Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

Dictionary of Miramichi Biography

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DUNCAN, WILLIAM JAMES, military officer and sportsman; b. Co. Antrim, Ireland, 24 Dec 1859, s/o W. J. Duncan; m. Mary McGuire, of Halifax; d. Chatham, 12 Feb 1943.

When he was a young man William J. Duncan enlisted as a bugler with the Imperial forces in Ireland. He came to Halifax with the Royal Rifles after serving "in practically every British possession in the Empire." He was subsequently a regimental sergeant major with the Royal Canadian Regiment at the infantry school in Fredericton. He retired prior to 1911 when he moved to Chatham to manage the armory. In addition to his assigned duties he encouraged marksmanship competitions and organized the first army cadet corps on the Miramichi. During this time he was an officer in the 73rd Battalion of militia. When World War I broke out he went overseas with the 132nd Battalion and was assigned as quartermaster of the Canadian base at Etaples, France. He returned to Chatham in 1917 and resumed his duties with the militia. He retired from military life in 1935, at age seventy-five.

Duncan was one of the best known sportsmen and outdoorsmen of the Miramichi. He began hunting in the Holmes Lake area while he was still living in Fredericton, and he later had a hunting and fishing camp on the Bartibog River. Father Benedict J. Murdoch had fond memories of him, as "a big ruddy-faced man in his seventies." He tells in his book Far Away Place of him being so absorbed in fly fishing that he could not be lured away from the trout stream for lunch.

Duncan was survived in 1943 by his wife, Mary McGuire, and seven children, two of whom were permanent residents of Chatham.


[b/d] official death records / Advocate 1 Dec 1915; Bird; Commercial World 18 Feb 1943; Leader 29 Nov 1994; Murdoch; World 3 May 1911, 26 Dec 1917