FISHER, FINLAY, schoolmaster; b. c. 1756 in Dunkeld, Scotland; d. 14 Jan. 1819 in Montreal, Lower Canada.
In June 1775 Finlay Fisher and his brother Alexander emigrated from Scotland to the colony of New York, where Finlay began farming in Charlotte (Washington) County. In June 1777 both joined Major-General John Burgoyne*’s forces and in October were taken prisoner at the battle of Bemis Heights. Released in accordance with the convention signed after the British surrender, they came to Montreal about the same time as their cousins Duncan, James, John, and Alexander Fisher. Finlay and his brother claimed to have lost £150 2s. 6d. as a result of having had to abandon their farm.
In 1778 Fisher founded what was apparently the second English-language school in the city, the first having been opened five years earlier by John Pullman. In 1780 Fisher joined with a certain B. Macho to open a school where they would teach reading, writing, orthography, arithmetic, and bookkeeping, as well as English, French, Latin, Italian, Spanish, German, and Dutch grammar and where they would tutor privately. Fisher apparently prospered from his fees, since in 1783 he rented a house on Rue Saint-Paul for the high rate of £60 per annum. That year he shared in the salary of £100 reserved for a schoolmaster at Montreal; the Reverend John Stuart received £50 and Fisher and another Scot named Christie £25 each. Christie left the same year, but it was not until May 1786 that his share was transferred to Fisher. By 1789 Fisher was sufficiently prosperous to make a loan of £137. That December he held an open house at which his students’ works were displayed; according to the Montreal Gazette, the visitors “went away highly pleased with this interesting and useful entertainment.”
In 1790 Fisher taught 42 pupils, aged 6 to 15, who, with the exception of 7 free scholars, paid either 6s. 6d. or 7s. 6d. per month. He taught most of the subjects offered ten years earlier with Macho, but had added to them geometry, geography, navigation, and surveying. His school was kept “after the old Scottish model, . . . the Presbyterian children learning the catechism, and all pupils repeating a psalm or a paraphrase, every Monday morning.” In 1791 Fisher’s was one of 17 English-language or bilingual schools taught by Protestant teachers and serving a Protestant population in the colony of about 10,000. According to David Chabrand* Delisle, Church of England rector at Montreal, the Canadians, who had only 40 schools for a population of 160,000, “prefer the English schools to their own,” but only a few were able to afford them. Some time after the adoption in 1801 of a law creating the colony’s first public schools, administered by the Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning, Fisher’s school was incorporated into its system.
Fisher appears to have continued to prosper, and in January 1818 he acquired a single-storey stone house on Rue Saint-Joseph (Rue Saint-Sulpice) for the imposing sum of £1,140, although he did not pay cash for it. He rented out this house, and himself lived in a “commodious” two-storey stone house on the same street.
Until at least 1792 Fisher was a member of the Protestant Congregation, an Anglican body, but when in 1791, after the arrival of the Reverend John Young*, a Presbyterian congregation was formed, Fisher also joined it. He died, apparently unmarried, in January 1819. According to the Quebec Gazette he was “much and justly regretted” as “one of those meritorious characters who discharged the various and important duties of a Teacher of Youth, with a fidelity that cannot fail to call forth the applause of every good member of society.”
ANQ-M, CN1-187, 31 janv. 1818. ANQ-Q, CN1-284, 8 juin 1789. BL, Add.