Major L.M. McBride’s two-month journey from Nazi POW camp Oflag 7B to his hometown of Nelson, B.C. in early 1945

Leave a comment

By Sam McBride

My father Leigh Morgan McBride (1917-1995) enlisted for Canadian military service in 1941 immediately after graduating in law from the University of Alberta but before his bar examination, the last step before qualifying as a lawyer.  With his maturity, education and achievements, he was taken on for officer training, including time at Gordon Head near Victoria, B.C. and Currie Barracks in Calgary, Alberta.


Leigh M. McBride and his brother Kenneth G. McBride, both proud to be officers of the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada.  Family photo.

As a lieutenant, he led his Seaforth Highlanders of Canada unit ashore in the Allied landings at Pachino in the southwest tip of Sicily.  It was the largest amphibious invasion in history, and destined to be exceeding size a year later with the D-day invasion of the French coast.   The invasion could have been a bloodbath like Dieppe the previous summer, but at that point Italians were turning away from Mussolini, and as a result surrendered in large numbers to the Allies.  The situation changed dramatically when Germany sent some of its best troops to stop the Allied advance.  Leigh was in the thick of the fighting against the Germans until being hit in the shoulder by a bullet.  He later said he was fortunate that the bullet did not hit any bones in his shoulder, but the wound must have been substantial, as he was sent to an Allied hospital in North Africa via Malta for treatment.   He returned to his regiment in  November, and was in at the forefront of the Allied advance to Ortona, which would be one of the bloodiest battles of the war, commonly known as “little Stalingrad” after the gigantic victory of the Russians over their German attackers by the Volga River.   I remember Leigh often talking about the extraordinary Christmas dinner that the Seaforths enjoyed in a church in Ortona.  As per military tradition, on Christmas he and other officers were the waters and servers of the privates, corporals and sergeants.  Thirty years later, in April 1975, he visited the re-built church with Seaforth buddies who were at the famous dinner, including the quartermaster Borden Cameron of Vancouver who organized the food and drink for that event which went on just a few blocks from where vicious street-fighting was going on between the two sides.


Leigh met a fellow Nelsonite while in North Africa for treatment of a bullet wound to his shoulder.  Nelson Daily News

The hilly terrain in Sicily and mainland Italy was such that the advantage was almost always with the defending forces.  On May 23, 1944 Leigh and his men were part of an ambitious attack on the Hitler Line.  That day is remembered as his hometown city of Nelson’s Black Day of the War, as two Nelson boys (Priv. Ray Hall and Priv. Jack Wilson) were killed, and two others (Leigh and Priv. Joe “Bud” Dyck) went missing.  Both were seriously wounded and were hospitalized at Italian and later German hospitals.  Word came through the International Red Cross in July that Bud was alive and recovering in a German POW camp, but it was not until September 20, 1944 – four months after going missing – that his parents were advised that he was alive in a German POW camp, recovering from serious wounds, including schrapnel to his legs, arms and face, and the permanent loss of his left eye.  In response to a request for the Regimental History of the Seaforth Highlanders, Leigh wrote about the fateful day he was captured (see the November 4, 2019 posting in this blog).

pow article in local Nelson newspaperLeigh received treatment at a hospital in Rome before being sent by train for medical care in Germany, followed by time in prisoner of war camps.  I am not sure how many POW camps he went to, but once when I visited Regensberg as part of Western Europe he said “oh, I was in a prison in Regensberg”.   His last camp before repatriation was Oflag 7B (VIIB) north of Munich.  This was a camp for Allied officers.  He describes his experiences at this camp and others in newspaper interviews conducts as he was returning home in February 1945, and later in presentations in Nelson in March and April 1945.

He knew as early as October 1944 that the extent of his wounds made him a good candidate for a prisoner exchange and repatriation.  His parents worked tirelessly to get packages of supplies, particularly food, to him through the Red Cross, which was trusted by the Germans.

His repatriation was confirmed on about January 11, 1945 when he was at the German military centre Heilig Annaburg near Berlin, where he was photographed in a group with other injured Allied officers about to head home in prisoner exchanges.

My dad rarely went to movies, but he did make a point of taking our family to a drive-in theatre in Spokane, Washington in 1970 to see the movie “Patton”, where much of the story involved the Allied push across Siciliy and the conflicting egos of American General Patton and British General Montgomery.   I suspected his Seaforth Highlander friends recommended the move, and he told me it was very well done.  I don’t think he ever saw the movie “The Great Escape”, and I never heard comments about it from him one way or the other.   That escape concluded in May 1944 just a couple of weeks before he was captured.  Hitler’s vengeful act of having 50 of the escapers shot would have been one more reason for the next-of-kin of POWs to be worried about getting them back.

In retrospect, they had good reason to worry.  On April 14, 1945 a group of British and Commonwealth officers was being marched away from the camp when they were attacked by an American warplane which mistook them for German troops.  Fourteen of the POW officers were killed and 46 wounded.  The camp was liberated by the U.S. Army two days later.

aug 16 180030

Leigh’s mail card from Oflag 7B POW camp.  It may have arrived in Nelson after he was home.

Leigh occasionally watched the TV comedy “Hogan’s Heroes” and enjoyed it.  He said while in one POW camp he played chess with a German guard who looked a bit like Sgt. Schultz in the show.  Through the efforts of his parents, Leigh was able to get law books included in his Red Cross packages which he read in preparation for the bar exam he would be taking after returning from the war.


German Christmas card image from Oflag 7B

After his prisoner exchange was confirmed, he left Heilig Annaburg by train for the Swiss border.  As a result of Allied bombing, rail trips took about four times longer than normal.  He became officially free in Constance, Switzerland.  From there he was taken to the port of Marseilles, which had been liberated in the Allied invasion of southern France in the fall of 1944.  The Red Cross ship “Gripsholm” took him to New York, where he and other freed Canadian were taken in a sealed railway car to Toronto, and headed west from there on the Canadian Pacific Railway.  Reporters met them at several locations along the way, but, as part of the repatriation agreement, they could only comment on the help provided by the Red Cross, which Leigh and others were happy to do.

heilig annaburg near Berlin jan 7-14 45b

In repatriation group, Leigh is top row, third from left, at Heilig Annaburg.  Below, photo of the same facility today by Brennen Jensen of Maryland, whose late father is four in, front row.  Brennen contacted me when he saw that I had posted on an online site the same Heilig Annaburg photograph that his dad brought home from his own repatriation.

pic from brennenWhen he finally got to Vancouver he was greeted by his mother Winnifred Foote McBride, who had not seen him for almost three years.  The reunion was particularly poignant because her other son, Capt. Kenneth Gilbert McBride, also with the Seaforth Highlanders, was killed in action near Rimini on Sept. 16, 1944 when his jeep ran over a German mine.


z leigh fix win returnbb

Winnie McBride greeting her son Leigh at Vancouver CPR station.  She probably asked the Sun newspaper to send her the print when they were finished with it for printing purposes.

From Vancouver, mother and son made their way home to Nelson on the Kettle Valley Railway, arriving in the evening of Feb. 28, 1945 to an enthusiastic welcome party of family, friends, the mayor and other dignitaries.  In the coming weeks he was in strong demand as a speaker at service club meetings, and an extensive interview with the Nelson Daily News.

sep 3b 190006

leigh pow story

may 25 190016


After passing his bar exam he began his career as a lawyer in Nelson.  He was never the same physically after the war, as he had nerve damage and hearing loss as well as adapting to life with vision in just one eye.  He once showed me where schrapnel was still in his leg because it would be dangerous to remove it.  This was painful for him, but he never complained about it, as he remembered so many fellow soldiers who had more serious injuries or died in the war.  In the late 1960s his cousin (and former law partner in Nelson) Judge Blake Allan told him he could get an appointment as a judge if he wanted, but Leigh declined the opportunity because, as he told me, it would not be fair to soft-spoken defendants if he could not hear them.

Each year until the 1970s Leigh would travel to the Shaughnessy Veterans Hospital in Vancouver for examination by doctors there.  In 1969 he moved to Trail to begin working as a lawyer for the large mining and smelting company, Cominco Ltd.   In addition to golf, his hobby in retirement was reading books about Italian art and architecture, an interest he developed while participating in the 30th anniversary of Canadians in the Italian Campaign in 1975.  Within a couple of years after retiring from Cominco I 1982 Leigh contracted Parkinson’s Disease, which got progressively worse and resulted in him in 1990 going to a care home in Trail, where he died August 8, 1995 – exactly 42 years after being wounded in Sicily.


pow talk 001


The Christmas dinner he mentions in his talk to the Nelson Rotary Club would become famous as the Seaforth Highlanders’ 1943 church dinner in the middle of the Battle of Ortona.

mcb apr 17 20160006

On these maps of German POW camps, Leigh circled the camps where he spent time as a prisoner, and noted the site of his repatriation.

mcb apr 17 20160007


mcb apr 17 20160008



leigh pow stories

feb 12 100027

menu on M.S. Gripsholm, page one

feb 12 100028

menu on Gripsholm, page 2

pow 001

front page of newsletter for relatives of Canadian POW’s

pow 2

from POW newsletter

pow 11

Oflag 7B mentioned in POW relatives newsletter, December 1944

pow 6

Oflag 7B again mentioned in Canadian POW relatives newsletter



Oflag 7B facilities today, used for police training


30th anniversary reunion in 1975 of Canadian soldiers in Italy in Second World War

Leave a comment

By Sam McBride

The “Canadians in Italy” reunion of Canadian veterans who served in the Italian Campaign in World War Two was held in Sicily and mainland Italy between April 22, 1975 and May 3, 1975, commemorating the 30th anniversary.

dec 23 20180001

Cover of souvenir album of the reunion.  Photo by John Evans is of Canadian veterans beside reflecting pool during ceremony at Cassino War Cemetery.  Published by Minister of Supply and Services Canada 1976.




Approximately 300 veterans joined with the official party led by the Hon. Daniel Joseph MacDonald (1918-1980), minister of veteran affairs, other dignitaries and a selection of young people from across Canada.  Participants included the three Victoria Cross recipients from the campaign: John K. Mahoney; Paul Triquet and E.A. “Smoky” Smith.

dec 23 20180004

itinerary, page 1

itinerary, page 2.  Also in the schedule were “Briefings in Ottawa and arrival in Rome, April 20-22, 1975”.

During the war Minister MacDonald was a sergeant in the Italian Campaign with the Prince Edward Island Highlanders, and later the Cape Breton Highlanders.  He lost an arm and a leg in the bitter fighting December 21, 1944 for Coriano Ridge in the assault on the Gothic Line.  Today, the headquarters of Veterans Affairs Canada in Charlottetown is named in his honour: the Daniel J. MacDonald Building.

may 1 19 scans0002

photos with caption information from Veterans Affairs published in the Nelson, B.C. Daily News in May 1975.  Leigh McBride was born and raised in Nelson before moving to nearby Trail, B.C. in 1969.

may 1 19 scans0001

another photo with caption in the Nelson Daily News, May 1975




ortona pic0001It was the first time Canadian vets returned as a group to the scene of the fierce battles of their youth, and paid their respects to fallen comrades in cemeteries from Agira in Sicily to Argentan north of Ravenna on the Adriatic Coast.  According to Veterans Affairs information at the time, a total of 91,500 Canadians served in Sicily and Italy, of whom 25,254 were casualties, including 5,900 killed in action.

jan11 180012

Seaforth Highlanders Leigh McBride (left) and Borden Cameron (right) with General Bert Hoffmeister (middle) during a side trip to Venice. Family photo.

The tour was described as a “pilgrimage”, and included events in famous names such as Salerno, Naples, Rome, Anzio, Cassino, Ortona, Bari, Reggio, Ragusa, Catania, Florence, Rimini and Ravenna, and 25 cemeteries.

There was some overlap with other ceremonies for a separate commemoration: the country of Italy’s 30th anniversary of the liberation from German rule in 1945.


Welcomed by local residents.  Family photo.

I recall that my father, retired Major Leigh Morgan McBride (1917-1995) of the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, initially did not want to go to the “Canadians in Italy Reunion”.  After coming home to Nelson, British Columbia in 1945 he preferred to put the war experience behind him, though he maintained strong friendships with several Seaforth veterans such as his commanding officer Col. Syd Thomson (who was my godfather), Captain D. Borden Cameron and Major John McLean.

Leigh suffered a bullet wound in his shoulder in the Allied invasion of Sicily in August 1943, and then May 23, 1944 at Cassino he suffered shrapnel wounds to his arms, legs and face that resulted in the loss of his right eye.  The only survivor of his unit, he was found unconscious by German soldiers, and taken to hospital in Rome for treatment, and then to prisoner of war camps in Germany.  He returned to Canada in February 1945 in a prisoner exchange.  On September 16, 1944, while Leigh was at the Oflag 7B prison camp, his younger brother, Capt. Kenneth Gilbert McBride (1920-1944) was killed near Rimini when his carrier vehicle ran over a road mine.

jan11 180010

Posing for photo with local residents.  Family photo.

