Mount Allison University and the Knight-Hosier, Richey-Nichols, and Ryan families

Recently, there was a fascinating BBC program(1) about the Canadian-born comedian Katherine Ryan who was investigating her genealogy on her mother’s side. Ryan knew her father came from Tipperary, Eire, but the maternal side was largely unknown(a). Ryan was born in Sarnia, ON, in 1983 and she moved to live in the United Kingdom in 2007.

Ryan discovered that her grandparents x5(b) were Matthew Richey and Louisa Matilda Nichols(2,3) (Figure One).

Ryan also discovered that that her grandparents x5 were Richard Knight and Mary Hosier(4).

Hence Matthew Richey and Richard Knight were related by marriage. Specifically, Matthew Richey’s oldest daughter, Mary Augusta Richey (born 1826), married one of Richard Knight’s sons, Thomas Frederick Knight (born 1827).

I had some knowledge that Matthew Richey and Richard Knight had significant influence on the early development(5) of Mount Allison University(MtA). I was fascinated because I had not realised that these two men were related by marriage. I expect John Reid and David Mawhinney(c) knew that these influencers of MtA history were related! There are also other connections between the descendants of the Richey-Nichols and Knight-Hosier families and MtA(d).

On further reflection, it is not surprising that they were related because they had similar views on the developments of Wesleyan Methodism in the Canadas and they worked closely together e.g. adjacent district chairmen, members of the MtA board of trustees, inter alia. There was an age difference of 15 years but it did not seem to cause difficulties. Their children who married, Mary Augusta Richey and Thomas Frederick Knight, were almost the same age so they would be expected to receive the blessing of their relationship from their parents.

There is a further connection between the Richey-Nichols and Knight-Hosier families because there was a marriage between second cousins Beatrice Sill (born 1904) and Frederick Carr Knight (born 1886). Again it is not surprising that Beatrice and Frederick might have formed a relationship because they would have met at family gatherings and they were part of the relatively small Maritime community.

Hence Beatrice Sill and Frederick Carr Knight were Katherine Ryan’s grandparents x2 (great grandparents).

Matthew Richey and Louisa Matilda Nichols were grandparents x2 to Beatrice Sill.

Richard Knight and Mary Hosier were grandparents x2 to Frederick Carr Knight.

In conclusion it is most appropriate that the Richey-Nichols and Knight-Hosier families are connected by marriage as well as by their valuable influences on the early development of Mount Allison University. The timing of Katherine Ryan’s program on the BBC is apposite because MtA has recently been named for a record 24th time as the top university in the primarily undergraduate category in the 2024 Maclean’s University Rankings(6).

There are clear links between the influences of these families, Mount Allison’s continued aims of social justice and intellectual excellence, the vernacular architecture and the outstanding learning environments at MtA(7). The Richey-Nichols and Knight-Hosier families and their descendants can be justifiably proud.


(a) Neglect of female details: there is a perennial problem in researching females because of name changes. In the BBC program(1) both Katherine Ryan and her mother, Julie (McCarthy) Ryan, bemoan the way society views females as, “someone’s daughter or someone’s wife.” A viewpoint also described in –

Fara, P. (2018). A Lab of One’s Own. Science and Suffrage in the First World War. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Oakley, A. (2021). Forgotten Wives. How Women Get Written Out of History. Bristol: Policy Press/Bristol University Press.

(b) Terminology: there is some confusion and inconsistency in the genealogy literature regarding how to describe generations in a family tree. There does not seem to be a widely-accepted style guide so the following has been used in this piece –


grandparents x2 = great grandparents

grandparents x3 = great great grandparents

grandparents x4 = great great great grandparents

grandparents x5= great great great great grandparents

(c) John Reid, professor emeritus of history at Saint Mary’s University, and senior research fellow of the Gorsebrook Research Institute.  

David Mawhinney, Mount Allison University archivist.  

(d) Matthew Richeyand Louisa Matilda Nichols(2,3) had five children including –

Matthew Henry Richey (born 1828), lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia, who attended the opening of Centennial Hall in 1883(5) (Figures Two and Three).

Richard Knight and Mary Hosier(4) had 11 children including –

Martha Louisa (Knight) Allison and Laura C. Knight(5) who were both teachers at Mount Allison Ladies Academy.






(5) Reid, J. G. (1984). Mount Allison History. Volume I: 1843 – 1914. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.



Figure One: : Selective parts of the Knight-Hosier, Richey-Nichols, and Ryan family tree in relation to Mount Allison University

Figure Two: Centennial Hall, Mount Allison University, 19th Century

Mount Allison University Archives. Ross E. Robertson fonds, 2003.08/6/1

Figure Three: Centennial Hall, Mount Allison University, 21st Century

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About Iain Robbe

I am a medical practitioner (MB, BS, 1980; MRCS, LRCP, 1980) registered with the General Medical Council of the United Kingdom. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic I have reactivated my licence to practise and I am providing telephone support to vulnerable elderly to assist them during the pandemic. I remain active as a Clinical Medical Educationist participating in a number of projects with the universities of St Mary’s and Dalhousie in Nova Scotia and Mount Allison in New Brunswick, inter alia, and separately with three of the veterinary schools in the UK. My focus is on teaching and research in professionalism, ethics, and communications, and particularly the influences of vernacular architecture on the creation of positive learning experiences in undergraduate and postgraduate medical education. I have the degree of Master in Public Health from the University of London (1985) and the degree of Master in Medical Education with distinction from the University of Wales (2001). The guiding principles in my practices are based on andragogy and humanism, and the prime ethical principle of autonomy for the individual and in population health.

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