The Scottish Page
Scottish influence in metropolitan Vancouver was
important from the very beginning of our post-native history . .
. and thats not counting the statue of Robert Burns in Stanley
Park, nor our first purpose-built library, the Carnegie, paid for
by Scotland-born U.S. industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
first elected official in the lower mainland was a Scot. His name
was James Mackie, and he was elected the first warden
of Langley June 2, 1873. His clan was native of Banffshire. Vancouvers
first mayor, Malcolm MacLean (left), was a Scot and so was
his opponent, Richard Alexander.
The St. Andrew's and Caledonian Society of Vancouver
was formed in 1886, the same year the city was. Here's a startling
statistic: On St. Andrew's Day, November 30, 1887 the society held
a grand St. Andrew's Ball in McDonough Hall at the southeast corner
of Hastings and Columbia. Of the 1,000 or so people who lived in
Vancouver at the time, 400 attended. In a rainstorm.
from a noble Scottish Highland family, the Lovat Frasers, Simon
Fraser was the youngest son of Simon Fraser of Culbokie and
Isabel Grant of Duldreggan. In September, 1773 the family emigrated
to America aboard the Pearl and settled in Albany, New York.
Simon Jr. was born in the small rural hamlet of Mapleton, Hoosick
Township, New York on May 20th, 1776, the very eve of the American
Revolution. Simon's Loyalist father was captured at the Battle of
Bennington and died a prisoner. His widowed mother fled with her
family to Canada in 1784.
Robert Allison Hoods name may be familiar
to some of you. He was born in Scotland. In 1906 he came to Vancouver
and became involved in financial and real estate business, but he
also published several novelsmost set in BCand wrote
articles and poetry. There is a big collection of his papers at
UBC, much of it dealing with the early years of the St. Andrews
and Caledonian Society. One of the items, from 1918, is a rhyming
poem pleading with members of the society who owe dues to pay up.
A fellow named William Duncan, born in Scotland
in 1882, came here and began work as a commercial fisherman. He
established a locally famous fishing bar in Langley. He was renowned
for having landed a sturgeon weighing 725 pounds.
The first white person to settle in what is now
Stanley Park was a Scot, a printer named Jimmy Sievewright.
John Murray, Sr. was born in Ireland of Scottish
parents. He was a lance-corporal in the Royal Engineers, and he
and his wife Jane Fuller were the first settlers in Port Moody,
on his sapper's land grant. His son, John Murray Jr., known
as Mr. Port Moody, was responsible for naming the streets
of the municipality.
Many local place names are here courtesy of the
Dollarton was named for Captain Robert Dollar,
born in Scotland in 1844.
Ewen Slough. After Alexander Ewen, an early
cannery owner. A dour Scot, he was reputed never to have laughed.
West Vancouver's first white settler, John Lawson
planted holly by the side of the burn flowing across
his property. Putting the two words together, he coined Hollyburn
as the name for his place.
Iona Island. Called McMillan Island after a pioneer
settler, Donald McMillan, until he himself renamed it Iona,
after the island where St. Columba in 563 began Christianizing the
An early resident, Russell Macnaghten, Professor
of Greek at UBC, named part of West Vancouver after Dundarave Castle
in Scotland, the ancestral home of Clan Macnaghten. Dundarave comes
from a Gaelic word having reference to a two-oared boat (and is
pronounced by the Scots to rhyme with have, not rave).
Tom Alsbury, mayor of Vancouver from 1959
to 1962, was born in Edinburgh, our first mayor to have been born
in the 20th century. (1904)
In 1905 when the B.C. Electric built a station on
its Steveston interurban line at what is now West 41st Avenue in
Vancouver, the company's general manager called on a young Scottish
couple named MacKinnon who had recently settled in the district
and invited Mrs. MacKinnon to name the new station. She adapted
the name Kerrisdale from her old family home, Kerrydale, in Gairloch,
Scotland. Kerrydale means little seat of the fairies.