With strong encouragement from Borden Cameron (the quartermaster who organized the famous Seaforth Christmas 1943 dinner at the Ortona church in the middle of the battle), Leigh decided to attend the reunion.   He was particularly looking forward to visiting brother Ken’s grave in Coriano Ridge Cemetery near Riccione for the first time.   Paying his respects at Ken’s grave was an extremely moving experience for him, as it was for me when I visited the cemetery as a tourist in 2005.  This posting includes a candid photo Borden took of Leigh standing by the gravestone and reflecting on Ken’s death, which was devastating for their parents, particularly mother Winnie who never recovered from the shock, as well as Leigh, other relatives and Ken’s many friends.

On September 20, 1944 the parents were thrilled to hear the news that Leigh, who had been missing for four months, was alive and in a POW camp.  They were still celebrating two days later when a telegram came that said Ken had died six days earlier.  The main reason why news of Leigh being alive and a POW was slow to reach Canadian authorities was because was being treated in German hospitals during most of the “missing” period, and the usual mechanism of informing via the Red Cross was not available in hospitals as it was in POW camps.

jan11 180014 - Copy

Remembrance ceremony under way.  Family photo.

Participants in the tour got from place to place in sleek Fiat buses.  Leigh told his family he was extremely impressed with how Italy had recovered from the war, when people were starving and living in dilapidated homes damaged by the warfare.  He particularly enjoyed side trips to Venice and Mount Etna.  The experience led him to become an aficionado of Italian art and architecture.  Unfortunately, by the time he retired from his job with the legal department of Cominco Ltd.

leigh with seaforth buddies 1975

Borden Cameron, Leigh McBride and fellow veterans.  Family photo.

In retrospect, the 30th anniversary was probably the best time for the reunion in Italy to be held, as participants were generally still in good health, were advanced enough in their careers to be able to take a couple of weeks off work, and could afford the cost of the flights to and from Italy and other expenses not covered by Veterans Affairs or the local hosts.

jan11 180005

Leigh joins other tourists during a side trip to Venice in late April 1975..

Leigh would not have been able to attend a 40th anniversary reunion in 1985 because he was suffering from the early stages of Parkinsons Disease.  Ten years later he died at age 77 in a care home in Trail on August 12, 1995, a couple of months after the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Italy.


1942 photo of Leigh McBride (left) and his brother Ken, who was killed in action near Rimini in September 1944 and is buried at Coriano Ridge Cemetery.  Family photo.

As part of the publicity associated with the reunion, Veterans Affairs distributed photos with identification and caption information to the local newspapers of participants.  Both the Nelson Daily News and the Trail Daily Times ran the material in early May 1995, and the Trail paper passed on the photo prints to Leigh for the family album, from which I am very pleased to be able to scan and share images in this posting.  Local residents, some of whom lived through the war years, showed their Canadian visitors heartfelt welcomes and appreciation, as shown in several of the photos.  A highlight was a parade of the Canadian veterans through Rimini to a response by locals that was described by writer Maurice Western in the May 15, 1975 Saskatoon Star-Phoenix newspaper as “tumultuous”.

dec 20 180003

Leigh McBride, seeing his brother Ken’s grave for the first time at Coriano Ridge Cemetery.  Photo taken by Borden Cameron.  Family photo.

jan11 180011

jan11 180006

ceremony at Coriano Ridge Cemetery.  Family photo.

dec 20 180004



dec 20 180005

Cemetery ceremony.  Family photo.



Wood Vallance Hardware Company was a dominant retail enterprise in Nelson, B.C. and region from 1904 until 1989


by Sam McBride

For most of the twentieth century, the Wood Vallance Hardware Company Limited based in Nelson, British Columbia was a household name in the city, and reached out to customers throughout southeastern B.C. and worked with suppliers from as far west as Victoria, B.C. and east to Montreal, Quebec.

thumbnail_Sandon Byers1b

1902 bill from Byers Hardware in Sandon, which operated until 1904 when Wood Vallance Hardware arrived and centralized hardware facilities in Nelson.  Image courtesy Ed Mannings.

The corporate story for Wood Vallance began with the company’s formation in 1849 in Hamilton, Ontario.  The story of Wood Vallance in the West Kootenay arose from the winding down of business of the predecessor company in the region, the H. Byers Hardware Company, which had hardware stores in the mining boom towns of Sandon, Kaslo and Nelson.


Original Byers Hardware store in Nelson at Baker and Josephine streets.  Touchstone Archivess

G. Walter McBride, a London, Ontario native who gained extensive experience in the hardware was  business in St. Louis and later in Calgary and then Rossland, was chosen as receiver for the bankruptcy proceedings.  The business opportunity attracted the interest of the Wood Vallance Hardware Company Limited, which purchased the business from Hamilton Byers.  The new company would be an autonomous subsidiary of the Wood Vallance group which included substantial operations in Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver as well as Hamilton.

wd vallance storeearly

Wood Vallance store in Nelson, about 1920s.  From McBride family collection.

In April 1904 the new Nelson-based Wood Vallance Company shut down the Sandon store, sold the Kaslo store, and expanded the premises of the former Byers store on Baker Street to be a prominent business in the field of industrial, commercial and household hardware, including sales of  mining and forestry supplies for the region.

thumbnail_Nelson Wood Vallance1b

1906 bill for the Hume Hotel.  Owner J. Fred Hume was a major customer of Wood Vallance Hardware, and a close friend of R.L. McBride and Roy Sharp.  Image courtesy of Ed Mannings.

Walter McBride sold his Rossland store and came to work for Wood Vallance in Nelson as manager, with his nephew Roland Leigh McBride – who had gained experience working with hardware stores in Calgary, Rossland and Sandon – was appointed assistant to the manager.  Also working in the new business was Roy Sharp, who had worked at the Byers store in Nelson since 1901 and was given the job of driving a one-horse delivery wagon.  Also joining the staff were well-known Nelson businessman and sportsman Alf Jeffs, and Alex Leith, who came to Nelson from the Wood Vallance office in Hamilton to serve as secretary-treasurer of the new operation.

1990-013-010 - Copy - Copy.jpg

float in Nelson parade, about 1930.  McBride Family Collection

R.L. McBride and Roy Sharp would continue as a team at Wood Vallance until they retired together in 1950 after 46 years of service.  Jeffs would work for 44 years until retiring in 1948.


Thousands of products were in the 650-page Wood Vallance catalogue.  Touchstone Archives

Walter McBride was manager for 20 years before retiring in 1925, succeeded as manager and later president of the company by R.L. McBride.

gw mcb died oct 13 1926

G.W. McBride, first Wood Vallance manager, died Oct. 13, 1925.  He was a half-brother of my great-grandfather Richard McBride of London, Ontario.  Touchstone Archives

Alex Leith worked for Wood Vallance in Nelson until his death in 1932 – one week before his retirement was scheduled to begin.  In 1919-1920 Leith and R.L. McBride were among the founders of the Nelson golf course,  and he would serve several years as President of the club and donate the Alex Leith Trophy which went to the Nelson club champion until the Ken McBride Memorial Trophy was established in 1945.


The Wood Vallance Trophy in Kimberley was one of many sports-related sponsorships and donations over the years.  It continues to be awarded in annual tournaments. From Nelson Daily News, 1943.

In 1906 the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada Ltd (also known as CM&S, and later as Cominco and then Teck) was incorporated.  This included the smelter in Trail and associated mines in West Kootenay as well as the huge Sullivan Mine orne Kimberley in the Sullivan Mine.  The CPR-owned company would eventually become the largest non-ferrous smelter in the world and a huge success, but in its early days its finances were shaky because of problems in processing the complex lead-zinc ore, as it had to be hand-sorted in a very inefficient assembly line.


Wood Vallance long-service staff recognized in 1961 photo display.  Touchstone Archives.

Around 1910 CM&S was short of funds, and about to go under because no one would offer them credit.  The one supplier that gave them credit was the Nelson-based Wood Vallance Hardware Company.  This help was greatly appreciated by CM&S, and the start of an extraordinary, mutually beneficial, unofficial relationship between the two companies. Tom Lymbery writes about it in his book “Tom’s Gray Creek: A Kootenay Lake Memoir, Part Two”.  The remarkable connection lasted until the 1980s.


Wood Vallance share certificate. Touchstone Archives.



December 1949 Wood Vallance staff photo and identification.  Touchstone Archives.

In addition to using Wood Vallance as a supplier, Cominco would contract Wood Vallance to handle part of its Purchasing function, for industrial supplies like rails and steel.   As part of the enduring strong relationship, manager and president R.L. McBride would travel from Nelson to Trail every Thursday to meet CM&S executives and staff about purchasing requirements.

By the 1920s Cominco had developed differential flotation processing technology that made the Sullivan mine profitable, and they expanded by leaps and bounds, with Wood Vallance growing along with them.


Nelson Daily News June 8, 1972.  Touchstone Archives.

Tom Lymbery noted that “Wood Vallance gave us excellent service, and the range of stock was amazing”.

“These days we would need at least 20 suppliers to obtain the stock we were receiving in our weekly shipments from Wood Vallance,” Lymbery wrote, recalling decades of Wood Vallance business with his family at the Gray Creek Store.


A corporate change in 1963 enabled purchase of shares by employees.  Touchstone Archives.

Of the original 1904 staff, Alf Jeffs retired in 1948 and died in 1950.  R.L. McBride and Roy Sharp retired together in 1950.

Sharp died in 1953 and McBride in 1959.  Lifelong friends as well as work colleagues, they and family members are buried with memorial stones side-by-side in Nelson Memorial Park.

By the 1980s the business world had changed, and the stewards of the company agreed that it should wind down as a corporation, with final pay-outs to employees and final dividends for shareholders.


1972 long-service staff photo display.  Touchstone Archives.

Subsequently, the name Wood Vallance has been used for storefronts, but the corporate entity of the past is long gone.  In retrospect, Wood Vallance had a significant role in Nelson’s transition from a boom-and-bust mining town to a regional centre of commerce and administration.

List of Wood Vallance shareholders in 1972. Touchstone Archives.

The two-page corporate history below was written during the World War Two years, with the final section added as an update towards the company’s 75th anniversary in 1979.

pg1 wv

first page of 2-page Wood Vallance corporate history

pg2 wv

second page of 2-page corporate history


Experimenting with photo scenes with friends in pioneer Nelson, BC


by Sam McBride

My paternal grandmother Winnifred Foote was a camera buff who enjoyed experimenting with photography with friends in the early 1900s in Nelson, BC.

Here are some pics in various settings and posings of her friends Roy Sharp, Emily Wilkinson, Dr. Wilmott Steed and an unidentified lady with Wilmott which I originally thought was his future wife Elizabeth “Bessie” Lillie but I learned it was someone else.  The year was likely between 1908 and 1910.  You can imagine that at some point in the afternoon the subjects of the photos told Winnie that enough was enough.

march 29 2017 scans0017b

from left, Roy Sharp, Emily Wilkinson, Wilmott Steed and unidentified lady.  Approx. 1908 photo by Winnie Foote.

On September 5, 1911 Roy and Wilmott were ushers at the wedding of my grandfather R. Leigh McBride and Eva Hume, who was Winnie’s best friend.  A year later, on September 11, 1912, Roy and Emily married.  Just a week later, on September 18, 1912, Wilmott and Elizabeth married.  Tragically, Eva Hume McBride died due to childbirth complications on November 23, 1912.  Two years later, on December 23, 1914, Winnifred and R. Leigh McBride married.

march 29 2017 scans0018The three couples would remain close friends in Nelson for life.  Their children would be childhood playmates, as the Sharps and Steeds were both just a few houses away from the McBride house at 708 Hoover Street, where Winnie took numerous photos of Dawn Sharp as well as Graham, Jack and Edna Steed bicycling and playing with young Leigh and Ken McBride.

march 29 2017 scans0014Roy was a close colleague of R.L. McBride at the Wood Vallance Hardware Company for almost 50 years, and is best known in local history as the Father of the Nelson Midsummer Curling Bonspiel, which was a huge event when I was growing up in Nelson.  Wilmott was the first of several generations of Nelson dentists.   Details of the lives of R.L. and Win McBride are in previous postings in this blog.  The stories of the Steed and Sharp couples are summarized in their obituaries published in the Nelson Daily News.

may 5 180025

march 29 2017 scans0019.jpg










willmott steed obit














R.L. McBride (1881-1959) of Nelson BC was head of the Wood Vallance Hardware business and a tireless volunteer at the Nelson Golf Course and in many charities

Leave a comment

By Sam McBride

My grandfather Roland Leigh McBride (1881-1959) was an interesting fellow who had a large role in the business and sports scene in Nelson, BC  in the first half of the 20th century.  Born in London, Ontario, he worked for three years as a CPR ticket agent, and then his hopes and ambition led him to move west in 1900 to Calgary and then on to southeastern British Columbia and the gold-mining boom-town Rossland, where he worked as a hardware store clerk.

mcbride kids

R.L. McBride, on right, was known by middle name Leigh from early years

He moved to Sandon in 1903 to work for Byers Hardware, and ended up a year later in Nelson at the start-up of the new Wood Vallance Hardware operation which would dominate the region`s hardware store business for several generations.  He rose to manager in 1924 and then president of Wood Vallance, and retired in 1950 after 46 years with the company.

rl aug 160004

R.L. McBride in Rossland, c. 1902

In local directories in the early 1900s, R.L. McBride was listed as a “traveller“, as he had a commercial travellers license and was often on the road meeting with potential and continuing suppliers and customers, as far west as Victoria and east to Montreal.

rl with collar jpgHis roster of personal contacts amounted to thousands across the country.  He used the opportunity of extensive travelling time on sternwheelers and trains to get to know fellow passengers and discuss their hardware needs with them – feedback he used in making decisions on what items to stock and pricing.

rl and picnic folk

Second from right, enjoying tea party on Nelson beach

His nephew Judge Blake Allan told me once that R.L. had an ebullient personality and was extraordinarily popular in the community.  “If he was in politics, nobody could have beaten him,“ Blake said.  I was just seven years old when he died in 1959, but I well remember his gentle friendliness and sense of humour.

