William Brotchie was born in Scotland, entering service in the British Royal Navy around 1830.
The original aid to navigation was constructed in 1898 lasted ninety-one years. Wave action undermined its base and a new beacon replaced it in 1989.
His name lives on in Victoria’s harbour history as the namesake for Brotiche Ledge, the shallow reef off Victoria’s harbour. Previously called Buoy Rock, Brotchie struck the ledge in the barque Albion in 1849, an event typically associated with the renaming of a navigational hazard, though there is a 1846 mention of Brotchie Ledge in the Journal of Forest History.
Commander Brotchie commanded a number of Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) vessels including Cadboro from 1835 to 1838, the Cowlitz between 1840 and 1842, the Beaver in 1842, and the Vancouver from 1843 to 1844.
He left the HBC to serve under contract with London business interests supplying spars for the Royal Navy. Brotchie initially considered taking spars from Port San Juan west of Sooke, but found a superior sources near Fort Rupert. He shipped his first spars from there to England in the Norman Morison with the help of Royal Navy Captains Kuper and Prevost.
In 1850 Brotchie was harvesting spars on the north coast of the Washington Territory as supercargo aboard the Albion when US Customs seized the vessel and its cargo at Dungeness. Gov. Blanshard refused assistance on grounds the seizure occurred outside his colonial jurisdiction. A commission investigated, and owner of the Albion paid $20,000 damages though the event almost bankrupted Brotchie. It should be noted that Brotchie’s Albion was a barque, a different ship from the H.M.S. Albion whose “crumpled keel” is currently exhibited at the northwestern corner of Beacon Hill Park. H.M.S. Albion hit a sunken reef in 1889 off Killett Bluff, Henry Island thirty years after Brotchie’s death.
After five years in harvesting spars near Fort Rupert, Governor James Douglas appointed Commander Brotiche as Vancouver Island’s Harbour Master in 1858. He died early the next year.
Brotchie is often credited for bringing the first potatoes to Vancouver Island, but James Douglas described the cultivation of potatoes by the area’s First Nations in 1842, before Brotchie’s time.