Review of ‘'True Brit' The Adventures of Peter Fidler of Bolsover’, by Gordon Jackson

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 30th April 2001, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

‘TRUE BRIT’ The Adventures of Peter Fidler of Bolsover
by Gordon Jackson
ISBN 1-898941-48-3 (2001)

It comes as a great surprise to learn that we have an outstanding but unsung Derbyshire hero whose story deserves far wider recognition in the land of his birth. Peter Fidler was born into a Bolsover farming family in 1769 and went on to become the first European to map and survey huge tracts of Canada.

Author Gordon Jackson tells his story here for the first time, building on family memorabilia, records in Canadian archives and material from the Hudson's Bay Company, for whom Fidler carried out invaluable and frequently dangerous survey work in the western plains, forests, prairies and to the Rocky Mountains. His maps were of such importance that they were published by a major London cartographer and proved invaluable to the USA in expanding the American empire to the Pacific north-west.

Front Cover

Fidler's adventures as a surveyor-geographer and trader brought him up against other early surveyors and settlers who were not averse to settling disputes with their fists, generally giving him far more trouble than the native American Indian tribes whose way of life is recorded in his journals and whose languages he learned to speak. He fell in love for life with a Cree Indian, whom he married, and who bore him no less than fourteen children. Hundreds of their descendants live in Canada and the northern USA. Their distant relatives in Derbyshire have reason to be proud of a brave pioneer who is commemorated in Canadian place names and numerous memorials, not least a 32ft statue carved from a giant redwood tree and given a full-page illustration in the book.

Peter Fidler's will stipulated that his wealth was to remain untouched until 1969, the bicentenary of the year of his birth, then to pass to a direct male descendant of his youngest son. The courts ruled this out as impractical but had it transpired, the beneficiary would have received around £200 million!

Review by Julie Bunting

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