During his years in charge of Wood Vallance, the company had an ongoing contract with the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada Limited (Cominco — now Teck) to manage its purchasing function.  In this regard, R.L. worked closely with Cominco CEO S.G. Blaylock for more than a decade, often taking his sons with him on visits to Blaylock at the Trail smelter, which grew dramatically in the 1920s to become the largest lead-zinc production complex in the world.


R.L. McBride in Ward Street in Nelson, B.C., c. 1920s

As a businessman, McBride was ahead of his time in emphasizing customer service, marketing the Wood Vallance brand, and corporate sponsorship of local sports and charities.

In his early years in Nelson McBride was a keen curler, and played hockey with the Wood Vallance team in the local commercial league.  In 1908 he was elected president of the Nelson Hockey Club.  This was an exciting time for hockey in Nelson, as the superstar players of that era, Lester and Frank Patrick, were living in Nelson, and hopes were high that  Nelson might actually win the Stanley Cup.  Unfortunately, for various reasons – including a dispute about refereeing — that never happened.  While he apparently did not participate further in management of the hockey club, he was an avid Nelson Maple Leafs fan for the rest of his life.

rl mason 1914 001

R.L. McBride was a proud member of the all-male Nelson Masonic Lodge, and the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite.  It is noteworthy that many of his friends, business colleagues and customers were also Masons, including Roy Sharp, Wilmott Steed, J. Fred Hume, and J.D. McBride.  His wife Winnifred Foote belonged to an affiliated organization, the Order of the Easter Star

rl freemasn 1 001On Sept 7, 1911 my grandfather married Eva Mackay Hume, daughter of prominent hotelier and politician J. Fred Hume and wife Lydia, in an elaborate wedding at the Hume summer home across the lake from Nelson known as Killarney-on-the-Lake.  Tragically, Eva and premature baby daughter Marjorie Dawn McBride died a year later from childbirth complications.

In December 1914 R.L. McBride married Eva`s best friend Winnifred May Foote (1889-1960), and their two children were my dad Leigh Morgan McBride (1917-1995) and brother Kenneth Gilbert McBride (1920-1944).  The story in my family was that on her deathbed Eva encouraged Win to get together with R.L. after her death.  I recently heard from a niece of Eva’s that her mother Freeda Hume Bolton told her that Eva whispered in R.L.’s ear “marry Winnifred”.  Through the ensuing years, the McBrides and Humes continued their friendship.

rl aug 160017

R.L. as a young father

R.L. McBride`s friends called him by his middle name Leigh, but within the family we called him R.L. to distinguish him from my dad Leigh.

In the spring of 1919 he was a driving force behind purchase of farmland in the hilly Rosemont section of Nelson, and construction of the nine-hole Nelson Golf Course, financed by the sale of shares and memberships.  He served on the club executive almost continuously for the rest of his life.

rl aug 160002

R.L. hitting a drive on the Nelson Golf and Country Club, c. 1930

Through his support, Wood Vallance was a regular sponsor of golf tournaments and trophies, and he personally paid for the McBride Cup presented to the winners of tournaments for senior-aged members.  His sons shared his passion for the game, and were top rate players, particularly Ken, who won numerous Kootenay tournaments, as well as provincial championships and inter-university events as captain of the UBC golf team, prior to enlisting in the army in 1942.

feb 11 2015 transfer 463

With older son Leigh and his brother Ken

zzrl and ken 1932

with Ken in 1932

As reported in Sylvia Crooks` book “Homefront and Battlefront:  Nelson BC in World War Two“, Ken`s death in action in Italy in 1944 was a tremendous shock to the community, particularly his  parents, who were never the same as a result.

Copy (2) of Leigh,KenandR.L.McBride[1]

Both Leigh (left) and Ken were officers in the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada regiment.  Ken died in action, and Leigh was seriously wounded, taken prisoner and to hospital by the Germans, and returned to Nelson in a prisoner exchange in February 1945.

Funds were raised within the golf club for a silver shield known as the Ken McBride Memorial Trophy, presented to winners of the Nelson Labour Day tournament starting immediately after the war ended in September 1945.

rl mcbride retirement news

Daily News report of retirement of R.L. McBride and Roy Sharp in 1950

rl mcb ret0001

from Nelson Daily News, August 1950


from Nelson Daily News, August 1950

feb 12 100029

invitation to retirement reception in honour of R. Leigh McBride and Roy Sharp in 1950.  The Whimster signature is of the printer, Bert Whimster, father of Lois Arnesen and Muriel Griffiths.  McBride Family  Collection.


R.L.`s community involvement over the years included serving on the hospital board, as well as the Red Cross, the Civic Centre project board, wartime bond drives, and with the United Church and the Association of Canadian Travellers.  He was particularly active during the world war years, in charge of bond drives, Red Cross support and events that welcomed soldiers back home from battle and responded to their needs.

win and rl with friend and nasookin in back

R.L. and Win with a friend, and SS Moyie in background.  C. 1951

He was in good health until his sudden death from a stroke in March 1959.  Though she was 8 years younger, his wife Win was in poor health in her later years, so everyone assumed she would die before husband R.L.   As it turned out, she lingered in care facilities for 15 months after his passing, before dying in July 1960.

rl aug 160013

R.L. and Win McBride are buried in the Mason section of Nelson Memorial Park, next to the memorial stone for Eva Hume McBride and the premature baby who died a half century earlier.

sept 11 2014 006Also right beside the McBride gravesite is the grave of Roy Sharp and his family members.  Roy and R.L. were among the first five staff members when the Wood Vallance Hardware business began in Nelson in 1904.  Roy was always R.L.’s reliable second-in-command in the company, and the pair retired together in 1950.  Sharp was as active in the curling scene as McBride was in golf.  He served as president of the B.C. Curling Association in the 1930s, and led efforts to establish Nelson’s famous Midsummer Bonspiel.


Winnifred May Foote, born in 1889 in Perth, Ontario; came to Nelson, BC in 1900 at age 11; married R.L McBride in Nelson in 1914; died in Nelson in 1960

Leave a comment

My paternal grandmother Winnifred Mae Foote (1889-1960) was born in Perth, Ontario and came across Canada to Nelson, B.C. with her mother and sisters in 1900 to join her father Jim Foote who was working as a blacksmith at the Silver King Mine.  They lived in a rented cabin in the mine townsite before moving into Nelson in 1902 at a house by Cottonwood Creek and Hall Mines Road when Jim began working in construction with the City of Nelson.  Years later she recalled riding on the the mine’s spectacular tramway.

win camera

Win with camera beside Kootenay Lake c. 1907


She was in a camera club where members took turns posing and practising photography techniques, and she learned how to make her own prints.  Many of these photos have been safely kept over the years in family albums.  Based on the pics, she had a happy time growing up in Nelson.  She worked as a Post Office clerk before marrying R.L. McBride in December 1914.

She died when I was 8, and was in poor health when I knew her, though she retained a playful disposition.  The big tragedy of her life was the death in action of younger son Capt. Kenneth Gilbert McBride in Italy in September 1944.

Edna Steed Whiteley, a neighbor who knew Win well, told me in 2006 that Win was never the same after Ken’s death.  These pics of her were taken either in Nelson or on Prebyterian or Methodist church outings at Proctor.  The pic of her welcoming son Leigh in Vancouver in February 1945 on his way home in a prisoner exchange ran in the Vancouver Sun newspaper.

may 5 180036

Win with male friend (perhaps Wilmot Steed) in c. 1907

Win was active for many years in the Nelson IODE, the Order of the Eastern Star, the Nelson Golf Club and the Nelson Curling Club.

I recently discovered that Win played ladies ice hockey between 1910 and 1912.  She was a forward in 1910, and then moved to the goalie position.  She played on teams that competed within Nelson, and also for the team of the best Nelson players that played against ladies teams of other cities.  I was amazed to learn that she was a member of the Nelson team in 1910 that was coached by Hockey Hall of Fame player Lester Patrick, who, along with brother Frank Patrick, was among the best players of the era.  Lester may well have become involved with the team at the urging of his sister Dora Patrick, who was a player and manager of the team.


Here are some more pics of her, from her youth until later years, including the local Daily News write-up of her marriage in 1914 and her obituary (written by her son Leigh) in 1960.

may 5 180035.jpg

Win with Nelson as backdrop c. 1907


win young 001b

Win c. 1907



may 5 180025

Roy Sharpe in front, with Win Foote next from left c. 1907

may 5 180031

Win (top) with friends in a fun pose.

closeup of win and mother 001

Enter a caption



z winhorsefixed

Win on horseback c. 1907

win foote and wilmot steed

Win with friend Wilmot Steed c. 1907


print says W.M. Foote 1her si907

may 5 180037

Win at left with her sisters and parents and Mr. and Mrs. Lilly (parents of Mrs. Steed, grandparents of Edna Whiteley


IMG_3874 (1)

pic from Craig Bowlsby book “Knights of Winter, the History of Hockey in BC 1895-1911” has my grandmother Win Foote second from the right




Win Foote, in middle of ice hockey teamates 1910




z win lookng down

Win c. 1910



win and friends in pose

Win at far right with friends in Nelson








may 5b 180018

The Foote sisters c. 1908.  From left, Win, Marion, Gladys, Isabel and Lillian.



Win McBride and young Leigh[1]b

Win with baby Leigh 1918


R.L. and Win McBride c. 1915 in Nelson

win and kids in snow0001

Win with son Leigh and baby Ken 1920






z stepsfix

Win with elder son Leigh and younger son Ken in Nelson c. 1923



From left, Ken, RL, Win and Leigh




sam with rl and win and edith

Win and.L. McBride with grandson Sam McBride and R.L.’s sister Edith Monroe c. 1953



win obit (1)



win buried (1)

The pioneer Foote and McBride families of Nelson B.C.

Leave a comment

By Sam McBride

My great-grandfather John James “Jim” Foote of Perth, Ontario (about 50 miles southwest of Ottawa) arrived in Nelson , B.C. in 1899 at age 38 to work as a blacksmith at the Silver King Mine.  A year later, in 1900, his family came from Perth to join him, including 35-year-old wife Wilhelmine Edith James (known to all as Edith) and daughters Winnifred Mae Foote, 11; Lillian Maud Foote, 9; Gladys Edith Foote, 7, and Isobel Bessie Foote, 3.

Born and raised on a farm in upstate New York close to the Canadian border, Jim Foote of Perth, Ontario came west to Nelson, B.C. in 1899 to work as a blacksmith at the Silver King Mine, He later worked for the City of Nelson as a carpenter, sidewalks foreman and superintendent of works.

The family lived in a rented cabin on the Silver King Townsite, and the girls attended a makeshift school there.  In 1902 the family moved to a house at Cottonwood Creek and Hall Mines Road, about a mile from downtown Nelson.  The move may have coincided with Jim Foote moving from employment at the mine to a job with the City of Nelson.  Another big event for the family that year was the birth in Nelson on Feb. 9, 1902 of a fifth daughter Marion Louise Foote (there were never any sons in the family).

Jim Foote was born Sept. 18, 1861 in Morristown, New York (near Ogdensburg) in a family farm on the south bank of the St. Lawrence River.  The land he saw on the other side of the river was Canada.   A couple of months before his first birthday, his father, John Foot (who tended to spell his name without the “e” at the end more often than not), went off to fight in the Civil War as a private in the 142nd New York Regiment of the Union Army.    Private John Foot contracted malaria while in army service, and was wounded in the buttocks in the Battle of Appomatox in April 1865 – one of the last North casualties in the war, prior to the surrender of South General Robert E. Lee at Appomatox Courthouse.   Foot’s injuries would cause him to live in pain for the rest of his life, and his many written requests for financial compensation went unheeded.  John Foot (1825-1903), who married Elizabeth Graham (1828-1871),  was a son of John Foot (1802-?) and Isobel Bovie (1805-?) who lived in upstate New York.   While their ancestry is not known, many of the Foote population in New York is known to descend from Nathaniel Foote who came to America from England in the 1600s.

win camera

Win Foote, keen photographer  c. 1907

When he was about 24 in the mid-1880s, Jim Foote ventured into Canada in search of better prospects for his life ahead.  He arrived in Perth (about 70 miles northwest of Morristown) and met Edith James (1865-1941).  Her parents, Thomas G. James (1829-1902), and Sarah Best (1836-1888), both children of Protestant families who emigrated to Canada from Ireland (likely County Cavan) soon after the end of the War of 1812, were among the most prosperous farming families of Lanark County in North Elmsley, a small agricultural community outside of Perth.   Jim Foote and Edith James fell in love and married, despite the opposition of her parents, who thought she could have made a better choice, and only gradually came to accept the itinerant Yankee Jim Foote as a son-in-law and father of their granddaughters.

