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British Columbia history that informs readers while entertaining them.


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Black Ball Ferry Chinook was last word in comfort

Posted by on Feb 1, 2015 in Articles | 2 comments

A tribute to “the Queen Elizabeth of the inland seas” It’s hard to believe, today, that in 1946-47, Victorians were as interested in Washington’s newest car ferry as the citizens of Seattle. That’s when the M.V. Chinook was said to be the last word in Pacific Northwest commuter comfort and elegance. So proud of their new-born flagship were the directors of Puget Sound Navigation Co., the parent firm of Black Ball Transport, that they touted her as “the Queen Elizabeth of the inland seas”. The launching of the $2.5 million lady at Seattle’s Todd Shipyards, April 22, 1947, was a gala event. Victoria was represented by Mayor Percy George and members of the chamber of commerce along with officials of Ports Angeles and Townsend.  Capt. Alex Peabody addressed the assemblage on behalf of the PSNC: “Permit me to say a few words about the ship which brings us here today. You can be assured that our directors and officers, together with the officers and technicians of the Todd Shipyards Corp., have spent a great deal of time in our endeavors to produce a vessel that would be more than adequate for the trade for which she is intended… [The naval architect firm of Gibbs and Cox, New York] have come forward with a vessel...

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HMCS Annapolis made waves for Reefs Society

Posted by on Jan 10, 2015 in Articles | 2 comments

HMCS Annapolis, an honoured name in Canadian naval history, was in the news in 2015. After successive challenges by The Save Halkett Bay Marine Park Society to prevent the sinking of the stripped-down destroyer escort as an artificial reef in Howe Sound, she was in fact sunk off Gambier Island. This is the second Canadian destroyer to bear the name of the river that runs through Nova Scotia’s fabled Annapolis Valley. The first Annapolis began her career as USS Mackenzie and was one of six of 50 WW1-era ‘four-stacker’ destroyers acquired by Great Britain from the U.S. under Lend-Lease then turned over to the Royal Canadian Navy. Commissioned in Halifax in September 1940, newly recommissioned HMCS Annapolis underwent refit (including removal of one of her four funnels) and strengthening after having spent 17 years in mothballs. Initially assigned to convoy escort duties out of Halifax, in 1944 she was attached as a training ship to the RCN training base, HMCS Cornwallis. Thousands of new Canadian seamen learned the ropes aboard the Annapolis She also participated in the salvage of the freighter S.S. James Miller, aground in the Bay of Fundy. Paid off in June 1945, she was sold for scrapping to an American firm in June 1945. The second HMCS Annapolis was our 20th...

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B.C.’s first ‘lunatic asylum’ was a disaster

Posted by on Dec 30, 2014 in Articles | 4 comments

British Columbia’s first pioneer mental health facility opened in Victoria in the spring of 1876 in a former quarantine hospital on the west shore of the Inner Harbour. Just three and a-half years later, the ‘Lunatic Asylum’ was rocked by scandal. The superintendent admitted to wearing his patients’ socks but not their drawers! The Victoria Colonist expressed its “pain, surprise and indignation” that evidence “injuriously affecting the characters of the superintendent and matron of that institution…that ought to be...

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Where did Canadian history go wrong?

Posted by on Dec 24, 2014 in Articles | 4 comments

You remember how it was in school: names, dates, events, all of them of long ago and far away and of no real interest. Which is precisely what’s wrong with the way we teach Canadian history in school, if you ask me. (They don’t, of course.) If children don’t engage with Canadian history, is it their fault? Or is it ours because we present it so poorly that Canadian history becomes, in fact, boring and dull? Several times I’ve...

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It will always be Jimmy Chickens Island

Posted by on Nov 29, 2014 in Articles | 11 comments

News Item: When Charlee the American bulldog was spooked by Halloween fireworks in Victoria, she took off. Rather, she swam to Mary Tod Island off Oak Bay. I’m pleased to report that she was soon reunited with her owner, but that’s not my story which is about one of my favourite pioneers… Maps show the wooded isle off Oak Bay as Mary Tod Island but to those who know their history it will always be Jimmy Chickens Island. This...

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Sir John Franklin Expedition has strong Victoria, B.C. link

Posted by on Oct 6, 2014 in Articles | 4 comments

So they’ve finally found Sir John Franklin. Well, his ships anyway. 170-plus years after he and all of his 128 men vanished in the Arctic while searching for the legendary Northwest Passage. This is what legends are made of: The most expensive scientific expedition to that time in history, which sailed…into oblivion. Not a single survivor. Not, for years, a single clue! Ever so slowly the puzzle has been unraveled through the efforts, often heroic, of numerous explorers and,...

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Grace Islet Burial Ground Controversy is same old, same old

Posted by on Sep 1, 2014 in Articles | 3 comments

Almost from the time of the arrival of Europeans, First Nations burial sites have been the targets of abuse. Most have succumbed to development although there have been cases of deliberate desecration such as occurred on Victoria’s Deadman’s Island in the 1860s. The public was reminded of the need to protect indigenous burial grounds in the summer of 2014 when controversy raged over otherwise nondescript Grace Islet. Situated in Ganges Harbour, Saltspring Island, it was the site of a...

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