Thomas Douglas

(5th Earl of Selkirk)

1771 - 1820

Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkrik
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkrik

Philanthropist and coloniser. Born on St Mary's Isle, just south of Kirkcudbright (Dumfries and Galloway), Douglas studied law at the University of Edinburgh. He inherited his title from his father in 1799 and married at Inveresk in 1807.

While travelling in the Highlands, he saw the plight of Scottish crofters and proposed emigration to the colonies as a solution. He developed a settlement on Prince Edward Island in Canada (1803). Having a controlling interest in the Hudson's Bay Company, he was able to acquire a vast tract of land at the cost of just 10 shillings, on which he founded the Red River Settlement (1812), which grew to become the city of Winnipeg, Manitoba. The establishment of this settlement brought Douglas into conflict with the rival North West Company, who drove out his settlers and brought him law suits. Thus, his philanthropic acts cost him much money and damaged his health.

He died at Pau in France, aged only 48, where he lies buried. The settlement of Selkirk (Manitoba) was named in his honour.

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