The five Foote daughters, from left: Lil, Isobel, Marion, Glad and Win

Jim Foote is listed in the 1913 city directory as Sidewalks Foreman with the city of Nelson.   The obituary in the Daily News after he died April 24, 1921 in Nelson said he was “for a number of years in charge of construction work of the city”.   My first cousin, once removed, R. Blake Allan (who was my dad’s law partner in Nelson for 20 years before his appointment as a judge in 1968, and was an enthusiastic genealogist in retirement years before his death at age 92 in Victoria in 2009) told me he remembered his grandfather Jim Foote well, and that he held the title of superintendent of construction with the city when he died.

The eldest of the daughters, Winnifred, married Roland Leigh McBride in Nelson on Dec. 21, 1914.  It was his second marriage, as he married Eva Mackay Hume (niece of Lydia Irvine Hume who she and husband J. Fred Hume adopted after her parents died) on Sept. 6, 1911 at the Hume property known as Killarney-on-the-lake across the lake from where the Chahka Mika Mall is today.  She died of childbirth complications on Nov. 23, 1912, and the baby daughter Gertrude died a few days later.   Winnifred Foote and Eva Hume were close friends, and the story in the family is that Eva on her deathbed encouraged Win to get together with R.L.

ornate wedding certificate for R.L. McBride and Win Foote.

In the community, the couple was known as Win and Leigh (he was never known by his first name Roland).

After son Leigh Morgan McBride was born on Oct. 31, 1917, the family always called the father “R.L.” to avoid confusion with the son.  Their only other child was son Kenneth Gilbert McBride born Jan. 20, 1920, and died in action in Italy on Sept. 16, 1944.  Win and R.L. moved into a house at 708 Hoover Street soon after their marriage, and remained there until R.L.’s death at 78 on May 14, 1959.  Win died at 71 on July 10, 1960.  I talked to Edna Steed Whiteley recently, and she agreed that Win never recovered from the shock and despair of losing son Ken in WW2.  My childhood memories of my paternal grandparents is that they were both in poor condition in the late 1950s, particularly Win, who had great difficulty speaking, and only wanted to play bingo with her grandchildren.  My father Leigh died in Trail August 5, 1995 after battling Parkinsons Disease for a decade.

R.L. McBride was born and raised in London, Ontario, where he worked as a ticket agent for the CPR for two years after finishing school at age 16.  His grandfather Samuel McBride (1819-1905) had come to Canada on a crowded emigrant ship from Northern Ireland at age 12 in 1831.  As a teen-ager in Brantford, upper Canada, he learned the tinsmithing trade, and joined his much younger brother Alexander McBride (1833-1912) in a retail business selling wood stoves and other metal items.   Alexander moved west to Calgary in the mid-1880s in search of cleaner air for his wife Lucy’s asthma, and established Calgary’s first hardware store under the name A. McBride and Company in the late 1880s.  By 1896 he was mayor of Calgary, and had branched out from Calgary with other hardware stores, including one in the gold-mining boom town of Rossland, British Columbia, which he hired his nephew G. Walter McBride to manage.

Within a couple of years, Walter McBride was successful enough with the store to pay off his uncle and take ownership of the Rossland store under his own name as G.W. McBride Hardware.   In 1900, 19-year-old R.L. McBride came west from Ontario to work for a few months for his great-uncle Alexander in Calgary, and then further west to work for his uncle Walter in Rossland.   He moved on to Sandon in 1903, where he worked for a year (including the winter of 1903-1904) for the Hamilton Byers Hardware store, which was one of three Byers stores in the West Kootenay.  A year later, Byers sold out to the Winnipeg-based Wood Vallance Hardware company, and the Nelson operation was managed by G.W. McBride, assisted by his nephew R.L. McBride, who succeeded to head the Nelson operation in 1924 when his uncle retired and moved to the coast.

Foote sisters in about 1905.  From left: win, Marion, Glad, Isobel and Lil

Lil Foote married Wilfred Laurier Allan (1891-1938) in Nelson on Dec. 22, 1915.  For a couple of years Wilfrid had been working at Wood Vallance Hardware in Nelson under manager George Walter McBride, who was an uncle of R.L. McBride, who would succeed his uncle Walter at top Wood Vallance man in Nelson after Walter retired in 1924.  Lil and Wilfrid’s first child, Robert Blake Allan, was born in Nelson in 1916. A year or so later, the Allans moved to Stavely, Alberta, where the Allan family had a general store.  Son James Henry Grant Allan was born in 1919 in Stavely, daughter Margot Francis Allan was born in 1922 in Stavely, and son Alexander Arthur Allan was born in 1925 in Stavely.   In 1931 Wilfrid moved his family back to Nelson as he took on the position of secretary-treasurer with Wood Vallance.  After he died in Chicago at age 47 his brother Alexander Hamilton Allan came from Stavely to Nelson to succeed Wilfrid as secretary treasurer of Wood Vallance.  In 1950 A.H. Allan would succeed the retiring R.L. McBride as Manager of Wood Vallance, continuing to lead the operation until his own retirement in the 1970s.  He died in Nelson in 1988.

Blake Allan died in Victoria in 2009, Jim Allan died in West Vancouver in 2010, and the third brother Alex Allan died in Toronto in 2010.

R.L. McBride in abt 1902 in Rossland, where he worked at his uncle’s G.W. McBride Hardware store.

After schooling in Nelson, Lil attended normal school in Vancouver and became a teacher.  She taught at Shoreacres, Renata and Harrop before joining the Central School staff in Nelson in 1912 until her marriage in 1915.  During World War Two she returned to teaching at the Lardeau district, Argenta, Kaslo, Central School in Nelson, and finally at Renata where she retired in 1953.  Daughter Margot died at age 19 in 1932.

Gladys (known as Glad in the family) Foote married Colin Argyle Moir, originally from Manitoba, in Nelson on Sept. 29, 1920.  They moved to Medicine Hat, Alberta where he worked in the farm supplies distribution business.   She died in Medicine Hat in 1966, and Colin died in 1972.  Several Nelson directories list Glad as working as a stenographer for Nelson businesses in the years after the First World War.

Dick McBride of London, Ontario visiting his son R.L. and grandson Leigh in Nelson in about 1919. Dick worked as a tinsmith, and was part of the early hardware business established by his father Samuel in partnership with Dick’s uncle Alexander McBride, who established a thriving hardware store operation based in Calgary in the late 1800s.

Isobel Foote married Arthur Edward “Eddie” Murphy (1893-1950) on Nov. 16, 1921 in Nelson.  They built a home across the lake from where the Prestige Inn is today.    Through the years there were many extended family gatherings on the beach and dock of the Murphy residence across the lake.  Both Isobel and Eddie were expert rowers who won rowing competitions on Kootenay Lake.  Even though she was the shortest of the four sisters (less than 5 feet), she was one of the best basketball players at her school.   Isobel and Eddie had several successful businesses in Nelson, including contracting, interior decorating and signage.  They did not have children.  Like her mother Edith (who died in Nelson at age 76 in 1941), Isobel was a longtime member of the Nelson Pioneers group which was for Nelson residents who had been in the city since the 1890s.  I recall her once saying she felt a bit guilty because she arrived in 1900 rather than the 1800s.  She lived until 1988 (when virtually all of the 1890s pioneers would have died), but after 1974 she had serious dementia and resided at Mount St. Francis care home.

R.L. McBride with his sons Ken (left) and Leigh in about 1936.

The four Foote sisters remained close through the years, and there were many trips back and forth between B.C. and Medicine Hat.  While Glad and Colin and Isobel and Eddie had no children of their own, they were keen aunt and uncle to five nephews.

Jim and Edith Foote’s fifth daughter – and final child – Marion Louise Foote, was born in Nelson in 1902.  A popular young lady in Nelson, Marion died of tuberculosis in 1921.  Nelson’s city directory of 1919 has Marion listed as a clerk employed by the Hudson Bay Company in Nelson.

Jim and Edith Foote and their daughters are buried at Nelson Memorial Park, except for Glad who is buried with husband Colin Moir in Medicine Hat.

R.L McBride and wife Win Foote McBride are buried at Nelson Memorial Park, next to the gravestones of Eva Hume McBride and the daughter Marjory, who lived just a couple of days after her mother died in childbirth in 1912.  Right beside the McBride graves are those of R.L.`s longtime friend and next-in-command at Wood Vallance, Roy Sharp, and his family.

The four Foote sisters in mid 1950s. From left: Glad Moir, Lil Allan, Win McBride and Isobel Murphy.  Their youngest sister Marion Foote died in 1921.



Letters of Capt. Kenneth Gilbert McBride (1920-1944) of the Seaforth Highlanders, and the Ken McBride Memorial Trophy

Leave a comment

With all that he accomplished, it is hard to believe Capt. Kenneth Gilbert McBride of the Seaforth Highlander Regiment was only 24 when he was killed in action September 16, 1944 near Rimini in the Allied offensive towards northeastern Italy in the Second World War.


Ken McBride circa 1943

Ken was renowned as an athlete and sportsman, and cherished by his family as well as many friends across Canada.  Often described as the best golfer to ever come out of the Kootenay region, he was captain of the UBC Golf Team in 1940 and 1941 and won a raft of trophies as a junior and young adult before entering military service in 1942.

He was also a provincial badminton champion, star forward of the Nelson High School basketball team, and the best billiards and snooker player in Nelson. He was also exceedingly popular in his hometown of Nelson, as well as at UBC and in his regiment.  His nicknames included Wee Kenny, Romeo and The Golden-Haired Boy.


Ken at right with brother Leigh, c. 1934

Born Jan. 20, 1920, Ken was the son of Roland Leigh McBride (1881-1959) and Winifred May Foote (1889-1960), and brother and only sibling of my father Leigh Morgan McBride 1917-1995). His father had been a founding director of the Nelson Golf and Country Club in 1919, and the whole family was extremely keen about golf.  He attended Central School, Trafalgar Junior High and the Nelson High School.  A common bond in the family was that he, Leigh, Leigh’s wife Dee Dee, and their children Ken E.L. McBride, Sam McBride and Eve McBride all had the same grade one teacher, Eileen McKenzie.


Ken with brother Leigh at left, and father R.L. McBride, c. 1942

At UBC he studied Commerce in preparation for a business career. He completed his third year of university before enlisting in the Canadian Army in 1942.  He followed his brother Leigh in officer training for the Vancouver-based regiment, the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada.  They both trained at Currie Barracks in Calgary, as well as Gordon Head on Vancouver Island, before going to Britain for further training.

Leigh was on the beaches in the Allied invasion of Sicily on July 9, 1943, and Ken arrived in Sicily a couple of weeks later.  Both were in the forefront of heavy fighting in mainland Italy, including the famous battles of Cassino and Ortona.  Both were wounded and hospitalized on at least two occasions.  In the Liri River campaign on May 23, 1944, Leigh was seriously wounded and the only survivor of a near-direct hit by a large German shell.  He lost his left eye, and had shrapnel wounds throughout his body.  He was found unconscious by German soldiers, who took him as a prisoner for treatment at a hospital in Rome and then to POW camps in Germany.  No one on the Allied side knew what had happened to him, so he was listed as Missing for three months until word came back through the Red Cross that he was alive and recovering.  His parents heard the good news on Sept. 20, 1944, but just two days later, on Sept. 22, 1944, they were notified by telegram that Ken had died a week before when his vehicle hit a mine planted by the Germans.

001The shock of Ken’s death resonated throughout Nelson, as well as UBC and in other communities in B.C. and other provinces where Ken was well-known and highly respected.  The golf club raised funds for an engraved sterling silver tray to be awarded each year to the winner of the Labour Day Open golf tournament, which was the club championship, and also recognized as the Kootenay Open championship.

His parents and then brother Leigh kept the family scrapbook through the years, as well as letters and other memorabilia.  The transcribed and annotated letters will be provided to local archives, as well as the Canadian Letters and Images Project and others interested.  The content of the letters reveals a lot about Ken and what made his special.  In addition to Ken’s letters, below are letters relating to Ken from Leigh, his friend Beattie, and his father R.L. McBride.  While some of the letters are undated, I have tried to arrange them chronologically based on content.  Also presented below is a list of the golfers who won the Ken McBride Memorial Trophy while it was offered in Labour Day Tournaments between 1945 and 1977.


example of one of Ken’s letters home


#1 – Ken’s letter to parents August 1934

TEXT ON POSTCARD: Hotel Coeur D’Alene, Spokane Wash.  The hotel with a personality.  Rates $1.50 and up.  PHOTO OF HOTEL ON FRONT. Found in hotel envelope with stamp postmarked Aug. 23, 1934.  No date on enclosed card

Dear Dad:

Having a wonderful time.  Played Manitou1 on Tues. afternoon. Played with Doc Morehouse and Ray Stimmel, a caddy at Down River2.  He played awful and he still got 93.  He said it was the first time he went over 80 in 2 years.  Played rotten.  Played the mighty Country Club today.  Dr. Geo. Williams took us out.  Took an 8 on No. 8 the first time.  Drove into the lake!

You owe me 25 cents funny3.  Got a 48 and 45!  93 net.  It’s a wonderful course.  The boy I was playing with said it was over 200 yards.  Past the tree by about 50 yards.  Playing Down River tomorrow!  With that caddie (Ray).  Playing SHGCC on Friday.


Little Mons4

1 – golf course in Spokane

2 – golf course in Spokane

3 – short form of Ken’s nickname for his dad, Funny Old Mons (Man).

