Category Archives: Arts and Culture

Heritage Week: Nanaimo Pioneer J.J. Southgate

This week is Heritage Week across BC and the theme is “Heritage Afloat.”  Tonight, Wednesday February 19, 2014 at the Nanaimo Museum there will be a Heritage Summit from 7pm to 9pm at the Nanaimo Museum which the public is welcome to attend. To celebrate Heritage Week and Nanaimo’s early history meet Nanaimo Pioneer J.J. Southgate.

Nanaimo Coal Pioneer

Nanaimo Pioneer J. J. Southgate
J. J. Southgate

In Nanaimo’s south end there are some landmarks named after the early politian and merchant Mr. J.J. Southgate.  Born and raised in England, Joseph Johnson Southgate came to Victoria in 1859 from San Francisco.

From 1860-1863, he was a member of the Legislative Assembly of Vancouver Island, representing Salt Spring Island. Later he was the elected representative for Nanaimo. In 1864 he was president of the newly formed Vancouver Club.

It wasn’t uncommon for politicians of the day to mix political and business interests. In the same year that the Harewood Mine opened, J.J. Southgate put forward a request in the Legislative Assembly for Vancouver Island:

“A letter was read from Messrs. J. J. Southgate and Sebright Green, Directors of the Harewood Railway Company Limited, dated 10th June 1864 requesting the consent of the Governor to their taking land in the Government Reserve in the Nanaimo District for the purposes of their proposed Railway.

The Council were of opinion that the Harewood Railway Company might be  permitted to take the land necessary for their line of Railway across the unsold portion of the land situated on the Government Reserve opposite Newcastle Island in the District of Nanaimo upon the same terms that are provided by the Vancouver Island Land Clauses Consolidation Act 1863 with regard to the land of private persons.”

After the Colony of Vancouver Island merged with that of British Columbia in 1866, J.J. Southgate served as the elected member for Nanaimo. He was also a keen supporter of Confederation and was honoured with several geographical features named after him.

Read more about Nanaimo’s early coal history.


Remembrance Day 2013

Somewhere in Belgium in WWI
Somewhere in Belgium in WWI

The art by “J.M.” an unkown soldier from Canada, shows a desolate landscape somewhere in France or Belgium during World War I. Horses played an important role during the Great War, carrying messengers, pulling wagons of supplies and machinery.

This Remembrance Day, take some time to reflect on the sacrifices made by soldiers like J.M. who fought and suffered without recognition. It is because of their efforts that we are grateful to live in freedom.

Take the opportunity to attend a Remembrance Day ceremony and show your appreciation to these veterans.

There are parades and ceremonies throughout mid Vancouver Island on Monday, November 11th.

Remembrance Day 2013:

Ladysmith: Parade starts at 10:30 from Legion on 1st Avenue to Cenotaph (southbound lane of the Trans Canada Highway will be closed from 1st Avenue to Buller Street until 11:30 am.)

Lantzville: Parade begins at 10:45 a.m. down Lantzville Road to the Cenotaph.

Nanaimo: Parade begins at 10:30 a.m. along Church and Chapel Streets to the Cenotaph.

Parksville:  Parade from the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 49 starts at 10:30 a.m. to Cenotaph near the corner of Craig Street and Jensen Avenue.

Davey Report: Critique of local Media

A critique has to be made of the latest political cartoon in Nanaimo’s local daily paper.  On Thursday, October 31, 2013 there was a syndicated cartoon from the Alabama Media Group of President Obama with a bubble, “if I like your healthcare plan, you can keep it.”  This was printed in the same week that the Canadian Senate is having the largest scandal in its history.

Local Daily News gets Alabama Political Cartoon
Local Daily News gets Alabama Political Cartoon

In comparison here is a political cartoon from December 12, 1970 in the Vancouver Sun by Len Norris, regarding the release of Davey Report on Canadian Media.

