Month: August 2015

Peter O’Reilly

— The Queen’s Man

In real life people who know they are “right” can be mightily irritating, but in history, people of strong convictions shape events. Such a man was Peter O’Reilly, gold commissioner of Fisherville, British Columbia, in 1865.

The discovery of gold in the Kootenays launched a rush of hopeful miners, many American, up every river and creek of the colony. (British Columbia was still “British” at that time. It joined Canadian Confederation in 1871) These men brought an anti-British attitude and a rowdy, lawless life-style from the American mining camps. Saloons, gambling, fist-fights and shootings accompanied the flood of fortune-seekers, who rejected any curb on their actions, legal or otherwise. They particularly objected to paying government licence fees for their claims and for goods brought across the line.

Into this atmosphere waded Peter O’Reilly, a feisty Irishman and former member of the Irish Revenue Police. Backed up by Governor James Douglas, O’Reilly was determined to impose British rule over all of British Columbia, especially the gold camp of Fisherville. On a Sunday morning he called his first meeting with the miners, jumped onto a bench under a flagpole carrying the Union Jack and declared, “Boys, I’m here to keep order and to administer the law. Those that don’t want law and order can get out, but those who stay with the camp, remember what side of the line the camp is on. If there is a shooting in Kootenay, there will be a hanging in Kootenay!”*

His oratory didn’t bring about immediate civility in the gold camp, there were still grumblings about fees and duties, but there were no shootings.

In later years, roads, railroads and the NorthWest Mounted Police ensured the rule of law in British Columbia, but in the early days, it took men like Peter O’Reilly, men of courage and conviction, to face down a rowdy mob and impose order in the wilderness.

O’Reilly went on to serve as a county court judge, in the Legislative Council of BC and as Indian Reserve Commissioner. His home in Victoria,  Point Ellice House,  is now a heritage site.

* pg. 16 Fort Steele – Gold Rush to Boom Town, by Naomi Miller, Heritage House Publishing Co. Ltd. 2002.

Other Sources:

Federal and Provincial Collections of Minutes of Decision, Correspondence and Sketches

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Little Library

Out for my daily bicycle ride I came across this little delight in my neighbourhood.

Yep, we’ve got a Li’l Library chockful of books.  Of course I had to stop and browse.  I’m one of those people who always checks the return cart first when I visit the library.  I’m convinced that other borrowers have already sussed out the best books and I can save myself some time and frustration by borrowing from the already-borrowed shelf.

This character trait manifests itself in my dislike of big box stores, as well.  I find them overwhelming.  When I enter those shopping extravaganzas my brain goes numb.  I can’t remember what I came for, I feel dizzy trying to read all the signs and end up leaving with green apples when I really came for purple plums.  I like boutiques and markets where I can see all the wares in a few minutes, then spend my time dithering over whether I want lavender scented soap or lemon scented.

So, the little library tucked under the tree branches is perfect for me.  I picked up a handful of Golden Books — you remember those charming little stories for children — because I have a friend with a fondness for them.  I found a couple by Sophie Kinsella that I’d never read and, on a whim, I brought home The House I Loved,  by Tatiana de Rosnay.   I chose it because I liked the title and I liked the cover but I read it because I was fascinated by the story.  Between 1852 and 1870 Paris was rebuilt. A little piece of history I’d never known. Little streets and neighbourhoods were razed to make way for the long, wide, straight boulevards of modern Paris.  The House I Loved is about a woman who lived in one of those condemned streets, in a house she loved.

I’m thrilled to have found this little treasure in my neighbourhood.  I look forward to discovering more gems like The House I Loved, while I take a breather from my bike ride!

Views: 238

A love Story

As a season’s pass holder to the Butchart Gardens I’ve been enjoying the wonderful concerts held there every evening from July through to Labour Day.  We’ve seen all sorts of entertainment on stage, Celtic bands, folk band, the Victoria Symphony, ballet and bluegrass.  In addition to the acts on stage, it’s a great place for people, and dog, watching.  Mostly, I delight in the children running and dancing on the great expanse of lawn.  Rhythm and dance seems to be build into humans and the children revel in the chance to express that.  The night we went to the ballet, there were any number of little girls wearing tutus and glittery headbands adding their beauty to the acts on stage.

I don’t know if the dogs enjoy their cultural opportunities, but they usually sit quietly, glad to spend time with their owners.  Last night there was a dog with great timing, he barked right on the beat.

But the off stage byplay I witnessed that most warmed my heart was an elderly couple who shuffled into the concert area just as the band started up.  He sat on a bench and she set up a lawn chair beside him.  She took great care to be sure he had a cushion to sit on, a vest to wear and a blanket over his knees.   About twenty minutes into the concert he got up and left.  He wasn’t very spry, but walked with a short step and a shuffling gait.  The concert continued and I forgot about him until half an hour later when he came back, this time carrying a cup of coffee for his wife.  The little aside to the concert brought a smile to my face.  A true love story, I thought.  Not the first blush of passion we look for in a romance novel with all its angst and longing and soaring joy, but a love story in real life.  This couple no longer turned heads with their good looks.  They wouldn’t win a prize for fashion.  Time had diminished their strength, bowed their backs and turned their hair to grey, but their love for each other remained, secure, dependable and forever.  That’s a real life love story.

Views: 323

Book Club

Anyone here belong to a book club?   Fifteen years ago, my friend and I decided we needed to read more broadly, so we started a book club.  the idea was to create a book list from various genres.  My default reading is romance and hers was mystery, so we included those categories, but we added children’s literature, Canadiana, historical fiction, biography, classics and many others.  The result was a very eclectic reading experience.

We’ve read some wonderful and less well-known books.  Parallel Lives by Phyllis Rose, for example documented the private lives of five Victorian men of letters.  Fascinating stuff.  I’ll never look at the work of Dickens in the same light again.  Old Square Toes and His Lady, by John Adams is a biography of Sir James Douglas, the first Governor of British Columbia.  Since the author is local, we invited him to our meeting.  That evening was a highlight for our club.  God’s Secretaries, by Adam Nicolson is an account of the creation of the King James Version of the Bible.  Another fascinating read.  Being Canadian, we have a large dollop of Canadiana in our reading including More than a Rose by Heather Robertson

None of the books I’ve mentioned here are best sellers or new, yet we’ve found we have the best discussions around these lesser known works.  Perhaps Best Sellers hone in on a popular theme of the day but become irrelevant soon after.  Whatever the reason, the books we still remember over fifteen years of reading are the ones that took us by surprise with their charm, information and strength of writing.

If you have a book to recommend to my club, please leave a comment.

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