4 –  Little Mons was a nickname (term of endearment, relating to the Little Man he was called in his childhood) for Ken between him and his father, along the lines of #3 above.  After Ken was killed in action in Italy in 1944 the War Graves authority gave his parents the opportunity of choosing a couple of words for his tombstone.  They chose “Little Mons”.  The parents never made it to Italy to visit Ken’s grave.  Leigh visited the grave in 1974 when he was in Italy for the 30th anniversary of “Canadian Soldiers in Italy”.  His son Ken E.L. McBride visited his uncle’s grave in about 1971, and other son Sam visited the grave in 2005.

#2 – Second postcard, Hotel Coeur D’Alene in hotel envelope with stamp postmarked Aug. 23, 1934, no date on enclosed card

Dear Dad

Yesterday Tues. afternoon went to Manitou – played terrible – got 42 on last 9.  Today at 8:15 Dr. George Williams took us out to C.C.1 – he had arranged game for us with 2 juniors – introduced to Moe and Miller – both were awfully nice.  I played about 94 in the A.M.  – one of the kid’s father a 4man took us to lunch in afternoon.  We played last nine first and I had 43 for that nine.  On the first nine I took a 47 making 90.  I took a 7 on 4 because I hooked into woods – such hopeless place that I hit it and thought it out but it came right back under a tree.  I then fanned because I could not even get to the ball – so it really was an 88 because those 2 shots did not do anything except to make conditions worse.  Friday I think we are going out again.

Moe said I had a nice swing.  All the time I have yet to hit a wood shot off tee or fairway.  @ Manitou my irons were marvellous but my woods were too awful.  Ditto putting in the last 9 @ C.C.  I got my putting touch at last.  I wish I could take a lesson from Moe in driving.  I feel ashamed of them – they are so hopeless.  On 6 I carried over the tree on the corner – got easy pars on that hole both times – took pen to Grahins and the trouble was just (END OF CARD)

1 – the Spokane Country Club Golf Course, one of the best golf courses in Spokane


Ken’s UBC Golf Team badge

#3 Ken’s Letter to parents dated Nov. 13, 1939, when he was attending University of B.C.

4413 W 9th Ave.


Dearest Dad:

Thanks a million for your telegram – I got a big thrill out of getting it.  I didn’t know how you could know so soon, as I only played my match on Wed. and I received your wire on Thursday but from your letter I guess my name was on the radio – sure enough!  I also had another big thrill as Mayor N.C. Stibbs1 sent me a telegram, which I am enclosing with yours.  It was swell of him to do such a thing, so I wish you would keep these two telegrams for me.  Thanks for the paper – I received quite a write-up in the Nelson paper and please cut out the write up in to-nite’s Province (Sat.) as it is quite good.  The heading is about the Varsity golfers going to California after exams next April.  I Hope we do make the trip and I think we will as everybody thinks it a great idea.


telegram sent by Nelson mayor Stibbs congratulating Ken on UBC tourney win.

But I must tell you about the finals.  I started very poorly – missed three drives in a row and I couldn’t quite click the first nine so I found myself three down.  Swinton had a 38 (par 36) but birdied the tenth and we halved the 11th, 12th in pars and I was stymied on the 13th so I was 3 down and on the 14th Hans had a 3 and I had a birdie so I was four down.  15th halved in one over par, 16th I won with a one over par when he missed a short putt and the same thing happened on the 17th and I won the 18th with a beautiful approach that should have dropped so I was only one down at lunch but I thought for sure I would be more down. I was hitting long drives in the second nine but my putting wasn’t as good as it should have been.

We started at the 10th after lunch because of the large crown on the 1st tee.  We halved the 10th, 11th, 12th w pars and I won the 13th with a one over par 5 and we halved the par 5 14th in birdies.  I won 15th with a par 4 to go one up for the first time but I lost two holes in a row where I had easy chances for pars – just sloppy and we halved the 18th in 3’s so I was still one down but I birdied the 1st with a four and lost the 2nd when I was very close to the green with my tee shot (par 4) and on the next 3 holes I was within 6 feet of the cup with my second shots and I didn’t can any of them – disgusting!  On the 4th hole I was still one down so I gambled and played a tremendous shot over trees on a dog-leg.  I really smacked it a terrific wallop.  I won that hole and I won the 6th with a 3 to go one up and then I muffed a short niblick but he 3 putted and I won the 35th with a par to win the tournament.  I had a 75 in the afternoon and a 78 in the morning but I didn’t sink a putt over 3 feet – they just wouldn’t drop.  I was hitting the ball further than I had ever done before so you can realize how far they were going.  The kid that refereed said he couldn’t understand how I hit them so far – he weighs about 200.  He used to be (about 2 years ago) one of the very best in Vancouver, and he told me that he had never seen anyone ever hit drives any better than I did on Wednesday.  I was the man of the hour this last week out at Varsity, so I was very proud of myself.  I’m not going to play any more golf now until after Christmas as the exams are only 3 ½ weeks away and I’ve got to dig in harder than ever.

The tux is super!  It fits very well and I look like a handsome Romeo in it but I find that a tux isn’t the most comfortable thing in the world but I liked wearing it.  I took Marg. To the Arts-Aggie Formal last Thursday – sent her a corsage too!  It sure is wonderful feeling to wear a tux the first time in one’s life – I really felt dressed up.

I have seen a lot of Mother but not quite as much as I would have liked to but I’m going to spend all to-morrow afternoon with her – she’s leaving on Monday I believe, and she’s very pleased with her new teeth and is feeling fine2.

It will be swell to get back home for Christmas and see the Funny Old Mons3 again.



P.S.  I guess I have broken my 2 year jinx in golf so watch my smoke next year.


1 – Norman C. Stibbs, Mayor of Nelson, B.C. 1938-1946

2 – While getting dental work in Vancouver, Ken’s mother Winifred may have been staying with her sister Josie Rollins who lived in Vancouver.

3 – Ken’s childhood name for his father R.L. McBride


#4 — K.G. McBride letter to parents

University of British Columbia

2594 Wallace Crescent

Vancouver, B.C.

Jan. 30, 1941

Dearest Dad and Mother

Gosh how can I ever thank you for such a wonderful 21st birthday present!  If only I could talk to you and tell you how much I think of it – your taste is perfect as I knew it would be.  I think everyone in the University has seen it.  I had lectures all day yesterday and couldn’t get home until 6:00, but did I ever run home from the bus.  Golly, I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited or so nervous in all my life when I was unwrapping your parcel – then I saw the Big Ben Alarm Box, I think my face fell a foot but when I saw the watch!  Gosh I wish I could have been home with you.  Thanks a million times over.  I’ve never seen a finer watch in all my life, and it’s a Bulova too – oh boy.  I set it last nite with the radio and comes over the radio – “it is now 6:15 Bulova Watch Time”.  I certainly got a thrill when he said that.

But I’m telling you the truth – it has not gained or lost a second for 24 hours.  Oh it is a beautiful watch and never fear that I shall lose it ‘cause I won’t – it means far too much to me1.  It represents the finest Father and Mother in the world and all I hope is that I can be worthy of both of you and make as much a success of my life as you have.  I really mean that!  I shall always have that watch.  I sure like the strap and the gold letters.  I’m sending you home the card that came with my watch – I want you to be sure and keep it for me or put it in the Scrap book.  Please don’t lose it.

I haven’t been able to write you for about 6 days because I had the German Measles and I was quarantined in the house and the Doctor told me to avoid allowing the germ to spread anywhere.  My internment lasted until Tuesday evening – the night before my birthday.  By the way, I did a great deal of studying while I had the measles.  The Doctor said it wouldn’t hurt my eyes as I had a very light case – my body only had a rash for 1 day.  I felt fine all the time – didn’t even have to go to bed.  I was awfully glad that I was out for my birthday.  I celebrated by drinking a few beers – very moderate though.  I saved 2.50 and bought beers with that for 5 of us (3 frat brothers and Jim).

Leigh2 sent me a very nice letter and I appreciate it immensely.  I really think he is my best friend – we get along beautifully now.  I had 3 letters inside of a week from him.  All in all it was a very wonderful birthday.  If my finances hadn’t been so low I would have phoned home to you, but I didn’t, and I didn’t want to reverse the charges.  Never have I wanted to be with you more – it was super of you.  This letter must sound very disjointed but I’m very thrilled so I guess you’ll have to forgive the bad grammar in places.

Say I got my uniform to-day and I look O.K. in it – also my first stripe.  I’m going to get one of the fellows in the house to take my picture in it soon and send it home to you.  It will save my clothes and shoes a great deal.

I move into the Phi Delt3 House to-morrow nite – it should be swell.  I shall study harder and you will note the fact by my final marks – I promise you.

Well I must close now so thanks a million Dad and Mom.  I’ve never had such a thrill in all my life and I look at it every ten seconds.  Your taste couldn’t have been better.


I love you both.

Lots of love


ATTACHED CARD:  PRINTED TEXT: A Gift for Your Birthday.  This little gift does not come alone – with it are a host of good wishes for your birthday.  HANDWRITING: Ken with lots of love Mother and daddy.

1 – After Ken died from a road mine explosion in September 1944, his parents received a list of his possessions from army authorities.  The list included a Bulova watch (damaged).  It is possible that he was wearing the watch when he was killed, and the force of the explosion damaged the watch.

2 – his brother and only sibling, Leigh Morgan McBride (1917-1995)

3 –  his UBC fraternity, Phi Delta Theda


#5 – Ken letter to parents

K.G. McBride, UBC

2594 Wallace Crescent

Vancouver, B.C.

April 6, 1941

Dear Mom and Dad:

I’ve got the fear of God in me!  Can’t say that I am looking forward to my exams a great deal, but I’m right in there punching.  Only 2 more weeks of studying, then exams, then a few free days, then military camp in Nanaimo, then home to Nelson.  Gosh that does sound wonderful.

I’m very sorry to hear that Clara is leaving the household.  Say good-bye to her for me and give her my very best regards.  I won’t be able to call anyone “Butch” around home anymore – that was Clara’s pet name.

I was sorry to see Trail1 lose after doing so well in the first three games against Lethbridge.  I was really pulling for Trail.  By the way, I was asked to speak on CJOR “Varsity Time” about badminton.  I declined; later I was asked to speak for golf – I declined.  I would have liked to have done it but it would mean a whole night of study gone.

Had a rather happy meeting last Thursday nite.  An R.C.A.F. flying officer phoned the Phi Delt house to say hello.  He was just in town until 7:15 and it was then 4:00 p.m.  He said he was a Phi Delt from U. of A2.  Thereupon he and I got together.  One of the fellows volunteered to get him in his car and have him out to dinner and return him to C.N.R. R.R. Station by 7:15.  He accepted the dinner invitation very readily – as it turned out, he was a very close friend of Leigh’s and Blake’s3 and knew all the lads from Nelson who attend U. of A.  He told me he would phone Leigh up as soon as he reached Edmonton.  It was very fine of him.  Also for the past couple of days we have had a couple of rowers from Oregon State College staying at our House.  They were nice boys and sort of took our rowing team into camp, but our team is not so hot.

It sure is wonderful to hear that the course4 is almost in perfect condition.  I’m itching to play.  I got a report from an alum of ΦΔΘ, Fred Dietrich, a traveller5, that Ken Andrews is practising as hard as he can.  I hear also, that he might be moving.  I certainly hope not.

Well bye for now

All my love. Ken

1 – The McBrides would normally cheer for the hockey home team Maples Leafs, but they also had strong connections with the nearby City of Trail, whose Smoke Eaters team was exception in that era, regularly competing for national and international championships, including being world champions in 1939.

2 – University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta.

3 – His cousin Blake Allan (1916-2009), who was Leigh’s law partner after the war, and then a judge.

4 – The Nelson Golf Course, of which his father R.L. McBride was a founding director when it opened in July 1919.

5 – I believe the term “traveler” refers to him being someone whose work involves regularly travelling for commercial purposes, such as purchasing and sales.  R.L. McBride was listed as a “traveler” with the Wood Vallance Hardware Company early in his business career.


#6 – Ken letter to mother

K.G. McBride

University of British Columbia

2594 Wallace Crescent

Vancouver, BC

Oct. 14, 1941

Dear Mother

Hello!  I have a clipping enclosed in this letter for your scrap book.  It is sort of humorous but I think Ormie1 is just trying to throw a scare into me.

Guess what!  I went to a beautiful dinner party on Friday evening before the Kappa Cabaret.  John Carson invited Ted McBride2 and myself.  I took a girl from Toronto who was very nice.  The dinner was all very formal – such as serving one’s own vegetables down at the main dining room of the Vancouver Hotel (Just a little too formal for me).  The party was very fine – I went with Ted. Wonder if they are related to us in any way at all – they vote same way we do, originate in the same place, same religional denomination etc, etc.  But speaking of voting – did you know that Pat Maitland – Conserv. Leader – is a Phi Delt.  I hope he gets in although I do realize that he’d be fortunate if he does win.

