Who will play the Vancouver Island Waltz?

On Saturday April 5th, Vancouver Island Symphony will play musical pieces chosen by the audience in an evening titled, ‘Nanaimo Home’. Wouldn’t it be great to hear the Vancouver Island Waltz?

William K. Horne composed the “Vancouver Island Waltz” in 1860; probably the first music of its type composed locally. It is preserved at the Provincial Archives of British Columbia, but it has never been played by an orchestra in recent times.

HMS Ganges
HMS Ganges – where the Vancouver Island Waltz was composed

Horne was Assistant Paymaster of HMS Ganges, the flagship of Rear Admiral Robert L. Baynes. Ganges Harbour on Saltspring Island is named after the ship.  Fulford Harbour is named after Captain John Fulford, the master of the HMS Ganges. Originally, Saltspring was to be named Admiral Island in honour of Admiral Baynes, instead, he is remembered in Baynes Peak at the top of Mt. Maxwell.

The British Royal Navy was based in Esquimalt, which was known as the Pacific Station; its headquarters on the west coast.  Previously, the Royal Navy had been based at Valparaiso, Chile, but after the Crimean war, Britain became concerned with Russia’s ports in the north Pacific and Esquimalt had a deep harbour well-suited to sailing ships.

Between 1857 and 1863, the Royal Navy surveyed and charted not only the border region between the Gulf Islands and the San Juans, but the entire coastline of Vancouver Island, the Strait of Georgia, and parts of Haida Gwaii and the mainland coast, including Burrard Inlet, Howe Sound, Jervis Inlet, Bute Inlet, and the Fraser River as far as Fort Langley.

As a result, there are many place names of crew members and their ships including Browning, Bedwell, Blunden and Gowlland Harbours; Campbell River, Mayne Island, Brockton Point, Pender Island, Plumper Sound, and Hecate Strait.

The presence of the Royal Navy was an economic and social boost to the town of Victoria. Many of the members played musical instruments and took part in theatre productions, and they were always present at government dances.