William Brotchie

William Brotchie was born in Scotland, entering service in the British Royal Navy around 1830. He commanded the Cadboro from 1835 to 1838, the Cowlitz between 1840 and 1842, the Beaver in 1842, and the Vancouver from 1843 to 1844. He then retired when his wife was denied passage, but returned in 1844 as Supercargo on the Albion in 1850. After five years in the failing spar industry near Fort Rupert, Governor James Douglas appointed him Harbour Master in 1858. He died early the next year.

Commander Brotchie is the namesake for Brotiche Ledge, a shallow reef near the entrance to the Victoria harbour which was previously called Buoy Rock. Brotchie struck his ledge on the Albion in 1849, an event typically associated with the renaming of the place, falsified by the mention of “Brotchie Ledge” in the Journal in 1846.

Brotchie was described forty years after his death by Dr. J. S. Helmcken as “a character, genial, heavy fat, with a twinkling humour” in the Daily Colonist newspaper. He is often credited for bringing the first potatoes to Vancouver Island, but it is documented that the First Nations people were already cultivating before Brotchie's time.


  • De Smet, P. J. Oregon Mission and Travels over the Rocky Mountains, in 1845-1846. New York: E. Dunigan, 1847. https://archive.org/stream/cihm_40687#page/n69/mode/2up.
  • Hudson’s Bay Company Archives. “Brotchie, William.” Biographical Sheets. http://www.gov.mb.ca/chc/archives/hbca/biographical/b/brotchie_william.pdf.
  • Ringuette, Janis. “Brotchie Ledge History (1843-2005).” Beacon Hill Park History. http://www.beaconhillparkhistory.org/contents/appendix_D.htm.
Miranda Harvey