At noon on Saturday we had a rushing function – I had to figure out a meal for 65.  What a job.  I gave them tomato juice, meat pie, carrots and peas, ice cream and hot chocolate sauce with cake and coffee.  It all went very smoothly – we had 2 sittings and had everybody serving or washing dishes etc.  And believe it or not, I even had ordered the right amount of food including ice cream.  I was tired that night so I stayed home and read Romeo and Juliet.  And on Sunday I had my turkey dinner with Brother John Clement and his father Dean Clement of the Faculty of Agriculture (both Phi Delts).  It was a wonderful dinner and I certainly did appreciate it although I ate a horrible amount.

Well, this is just a note so, bye for now Mein darling.

All my love.


1 – his friend and fellow keen golfer Ormie Hall, who later wrote golf stories for the Vancouver Sun.

2 – Even today there is no indication that Ted McBride was a relative of the Nelson McBrides


#7 – Ken letter to father

Phi Delta Theta letterhead

2594 Wallace Crescent

Vancouver, B.C.

Nov. 16, 1941

Dear Dad:

Hey Funny1, look at the funny writing paper.  I think I’ll buy some for myself after Christmas.  It’s very little more expensive and it does look smart.  It’s our crest.

But any how, I really want to thank you for your two letters from the east.  I was really thrilled with your letter in which you attended the Maple Leaf hockey game with a Phi Delt from McGill.  I roared around and told all my Phi Delt pals what you did and they were very impressed.  They all thought it was wonderful of you.  Boy, was I ever proud when I told them about you and how you were given the tickets.  Thanks a million, Dad and I know that the boy you took to the game was very thankful and very happy to go.

This afternoon (Sunday) I went over to Ted McBride’s for dinner, after which I coached Ted’s young brother in accounting.  The McBrides were really very nice to me.  But, I have this course in wonderful.  So far I have had two exams in it and I’ve recorded an 83 and an 85 which pleased me a great deal.  I had an exam in Eng. 9 on Shakespearian dramas but the marks have not been turned back  as yet.  Econ. 4 (Money and Banking) is really a fine course and one I am interested in.

But to get to a very sad story!  Ouch, it’s about golf and I am damn disappointed but nevertheless I can’t get the breaks all the time.  But – to have an 86 and to lose 3-2 to an 82 is horrible. I couldn’t control my putter at all – also my chip shots were always short.  I really lost the game on the green.  Can you imagine I took 4 putts – half of my total score almost.  I lost the first two holes to a par and a birdie and try as I might I could never get them back.  Actually however, I did not practise my short game at all so it was all my fault.  (Sunday nite).

Monday afternoon Jimmy lost his match to Ormie3 down on the 18th.  They were all square on the 18th tee and Jim hit his on, 20 feet from the pin, whereas Ormie was to the left about 40 feet away with a bunker to pitch over.  Ormie made a beautiful shot and laid his dead and James 3-putted.  It was a tough break for Jim as he was fighting hard – he was 2 down at the 9th, but was actually 1 up at the end of the 15th.  All that is left is Swinton, Plommer, Hall and Ford.  By the way, when I won my first round match I had a 73 but should have been under par.  I got quite a splash in the U.B.C. or losing.  One thing made me happy – Plommer and Ormie both congratulated me by saying that I should actually have won the tournament with very little trouble.

Now about a serious matter.  With your permission I think I shall join up in the Army, Dad – after school is over next May.  I could go back to school next year without being conscripted but I think it would be detrimental to me – I owe my services, however small they may be, to Canada.  I should be able to obtain a commission in the army with not too much difficulty or some other service.  But anyhow, I have a lot of time to think about it and nothing will be decided until I come home for my holidays where we can discuss it thoroughly.

I’m very anxious to see the new offices etc.  It should look smart – wonder if the Funny Old Mons is going to have his own private office1.  Well, Funny, I must get some work done now as there is a fraternity meeting to-nite.

Bye for now and loads of love


P.S.  As yet I haven’t received my 15th of month money.

1 – abbreviation of his nickname for his father “Funny Old Mons”

2 – Ken’s cousin Jimmy Allan


scan of first page of Ken`s letter, with Phi Delta Theda letterhead



#8 – Ken letter to parents

Est. early fall 1942

Cadets’ Mess, Gordon Head, B.C.

Dear Mother and Dad,

Whew!  Work and more work – it’s amazing!  On Sunday I was blood-grouped and had a couple of blood tests.  I find my blood is A group and I’m a very healthy lad.  By the way, I gave away about a test tube of blood.  Same as a blood transfusion.  It didn’t bother me!  But it’s a good idea to be blood-grouped – I am glad I volunteered.

Here is some amazing news!  If all goes well I’ll be graduating on Oct. 9th with Jim1 and all my buddies.  It is not definite as yet but there is a very good indication that it will be.  I hope so.  The reason is that they want to expand the camp to accommodate more men – thus sending all third month men to their Advanced Training Centre 1 month ahead of time.  So I hope to be going to Currie Barracks for a 2 month spell instead of one as Leigh2 is doing.  You see I’ll be taking the same amount of work and time except I’ll be going to Infantry Special Wing at Currie Barracks.  That means I must order my uniform now – and is it ever expensive – approx. $80 all told and then I need a pair of black shoes as Seaforths all wear black shoes.  I do hope we graduate this month.  In a General Current Events quiz I was 3rd in a class of 30.  It was a tough baby too.

I have to work every night this week – only wish I had twice as much time to do things in.  On Wed. night I have to give a 10 minute lecture.  More fun!  This is all part of the training one gets here.

I never received the Daily News3 concerning the golf tourney.

I must do a large-scale map now, so ‘bye for now.

Love, Ken

P.S.  I’ll let you know about my graduation – hope you have real good time in Medicine Hat4.

Tell Leigh to write me!


1 – his cousin and best friend Jimmy Allan

2 – his brother Leigh Morgan McBride

3 – the Nelson (B.C.) Daily News

4 – his aunt Gladys Foote and her husband Colin Moir lived in Medicine Hat, Alberta, where they were often visited by the McBrides


#9 – Ken letter to his mother

K.G. McBride, UBC

Postmark Calgary Jan. 26, 1943

Letterhead Officers’ Mess, Currie Barracks, Calgary Alberta

Monday p.m.

Dearest Mom,

Hello dear – still no news as regards my draft so we are 1 day closer to my 2 weeks leave.  I might phone you to-nite just to chat but if I do it won’t be because I am on my way east.

Here are the pictures I forgot to enclose in my last letter.  I’m crazy!   I’ve spent more money on stuff I have to take overseas – it’s amazing.  My resources are going downhill fast.  But anyhow, dear, just a note to tell you there’s nothing to worry about at all.  I’ve done very little real work since I returned so I’m in fine shape.

Well there’s a show on in the mess to-night so I guess I’ll go over and rest my weary bones.

All my love



#10 – Ken letter to parents

Postmarked Feb. 1, 1943

Officers’ Mess

A16, C.J.T.C.

Currie Barracks, Calgary

Dearest Mom and Dad

Hello!  I had a letter from Leigh and it arrived on my birthday which was rather nice – also your nice card, money order and socks and hankies.  Gee, they are fine socks ‘cause it’s hard to get good black socks as they are usually made of cotton and are no good at all.  Thanks a million.  I received 6 letters that day and 2 on Saturday so I had a real field day.  I even had a birthday card from my old gal Audrey Emery1 – it was nice of her to remember her old buddy.  I also heard from Jim, Ormie Hall, my new girl, and loads of other people.

Still no news on my draft and tomorrow is Feb. 1st so if we hold out 5 or 6 more days I’m in the clear for a 2 week visit home –- however it isn’t a cinch yet by any means so just keep your fingers crossed and hope I make it.  By the way, Leigh told me to take him a cheap 1.00 watch and gloves and a flash light with batteries.  So I’ll bring them to Calgary – thanks for saving them for me anyway Dad.  I’ll enclose his letter.

On Friday I got my draft notice to join the army – quite a laugh!  Mother forwarded it to me.  I guess I had better answer it so they don’t think I’m evading the draft.  They’ll be a mite surprised when they see it signed Lieut. KG McBride – Seaforths of Canada.  On Saturday I went through the gas chambers through chlorine gas and DM gas.  The first one is lethal so we had our respirators on, but if we hadn’t one wouldn’t even have been able to walk 15 feet before this chlorine gas would overcome me.  Thank goodness I have a good respirator!  The DM gas is a choking gas and produces a sick and morbid feeling and makes one cough like mad.  I recovered from it in about an hour – we had to take it with our respirator off so that wasn’t so sweet.  I have been transferred from B Coy2 to G Coy and I have a permanent militia man as C.O.3 and he is a heel – he is always spying on his fledgling officers which makes me furious.  I certainly hate that cad with all my might!  He does know his training however so I am learning fast by the trial and error method.

Well I have to prepare 4 lectures of 45 min. each  to give to my platoon  to-morrow so I must go now.

All my love,


P.S. I was down at Len Wright’s* on Wed nite.P.S.(2) I play basketball in the senior league here for A16 CITC on Wed nite and our team won 63-33.  I scored 5 points which surprised me after not having played for 3 or 4 years – so I guess I’m on the team now!

1 – later became Audrey Heustis, wife of Bob Heustis who was vice principal of LV Rogers High School in Nelson when I was a student there in the late 1960s.  Audrey and Bob were close friends of the Leigh McBride family for many years.

2 – Company

3 – Commanding Officer

4 – After the war, Len Wright was a founder of Wright Engineering, a prominent engineering company based in Vancouver.  My second cousin Michael Allan (son of Jimmy Allan, Ken`s best friend and cousin) worked at Wright Engineering in the 1970s.


#11 – Ken letter to his father c/o Wood Vallance Store

Officers Mess, Currie Barracks, Calgary letterhead

Dearest Dad

Well I’ve put in my application for annual leave – did it today.  However, I am still no cinch for it.  I had my application pass through the Orderly Room at Currie Barracks.  From there it goes to District Depot – they can hold it back for 2 reasons. 1) we are on embarkation as we’ve had our leave; 2) there has been an order from district depot saying that no further furloughs would be granted as the railway traffic is so heavy but the K.V.1 is very slow in traffic, especially 1st class.  So my fingers are still crossed but I figure my chances are now with me 75-25.  If I do get it I figure I might go to Moscow Idaho for the 13th of Feb as Pat Jacque has written to ask me to go to the Kappa Formal.  It would be nice.

The experience I am getting with my new major is excellent as it will help a lot when I get overseas.  I am getting swell training with my men and I’m learning more about man management all the time.  It is good training for future life in many ways.

The old Russian bear is really rolling these days isn’t it?  They are doing a marvelous job, especially as regards Stalingrad.2

I just read in the paper that one of the men who lived in the fraternity house with me was presumed killed after operations.  He was a Flying Officer in the Air Force.  But I am sure it is going to blow over in a year if things keep going as they are now.

Well, all for now, Fun.

Best ever, Ken

The Funny Little Mons

Keep your fingers crossed.  I hope I get my leave for the 10th.

1 – the Kettle Valley Railroad, which operated between 1916 and 1959, connecting the BC Lower Mainland with the Okanagan and Kootenay regions.

2 – The mention of the Battle of Stalingrad would date the letter to sometime after February 1943 when the Germans at Stalingrad surrendered to the Russians.


#12 – Ken letter from Britain to parents

Est. June 1943

Logo of Canadian YMCA.

On Active Service

Lieut. K.G. McBride

Seaforths of Can.

2nd Bn, I.C.A.R.D.

  1. Coy (C.A.O.)1

Dearest Mother and Dad

Hello – one of Leigh’s letters came here yesterday so I read it and then sent it on to his address.  In it I was glad to note that by June 15th you were receiving a fair amount of mail from me.  That’s good – then I know that you are receiving most, or all, of my mail.  I am writing as often as possible but news is fairly scarce over here as there is so much routine which is all very boring to write.  So if you find some of my letters dull and repetitive, please forgive.

Of late I have been receiving a fair amount of mail from the Funny Old Mons.  They have been very interesting and of good length.  You must have had a terrific time in Kimberley with the boys.  I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Alan Graham took the cup from Art Franks.  Nice of him to make a point of sending his regards to me — makes me feel good.  He’s a fine fellow.  Can’t understand what happened to J. Blackstone but guess he might have found the fairways just as narrow as last year.  Tell him to start practising up for next year.

Had a lot of fun yesterday with my platoon on sports.  We had a game with another platoon and believe me there was a lot of feeling in it.  Reminded me of some of those wild games we use to play in Nelson.  I bet 10 shillings on the outcome of the game with the other platoon officer and my team won 16-10.  I did O.K. – managed to get a couple of hits and a walk.  It was a lot of fun and the lads really went all out for a win.  I have a dandy platoon – a real bunch of fine men who are in good condition.

I was on a Quiz contest the other night.  It was a sports quiz.  I managed to tie for top place with another officer.  We were going to break the tie so the Master of Ceremonies asked the audience for one tough question to ask us.  First one was “who was the only man to make an unassisted triple play in a Worlds’ Series game.”  Neither of us could recall who it was – although I know Leigh and Mr. Sharp2 will blush for my ignorance.  So, another question came – “Two teams played a game of ball, score was 1-0 yet not a man reached first base.”  How come?  The answer – “It was a ladies softball game”!  With that we decided we would split first prize which was some Canadian cigarettes.

Another nite we had a concert of local talent in the camp and it turned out we had a wonderful show.  We had a real swing band, juggling acts, singers and impersonators.  It all turned out to be a good show except for one brave lad who attempted to play a violin solo – and there can be nothing worse than a violin played badly.  It was gruesome!