Vancouver Sun Cartoon 1970
Vancouver Sun Cartoon 1970

Len Norris was a talented cartoonist and widely regarded in all journalism circles;  his regular cast of characters included Rodney from West Vancouver. His cartoons were insightful and piqued people’s interest in Canadian political events.

Some background on the ‘Davey Report’:  The  Special Senate Committee on Mass Media was constituted on March 18, 1969 chaired by Honourable Keith Davey. Committee members were appointed to consider and report upon the ownership and control of the major means of mass public communication in Canada.  The report was  completed on October 8, 1970.  The Davey Committee recommended the creation of a Press Ownership Review Board empowered to prevent mergers or takeovers of newspapers, and periodicals as well.

It has been 43 years since that report was published when over 500 companies were consulted; not many are left. It appears that the mass media of today is doing a great job of keeping Canadians uninformed.

S.S. Zephyr shipwreck cargo at Maffeo Sutton Park

In Maffeo Sutton Park near the walkway there are these two large sandstone slabs recovered from the shipwreck of the Zephyr which sank in a storm off Mayne Island on February 13, 1872. These are a memorial to the two lives which were lost that day.

Zephyr Stones Nanaimo
Zephyr Stones Nanaimo

The Zephyr was loaded with 500 tonnes of sandstone quarried from Newcastle Island intended for the San Francisco Mint. The large slabs – roughly 3 feet by 4 feet – weighed upwards of 3,500 pounds each and the columns of 90 feet long and 3 feet in diameter weighed closer to 40 tons.

Chief Mate George Lusk, who survived the shipwreck, recounted the events of that day:

“The weather on departure [February 12] was cold and clear but by the time the vessel had reached Active Pass night had fallen and with it a storm with blinding snow and driving wind and seas. [The vessel and crew] proceeded on their voyage with a fresh wind from the southeast but at about eight PM that night the wind veered from the southeast to the northeast and about one o’clock Tuesday morning the 13th … a heavy snow storm set in during which … from the period of sailing the best lookout was constantly kept on board, the Straits being narrow but owing to the snow storm it was impossible to distinguish the land …”

The Zephyr was badly damaged in the storm and because of the heavy cargo, she was in constant danger of hitting the reefs that lay along Mayne Island. The storm pushed the ship onto the rocks despite attempts to avoid them. There was no choice but to abandon ship.

Everyone except the captain, cook and two crewmen managed to get into the lifeboat.  The cook was found clinging to the forward part of the wreckage and he was pulled from the water before the ship disappeared beneath the waves. Another crewman was found alive on the beach, but the second crewman J. Stewart and Captain E.D. Hipson were never seen again and presumed drowned.

On October 14, 1987, the Underwater Archaeological Society with funding from the Nanaimo Harbour Commission and BC Provincial Parks coordinated an operation to salvage some of the historic cargo. The following day these sandstone blocks were placed in their current location in Maffeo Sutton Park.

Here is the information sign which looks like it needs to be repaired.

Zephyr Sign in Nanaimo
Zephyr Sign in Nanaimo

with notes from: Salmon, Lynn (2012) The Wreck of the Zephyr. 2012.

Flashback Friday: 1928 Canada’s natural resources

Canada's natural resources
Canada’s natural resources: whoever holds ownership has the key to power

This editorial cartoon from 1928 shows how Canadians were concerned about losing their grip on the key to Canada’s natural resources. Whoever had ownership of our natural resources held the power. Back in the day, it was American companies that were eager to harness Canada’s hydroelectric power and harvest our timber.

Flashback Friday: 1923 Halibut Fishing Treaty

1923 Halibut Fishing Treaty
1923 Halibut Fishing Treaty

Uncle Sam: “What I cut off goes to you Johnnie Canuck and what’s left belongs to me.”

In 1923 Canada negotiated and signed a halibut fishing treaty with the United States establishing Canada’s status as an independent nation. The cartoonist suggests Canada was cut short in the deal. Mackenzie King was the Prime Minister of Canada at the time.