fletcher, “Newspaper life and newspaper men,” Prince Edward Island Magazine (Charlottetown), II (May 1900), 74–75. Robertson, “Religion, politics, and education in PEI,” especially 228–46. S. N. Robertson, “The public school system,” in Past and present of Prince Edward Island . . . , ed. D. A. MacKinnon and A. B. Warburton (Charlottetown, ), 370a. i.r.r.]