Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

Dictionary of Miramichi Biography

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RAINNIE, WILLIAM, ship architect and master builder; living in 1846.

William Rainnie's name is noted in The Gleaner of 12 June 1838, where it is stated that he has arrived at Hea's Hotel by stagecoach from "Carlton." Between 1839 and 1846, he was the master builder for Joseph Cunard & Co., overseeing the construction of more than twenty ships, many of which were of his design.

As noted by Louise Manny, Rainnie's reputation as a naval architect was second to none on the Miramichi in the 1840s. A "tasteful and skillful artist," his designs helped to raise "the character and value of New Brunswick vessels in the British market." For "beauty of model and style of workmanship," as well as for speed, the most celebrated of his ships was the barque Sword Fish, which was launched at Chatham in 1844. She was built as a packet for the Brazil trade out of Liverpool, England, and "made the trip from Liverpool to Pernambuco in twenty-five days, the shortest passage on record."

Rainnie also superintended the construction of the first steamboat built on the Miramichi. This was an "elegant little vessel" of 120 tons named the Velocity, which was launched from Cunard's yard in 1846.

Rainnie's life has not been traced beyond July 1846, when the Mechanics' Institute at Chatham presented him with a flattering farewell address.


Gleaner 12 Jun 1838, 11 Jul 1846, 15 Aug 1846; Manny (Ships)


i) William Rainnie, the naval architect of the 1840s, is sometimes confused with William Rainnie, the son of Gavin Rainnie, who worked at shipbuilding with his father in Saint John before he became a railwayman. ii) It has been assumed and speculated that William Rainnie Sr was a brother of Gavin Rainnie, but documentary evidence of this has not been found.