Still have not received my first cigarettes from you – they have been very slow.  I have managed to get by far but hope they get here soon as I will be out soon.  Jack Moxon3 has had 4 parcels so far and I have had one but more should be right around the corner and no doubt they’ll be here in a week or so.  Mox and I share all our parcels so we have a lot of fun.  Dad, you want to look up Mr. Moxon sometime when you are in Vancouver – he’s a fine man and Jack and I have a lot of fun together.

I had a very nice letter from Ormie Hall who is in New Brunswick training to be a Navigator.  He’s had a lot of bad breaks in the Air Force and still has 3 more months to go before he graduates.  He really wishes he could get over here in a hurry – it will be good to see him again.  He was green with envy when I told him about St. Andrews, Braid Hills, and Royal Burgess4 etc.  Oh my, I’ve had an awful lot of fun with this Canadian Army.

Well, what do you know?  The proofs just arrived for me – reason they were so slow is the fact that this bloke addressed them to me as being in the Canadian Scottish.  I’ll send them up immediately – there is a dandy of me in my kilt.  I’ll send 2 lots home so you will receive one lot – otherwise write to C. Law, Vandyk Ltd., 69 Meadway, Hampstead, London, NW 11.

Well all for now.

All my love


1 – Canadian Army Overseas

2 – Roy Sharp of Nelson, who was a close colleague of R.L. McBride at Wood Vallance Hardware Co.

3 – the Moxons in Kelowna were good friends of the Leigh and Dee Dee McBride family for many years

4 – famous British golf courses


#13 – Ken letter to parents

No date.  Est. August-Sept 1943

Dearest Dad and Mother:

Here I am in the other part of the world – the island of Sicily.  The crossing was once again very nice and happily very quiet.  Our meals on ship were good and we even had a bar which wasn’t disappointing to me.  Jack1 and I are still together – no matter what happens they just can’t seem to bust in on our partnership.

It’s actually far hotter here than Africa as there is no breeze to cool us off and believe it or not, there are 5 times as many flies.  The dust isn’t as bad so far.  It didn’t break my heart to leave Africa.  We’ll be happy if we never see it again.

Seeing all these people in these old countries makes me realize what we are fighting against – extreme filth, ignorance and illiteracy and terrific class socialism.  Those things aren’t found in Canada and I hope they never will be.  I only hope that when the war is finished that it does provide for a better world for us to live in.  Here’s hope it does.

According to my guess Sicily hasn’t long until it comes into our hands – how long I can’t say but we seem to be mowing ‘em down.

Had a tough break – my mail (3 or 4) were sent here in error and they were sent out of this camp 1 hour before I left.  So this a.m. I went to the C.P.C. (Postal Corps) to catch it before it went out but bad luck beat me again – missed by 2 hours.  It might go to Leigh in error as they have no record of me here as yet.  I’ll find it somehow.

We had to march up to our camp when we landed but Jack and I missed our turn and marched miles away from our camp.  When we decided we were thoroughly lost we halted our little band and ate some of our __ rations (which tasted good).  We were right in a lemon grove so we picked ripe lemons and squeezed the juice into our water bottles and had lemonade.  Also bought grapes from the natives and found some nut trees – all told it wasn’t a bad mistake as we were so far away they sent trucks for us and we got a ride into camp.  For a while it looked like we would sleep there.

Had a swim at the shore last night and the water was perfect – not nearly as salty as North Africa.  It really takes away the sweat from one’s body anyhow.

The last nite I was in N.A. I received 15 letters which got me very excited – 2 were from Mother, 2 from Dad, 2 from Leigh and lots of others.  A lot of it was very old mail but am glad it did catch up with me.  Hope I get the watch soon.

Have now heard that Leigh is going strong – which will keep you happy.  Now and again we can hear the rumble of field artillery units and A/A guns.  They are really potent.

Well, news is very scarce now and Jack needs his pen.  So for now

All my love


P.S. Am sending you a cable to-day.

Address: Lieut, K.G. McBride

Seaforths of Can.

Can. Army Overseas

1 – Jack Moxon


#14 – Ken letter to his mother

TO: Mrs. R.L. McBride.  Passed by censor.

Same address.  Jan. 1, 1944 (stamped, apparently by censor, Feb. 1 1944)

Dearest Mother

A very Happy New Year to you Mom dear and may it bring with it peace and a new era of world understanding.  As I sat trying to eat my Xmas dinner our Padre was playing a small hand organ and a few lads were singing he was playing Christmas hymns and Christmas carols.  I think everyone thought as I did – Christmas at home, peace and security etc.  It was actually beautiful and made one completely forget that ½ miles away was going on the battle for a town by hand to hand fighting.  However that is finished and all the lads are resting – and do they ever deserve it!  But Jerry can’t rest – he is being pushed back relentlessly – one of these days they are going to crack wide open.  I am sure of that, as is everyone else.  From all reports the bombing of Germany is being intensified – their effect must be terrific!

But enough of the war – that’s all you hear and that’s all I hear.  One of these days I am going to send the Phi Delts a cheque for $50 for our house building fund.  While we were at Univ. each Phi Delt pledged $100 to the house building fund (payable any time after graduation).  So, now that I am saving so much, I can afford to repay the fraternity for the friends and experiences they showed me.  I certainly did have my share of frat life while at B.C.

Guess that you and Dad spent the day pouring out drinks to all the people who dropped in to see you.  Did the liquor shortage improve any in the Christmas season?  I hope so as it was a little slim.  Have you bought a liquor license yet Mother?  I’ll bet you have!

Haven’t had any mail since Dec 1st but have been up and down the line so often that I’m sure the postal authorities are dizzy.  It ruins one’s mail getting sick, but there is nought one can do about that!  I hope I can get some of your many parcels – will be good to get them.

There are 5 Seaforth officers here and a lot of men – almost the whole battalion is down around here.  We could almost start a Seaforth mess.

The M.O. tells me I may be discharged tomorrow to a Convalescence Depot for a week’s rest – I’ll take a rest this time.  I am feeling much better – haven’t got my zip back yet, but that will all come with rest.  From recent arrivals I know that the lads in the kilt are resting and L.M.1 is okay.  It’s been by far the hardest fighting the Canadians have hit – old “Monty” was very pleased with his Canadian Division.

It is beautiful out to-day, so I intend to go out for a walk – might ever hustle around and take my night nurse for a walk late this afternoon.  Sounds like a very sound idea to me.  Before I go out this a.m. I am going to go thru the mail and extract all letters for any of the Seaforths – the boys will appreciate someone doing a bit for them (they are the boys who are winning the war for us all).

Well darling, give my love to everyone I know and lots and lots of love to you and Dad.


1 – Ken’s brother Leigh McBride


#15 – Ken letter to father and mother – from Nelson Daily News, February 1944

Seaforths of Canada

C.A.O. – C.M.F.

Jan. 1st, 1944

Dearest Dad and Mother – What do you know – back at the Cdn hospital again – jaundice, but a much easier dose this time.  I tried to stay with the rgt but no go.  So here I am for a week or two – reason I am here is that I didn’t take a rest after leaving the first time (thought I was tough as nails) so I will take a rest when I get out this time.

Well, I never will spend another Xmas like my 1943 one – what a nightmare.  You may have read about it in the papers by now, but Leigh and I were in the middle of it.  I’d call it Stalingrad No. 2.*

Only time I saw Leigh was on Xmas night – his platoon took over my platoon position so we could pull out and have Christmas dinner.  We wished each other a Merry Xmas – he gave me a cigar and I gave him the dope on the enemy so he’d know where to expect the Germans in the morning.  Leigh said he got a thrill when orders were issued from D Coy. H.Q.  “McBride to relieve McBride”.

I admit it was hard on the nerves – we’d be in one room of a house but slowly and surely we pushed them out of their sniping posts.  I’ve never seen such young lads in all my life – the victims of Nazism and the German idea that they are the super race.  They didn’t look like the super race on being taken prisoner.  One of them said to me “Canadian soldati too good!”  They all know who is winning too – so it won’t be too long now.

The Christmas dinner was very good – two bottles beer, roast pork, creamed potatoes, carrots and peas and Christmas pudding.  The boys ate until they couldn’t move (hadn’t eaten in three and a half days).  I, much to my disgust, was feeling so rotten that I didn’t eat a thing.  It wasn’t too happy a Christmas.

The nurses here are wonderful – all working like niggers, but always happy.  They are doing a wonderful job and deserve a great deal of credit.  This isn’t the nicest country in the world to be a woman.

And here’s wishing my Mother and Dad a wonderful New Year, and keep your chins up – Leigh and I will look after ourselves.


* This was right after Ken and Leigh were in the thick of the fighting in the Battle of Ortona, which was arguably the toughest battle of the war for the Canadian military.  The Christmas dinner Ken refers to became one of the great Canadian stories of the war..


Leigh McBride visited Ken’s grave in Italy in 1974, when he participated in the 30th anniversary of the Canadian Army in Italy.  This photo was taken by his good friend Borden Cameron, who was the Seaforth quartermaster who rounded up supplies for the famous Christmas 1943 dinner at Ortona in  the midst of some of the heaviest fighting of the Italian campaign.  Leigh was among the Seaforth  officers who followed tradition and served the sergeants, corporals and privates at the Christmas dinner

Other Letters relating to Ken in the family archives

Letter from Leigh in England to Ken at Currie Barracks in Calgary, dated Jan. 13, 1943

Dear Harpo1,

I hope this reaches you before you leave.  Be sure you bring heavy underwear, pajamas, flashlight and batteries, soap and gloves.  Bring me a $1 watch.  I expect to go to the field soon.  All the Seaforths are a fine bunch of fellows.  Had a short course in Norton Motorcycles.  I hope we can have a reunion in London when you get to Blighty.  This is the 7th week of no mail.  Did you forward any from Currie?  This is one hell of a cold country.  It is so damned moist all the time.  Have you heard from Jas or the Seal lately?  Pratley told me you had a big party with he and Buie.  Haven’t seen Buie yet.  Write to me c/o C.I.D.I.U.  it will be good to see you over here some day.



1 – Leigh, Jim and Ken were all big fans of the Marx Brothers movies.

2 – Currie Barracks where both Leigh and Ken trained.  Named after Sir Arthur Currie, top Canadian general of WW1.


Letter from friend “Beattie” to RL and Win McBride

RCAF Officers’ Mess

Rockcliffe, Ont.

Sept. 27, 1944

My dear friends,

Mr. and Mrs. McBride

It is with heartsick misgivings and affectionate sympathy for you that I write this letter. Fred Dietrich has just written me a distressing letter that speaks of “the heart-breaking news of Brud Mathison, Doug Pedlow and Kenny McBride, the best of fraternity brothers.”

I do not exactly know what this means, but if it is the great sacrifice, I have no words to express the feelings I share with you.  In addition I am told that Leigh is reported missing.  I sincerely pray that by now you may have had good news.  I want you both to know that I am thinking of you and sending my sincerest sympathy in days that must seem completely bewildering.  God’s blessing and His comforting assurance to you both.

Your sincere friend,


Forgive what seems an incoherent letter.  My thoughts are all confused, and I’m distressed beyond words at the possibility of the loss of one of my dearest and most respected and admired friends, Ken.


Letter from R.L. McBride to Beattie

Oct. 12, 1944

Nelson, B.C.


You wrote us a lovely letter, Beattie.  It meant so much to us that it was as much as we could do, to read it.

We had two happy days.  On Sept. 20th we received a cable from Ottawa saying that Leigh was a prisoner of war in Germany1.  On Sept. 22nd we received another wire from the Director of Records, saying that Dear Old Ken had been killed in action on Sept. 16th.

The distressing news almost stunned us.  We had been worrying a great deal about both boys – Leigh being missing and Ken in the thick of the fighting around Rimini2.  But during those two days we were so completely happy that we forgot, for the time being, the danger that might occur to Ken.

Two days ago we received a letter from the Padre saying that Ken was advancing near the front line in his “Carrier”3 when they struck a mine.  Ken and his driver made the Supreme Sacrifice.  The poor boys never had a chance, but the Padre told us they did not suffer.  We thank God for that.

Ken wrote us three lovely letters dated Sept. 4-6-10 which we received on the day we heard Leigh was safe.  He told us about being through two heavy weeks previously.  He was happy and told of going in swimming and the big yellow moon, and of the German night raider that kept circling overhead.  He sent us one more letter that arrived after we heard the very sad news.

Ken and Leigh never let us down.  How they wrote us as often as they did is more than we can figure out.  They were both good soldiers – and they did their part.

We received our first letter from Leigh on Sept. 23rd (written June 15th).  He was then in a German hospital but getting excellent care and was being treated by an eye specialist.  He told us his left eye was gone forever and he was wounded in both legs and left arm by shrapnel.  He wrote a very brave and cheerful letter – told us he wore a black patch over his eye – all same Lord Nelson and Long John Silver.

We received another letter from him yesterday, dated Aug. 17th.  He had been transferred to a prisoner of war camp which he said was a great improvement on the hospital.  He said he had received shoes, clothes, shaving outfit etc. from the Red Cross.  There was not a single English book at the hospital, but at Stalag XVIII he had Law Books, Shakespeare, a tennis court and many other things to make the days pass more quickly.  He told us he would soon have his new glass eye.

