Acheson Gosford Irvine



November 1, 1880 - March 31, 1886

Acheson Gosford Irvine, the first native Canadian to command the Force, was born at Quebec City on December 7, 1837. Educated in Quebec, he received both his First Class Cavalry School and First Class Military School certificates before he became active in the militia. He served in the Quebec Rifles on the Red River Expedition in 1870 and when that force was reduced in 1871 he remained in Manitoba in command of the Provisional Battalion of Rifles. He retired from that position in 1875 with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and was awarded a General Service Medal and three Clasps for his service.

That same year, Irvine joined the North-West Mounted Police as Superintendent. In 1876 he was promoted to Assistant Commissioner and in November 1880 to Commissioner. As commissioner he increased the number of members from 300 to 1000, replaced the inferior Snider Carbine with the Winchester Repeater Rifle, raised the age of NWMP recruits to twenty-two, established a permanent headquarters at Regina and created the North-West Mounted Police training facility which remains today. Order had been maintained in the labour camps during the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway and in the settlement of many Indian bands onto reserves.

Disputes however between the Indians and federal government had become frequent. Irvine warned the government that the harsh Indian settlement policy could lead to trouble but he was ignored. Reports of discontent among the Metis in Saskatchewan were also unheeded by the government. When rebellion broke out in 1885 Irvine led a column of the Force from Regina to Prince Albert where he was directed to remain. Throughout the rebellion he held that location, a well established white settlement that was a logical centre of defence; but he was widely criticized for remaining there, in seemingly inexplicable inaction, removed from the military campaigns that finally crushed the rebellion. Irvine did not defend himself, and as a result of the criticism, resigned from the Force on March 31, 1886.

Following his retirement from the NWMP, Irvine became the warden of the Manitoba Penitentiary in 1892, the Stony Mountain Penitentiary from 1892 to 1913, and the Kingston Penitentiary from 1913 to 1914. In 1903 Commissioner Irvine was awarded the Imperial Service Order. On January 9, 1916 he died at Quebec City and was buried in Mount Hermon Cemetery.


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by Stephen Luscombe