Senator Tom Reid came to Surrey from Scotland.
He was a Liberal M.P. for New Westminster and later a senator. Tom
Reid was a Surrey pioneer. He gave the municipality land that is
now Bear Creek Park. The Senator played the bagpipes, sometimes
at special events in Parliament.
The manager of Vancouver's first Bank of British
Columbia branch was James Cooper Keith, a native of Aberdeen.
He later became president of the Board of Trade and reeve of North
Vancouver. Keith Road in North Vancouver was named after him.
Also born in Edinburgh: Lily Laverock, a
remarkable woman who was the first female newspaper reporter in
Vancouver and, more importantly, for more than 20 years worked as
an impresario here (mostly in the 1920s and 30s), bringing
in an astonishing array of world famous performers: Jascha Heifetz,
Fritz Kreisler, Dame Nellie Melba, Maurice Ravel (as pianist), Pablo
Casals, Beniamino Gigli, the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and more
The Marine Building has a Scottish element. The
12 signs of the zodiac are worked into the floor, originally made
of corkoid, or battleship linoleum, manufactured in
Scotland by a firm that specialized in producing similar floors
for luxury ocean liners. In 1989 the floor was replaced and replicated
You may recall that the Chinatown Lions Club
began a habit of holding an annual Burns dinner, complete with haggis
served with a sweet and sour sauce.
The names of Scots pepper our history: John Linn,
after whom Lynn Valley is named (and misspelled) . . . James
McGavin of bread fame . . . John McLagan, newspaper publisher,
the Vancouver Daily World . . . Butcher James Inglis Reid,
we hae meat that ye can eat . . . Andrew Roddan,
United Church minister . . . William Irving, boatbuilder,
whose homeIrving House in New Westminsteris an historic
treasure . . . James Sinclair, the late federal fisheries
minister, for whom Sinclair Centre in downtown Vancouver is named.
He was also the father of Margaret Sinclair . . . and the
son of James Sinclair of Caithness, Scotland, who came to
Vancouver about 1910 and became the first principal of Vancouver
Technical School . . . William Lamont Tait, whose Glen Brae
mansion in Shaughnessy is now Canuck House, a hospice for children
. . . broadcaster Jack Webster . . .
In April, 1916, the first congress was held of the
new British Columbia Chess Association, the venue being Vancouver.
The winner of the tournament was entitled to be called the Chess
Champion of British Columbia and hold the championship shield,
besides taking a gold medal as first prize. Mr. J.M. Ewing,
a Scot by birth, was the winner on this first occasion.
The lions in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery
were sculpted in 1910 by John Bruce, a Scot. Each weighs
15 tonnes; cost was about $8,000 for the pair. Its said that
Bruce halted the stone cutting when the money ran out, leaving the
mane, nose and ears of the 15-ton lions unfinished.
George Black, pioneer butcher and hotelier,
was born in Aberdeen. He was called The laird of Hastings,
who always wore highland dress to dances, and also imported the
area's first race horses. He used to race them down Granville Street.
John Davidson, another Aberdeen man, was
a botanist who started the famous gardens at Essondale, now Riverview
And then theres Jimmy Cunningham, stonemason.
He was born in 1878 on the Isle of Bute, Scotland. Jimmy came from
Scotland in 1910, then served in WWI with the Canadian Expeditionary
Force. He worked extensively as a stonemason, including work at
UBC, Vancouver homes, pools at Lumberman's Arch, 2nd and Kitsilano
beaches, the Empress Hotel and the Banff Springs hotel. In 1917
he began work on the Stanley Park seawall. In 1931 he was named
master stonemason for the Vancouver Parks Board with a special task:
to secure Stanley Park's shores. He retired in 1955, but kept coming
down (once in his pyjamas!) to keep an eye on the walls progress
until his death September 29, 1963. Heres a story we treasure:
Jimmy built a low stone wall around his home, later learned the
improvement would raise his taxes $4 a year. My wife and I
went out and tore the whole blooming thing down.
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