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Significant Scots
Lorenz Alexander Learmonth


Lorenz Learmonth was born in 1892 in Scotland. He started with the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1911 as a clerk and returned in 1919, after World War I to become the Hudson’s Bay Company Post Manager at Port Harrison. He worked at many locations in the north including Lake Harbour (now Kimmirut), Chesterfield Inlet, Cambridge Bay, Fort Ross and Coppermine (now Kugluktuk).

In 1937, Learmonth, fellow trader D.G. Sturrock and carpenter Clem James erected the last new post devoted to the fox trade at Fort Ross. Learmonth stayed behind as Post Manager, leaving in 1947 when Fort Ross was closed due to its remoteness and expense. Its residents were moved to Spence Bay (now Taloyoak).

Later, Learmonth managed to return on a commercial line to Bellot Strait, spending a week reflecting at the ruins of the outpost. Lorenz Learmonth retired in 1957 after 46 years in the north. He died in 1985.

"By the time he retired in 1957 he was a living legend: the last commissioned officer of the HBC, the founder of Fort Ross, fur trader, explorer and conqueror of the Northwest Passage with his little schooner, "Seal". Gerald Waring, Recorder and Times, Brockville, Ontario. 11 July, 1968.

[Quote from Kerry Finley: Through whaling and HBC recruitment at Stromness, the Orcadians came to play a huge role in Canada. This connection is very personal because of my friendship with Lorenz Alexander Learmonth (1892-1985) that continues with his Eskimo-born daughter, Peggy. Both Peggy and I have returned several times to the Orkneys, where we have Learmonth ties on Stronsay. Lorenz Learmonth is one of Canada's unknown heros of the arctic, because of his stoic and reticent Scottish nature. I cannot begin to explain but I'll leave you a couple references: 

"When the vessel L.A. Learmonth roared down the greased logs into the water yesterday at the Port Arthur Shipyards, a small quiet man watched silently.

He stood with his hands clasped together in front of him and his short grey-white hair blew gently in the breeze. ... now in his early 70s, was one of the pioneers of the HBC. ... So in 1911 Learmonth, just a lad, made the slow rolling trip across the Atlantic Ocean in a steamer... He is almost painfully embarrassed by the whole affair. "I was just a small part of a damn fine team of men. I'm terribly honored" (Port Arthur News Chronicle 6 July, 1968).

"Learmonth, attempting to climb from the ratline of the Aklavik to the rail of the Nascopie, fell fifteen feet and sustained four rib fractures. Loyal Company man that he was, he kept the extent of his injuries secret so as not to risk being obliged to go "outside". Fort Ross was his brainchild and he was bound to stay to see it safely weaned." (Finnie)].

Learmonth's Eskimo name was Eetungalik which as far as I can gather, means eyes wide open, or "bright eyes". He was bright eyed right to the end.


His Eskimo mistress - Sarah Kakooteenik

Listen to an audio interview with him here!


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