Today, we received word from the Red Cross telling us that “it would appear, based on past cases, that his form of injury is one that takes precedence over all others in ‘repatriation’ considerations4.  How we hope they may be right.  They did not wish to bolster our hopes too high, but passed it on as general information.

We had always thought, judging what Leigh had gone through, that Ken might be wounded and he might have a real rest.  He deserved a rest as he had fought steadily from June 1943 to Sept 1944.   But it was not to be.

The McBride boys – everyone knew they were with the Seaforths – were known and respected and loved throughout the whole country.  When the Nelson people thought of the boys who were fighting overseas in the front line they thought of our boys.  No Mother or Dad could have been prouder of their sons than we were.

The letters and wires were coming in congratulating us about Leigh, and then they stopped – and the letters and wires offered deepest sympathy for Ken.

We also received many letters when Leigh was reported missing.  I intended to answer them when we got some happy news, but I never had a chance.  The day of great joy and the day of stark tragedy were too close together.

Forgive me for typing this letter but there was too much to write.  I know I have wandered here there and everywhere, but I have done the best I could.  Ken would like to know that.

Mrs. McBride and I send our kindest regards to one – you – who meant so much to Ken.

Yours very sincerely

(from R.L. McBride, but copy not signed)

1 – brother Leigh, who was Captain in the Seaforths at the time and would later rise to Acting Major, was the only survivor of a forward unit that received a direct hit by a German shell on May 23, 1944 in the heavy action of the Liri River campaign.  He was found unconscious on the ground by German soldiers, who roused him and said “for you the war is over”.  As there were no survivors to report to headquarters, Leigh was officially listed as Missing for three months until word arrived from the Red Cross that he was alive as a POW, and received treatment at a hospital in Rome and later other hospitals in Germany.

2 – Rimini is on the Adriatic coast, about two-thirds of the way up the Italian boot.

3 – – a mini-tank vehicle

4 – Leigh returned to Canada in a repatriation arrangement in January 1945.  He travelled to neutral Switzerland and then across the Atlantic in the Swedish repatriation ship Gripsholm.  His mother Winifred met him at the rail station in Vancouver, and they travelled from there to Nelson,


2nd Letter to the McBride parents from family friend “Beattie” after Ken’s death

Rockcliffe, Ont.

Oct. 17, 1944

Dear Mr. and Mrs. McBride,

Your letter has just arrived, and my heart is heavy and too full to write.  Even as I wrote the last time, I still held hope that the news of both Leigh and Ken would be reassuring.  One can’t help feeling that way about those we cherish with a strong affection.

I am so relieved to hear that Leigh is well.  I pray sincerely that soon he may be back with you.

I am sharing with you a great deal of the sorrow in the loss of a brother for whom I held the highest respect and admiration.  Kenny represented to me the highest ideals of our beloved fraternity1, and he always shall in my fond memory of him.  Every other brother would join with me in the same tribute.  In this he can never die.  To me, he is not dead, he lives more fully as an example of clean, courageous manhood that I shall never forget.  To him, and therefore to you, his dear parents, I am forever indebted for having been privileged to know him.  I cannot write more.  I am thinking of you both, and Leigh and Jimmy2 who were such pals and brothers.

Ever sincerely your friend,


1 – Ken’s fraternity at UBC, the Phi Delta Theda

2 – Ken’s cousin and great friend Jimmy Allan (1920-2010)





Vancouver Province report of Ken’s death


          The Ken McBride Memorial Trophy

Ken’s death in action in Italy in September 1944 was devastating news in his beloved hometown of Nelson, B.C.  His parents and the executive of the Nelson Golf and Country Club raised funds for a large, engraved sterling silver tray to be awarded each year to the winner of the annual club championship held over the Labour Day Weekend.  It replaced the Alex Leith Trophy named after a prominent Nelson businessman who was still alive.  In 1944 Reg Stone of Trail won the Leith Cup, defeating his brother Roy Stone in match play.


part of the report in the Nelson Daily News on Sept. 7, 1945, as Roy Stone, who often competed against Ken in Kootenay golf tournaments, won the trophy when it was offered for the first time.  The comment by the club president S.A. Maddocks that Ken “was loved by all of us“ is quite remarkable.

The trophy was given out from 1945 until 1977, when the Nelson golf club executive decided to discontinue the Ken McBride trophy and replace it by a Labatt’s trophy which would come with sponsorship money for the golf club.  I remember talking with my dad Leigh McBride about the Nelson golf club’s decision, and he said he was not much bothered about it, because most people who knew Ken had left Nelson or died, so it was not a big deal to him.  In retrospect, the club made a bad decision, because the Labatt’s trophy only lasted a couple of years, and subsequently the Labour Day Tournament became just another run-of-the-mill tournament – much different from the days when the honour of capturing the Ken McBride Trophy attracted up to 150 top golfers from the Kootenays, the Okanagan, the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.

The actual trophy came to a sad end in 1979 when the out-building at the Nelson Golf Course where it was stored burned down.  While the all-metal silver trophy may or may not have been damaged by the fire, it was among the contents of the building which were sent off to the garbage dump for disposal.   No one in the McBride family – which had moved to Trail in 1969 – was advised of the fire or the junking of the trophy.

The Nelson golf course underwent extensive renovation and expansion in the early 1990s, and was re-named the Granite Pointe Golf Course.


Nelson golf club president Bernie Clarkson (left) presents the Ken McBride Memorial Trophy to Ed Clem in 1964.  Clem won the trophy 8 times over the span it was offered.  Leigh was often called upon to present the trophy.  I well remember him saying in the presentation ceremony “Well, Eddie, here we are again.”  Photo courtesy of Shawn Lamb Archives, Touchstones Nelson.


1945 – Roy Stone of Nelson (formerly and in future from Trail) defeated W.C. Carlson of Vancouver to win the new Ken McBride Memorial Trophy.  Roy and his brother Reg Stone were nationally renowned for their success in curling as well as golf.  I knew Roy well when he was club pro at Birchbank Golf Course near Trail in the late 1970s.

1946 – Roy Stone defeated Elgin Hill of Trail 3 and 2 in the match play final.  Stone’s toughest test was against Leigh McBride in the second round.  Leigh was one up after nine holes, but Stone won on the 17th hole.  This was the closest that Leigh came to winning the trophy named in honour of his beloved brother Ken.  The injuries he suffered in the war,including the loss of an eye, were detrimental to his golf game for the rest of his life, but he continued to be an excellent putter, winning several events at the mini-golf tournaments at Balfour.

1947 – Harry Donaldson of Trail defeated Roy Stone 7-6

1948 – Art Donaldson, Kimberley pro won.

1949 – Art Donaldson, Kimberley beat brother Harry Donaldson to claim the Ken McBride Memorial Trophy.

1950 – Buzz McGibney of Trail

1951 – Charlie Swanson of Trail

1952 – Johnny Johnston of Vancouver

1953 – Johnny Leschuk of Nelson

1954 – Jimmy Allan of Nelson (later West Vancouver) won.  As a first cousin, Jim would be the closest relative of Ken to win the trophy.  He said there was no golf tournament he would rather win, because “Ken was my buddy”.  Jim, who had won the Leith Cup as a junior in 1939, was prominent in the executive of the Capilano Golf Club for many years, including serving as President.

1955 – Art Donaldson

1956 – Arnold Sherwood of Nelson.  Arnold worked as a caddie at the Nelson golf course in the late 1940s and early 1950s.  While Leigh was President of the golf club, Arnold organized a caddies’ strike to get more money for their service.  Leigh nicknamed his “John L. Lewis” after the famous U.S. labour leader.  They became great long-term friends, and Arnold served as MC at Leigh’s funeral in August 1995.

1957 – Doug Campbell of Vancouver (formerly Nelson)

1958 – Bill Wakeham of Victoria

1959 – Arnold Sherwood defeated Bill Wakeham, 17, of Victoria, in match plan 4 and 3.

1960 – Bill Wakeham of Victoria defeated Paul Faynor of Creston, Alex Koenig, Terry Panton and Vern Miller.

1961 – Arnold Sherwood of Nelson

1962 – Bill Wakeham defeated Ed Clem, with a three-round total of 209, 7 ahead of Clem.  Ray West was third.

1963 – Arnold Sherwood of Fernie

1964 – Ed Clem of Castlegar, 18, a senior at L.V. Rogers High School, won the Ken McBride Trophy for the first time.  At the presentation ceremony, he gave full credit to his older stepbrother Arnie Sherwood for encouraging and instructing him as a golfer.

1965 – Ed Clem

1966 – Ed Clem

1967 – Ray West of Nelson posted score of 138, two lower than his competition.  Prizes were worth $800, including a 30.30 rifle.

1968 – Garnet Lineker of Kamloops

1969 – Bernie Clarkson of Nelson posted a score of 135, three strokes better than Garnet Lineker.

1970 – Garnet Lineker of Kamloops

1971 – Ed Clem

1972 – Ed Clem defeated Garnet Lineker by 6 strokes, shooting rounds of 67 and 67.  Buzz MacDonald was low net winner.

1973 – Ed Clem defeated Miles Desharnais of Vancouver, posting a two-round total of 142 to top the field of 120 entrants.

1974 – Ed Clem

1975 – Garnet Lineker of Kamloops

1976 – no info on winner

1977 – Ed Clem wins his eighth Ken McBride Trophy


Mount McBride near Fauquier, B.C. was named in Ken’s honour

The McBride Family was prominent in London, Ontario 1830s to 1990s


By Sam McBride

My great-great-great-grandparents Richard McBride and Elizabeth McCormick left their home in County Down,  Ireland for Canada in 1831, according to later newspaper accounts and family history notes made by their granddaughter`s husband Harry Bapty in the 1920s.


family tree of my father Leigh McBride going back three generations. His father R.L. McBride left London, Ontario for British Columbia in 1900.

County Down is in Ulster, southeast of Belfast.  At the time of their emigration, the region was in the midst of economic strife associated with the Industrial Revolution, and strife between religions.   The McBrides were Presbyterians who migrated years before to Northern Ireland from Scotland.    They found themselves in a congested, problematic land under the thumb of the established Church of Ireland.  On the other side of society were the Roman Catholics, who rebelled against the authority of England and the Established Church.

Richard McBride was born in 1792 in County Down and died in 1850 in London, Ontario.  The exodus to Canada was a family affairs for the McBrides, as five of his younger siblings left for Canada in the same period.  These siblings (along with spouse), were William McBride and wife Agnes McIllvene, Alexander McBride and wife Jane Shields, Thomas McBride and wife Ann Oswald, Stephenson (also known as Stephen and Steney) McBride on his own, and Elizabeth McBride and husband John G. Boyd.    I will note the children and vital statistics (birth, baptism, marriage, death details, when available) in later posts.   Unfortunately, there is no information on the parents or any other ancestors of these McBride siblings going back in time in Ireland and Scotland.


Family details of the McBrides in London, Ontario, written in the 1920s by Harry Bapty.




13127429-504a-471d-ac3c-ed615fba24c9[1]Something new for me in genealogical research involves working from connections made through DNA tests to confirm the family tree details we have from documents and memories.  After submitting a saliva sample in November 2015 I received a report of my ethnic make-up as well as DNA links with others who have participated in the ancestry DNA program.   One of the newly-found distant cousins was a lady in Fort Wayne, Indiana who was a descendant of William McBride and Agnes McIllvene, who settled in Hamilton Township, Northumberland County, Ontario by the mid-1800s.   Our common ancestors would be the unknown parents of Richard and William McBride and their siblings, so we are fifth cousins, as estimated by to be highly likely.

In this post I will focus on the descendants of Richard McBride and Elizabeth McCormick, particularly their son (and my great-great-grandfather) Samuel McBride (1819-1905).

Samuel was just 12 years of age when he joined his parents and siblings in a horrific voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to a new life in pioneer Upper Canada.  They were among 500 passengers crammed into a 300-ton sailing ship which got off course and took an excruciating eight weeks to cross the Atlantic.  Samuel and older brother William, 14, were told by their parents to look after their younger siblings, including John, 10, and Eliza, 8.   Another sister, whose name is lost to history, died during the voyage – not surprising, as many passengers suffered from starvation and serious illness – and was buried at sea.


William McBride, who served as Mayor of London and was active in civic affairs.

The McBrides first settled in Upper Canada at or near Kingston, then Coburg, then Niagra, then Brantford, and finally London, where the McBride name would be prominent for more than a century and a half.

It was in Coburg that the last children of the family were born.  Elizabeth had twins, of which one unnamed boy died.  The boy who survived was Alexander McBride (1833-1912), who married Lucy Munson and in 1886 would be the first of the McBride-McCormick clan to go west as they left for the future province of Alberta due to Lucy`s asma condition.   Alexander turned out to be the most successful businessman in the family, as he partnered with his brother Samuel in a retail business in London and went on to be a dominant force in the hardware store business in Alberta and British Columbia.

Brother William McBride (1817-1881), who married Charlotte Hillier, would gain renown in London as a carriage maker, as the City of London`s sixth Mayor, as the first Secretary of the Western Fair Society, and as a victim in the worst disaster in London`s history, the sinking of the ship Victoria in the Thames River in May 1881.  William and Charlotte`s great-great-grandson Bob McBride of Indian River, Ontario has done a tremendous amount of research on the McBride family over the years, and has greatly inspired me to do further research and writing of the family history.  It was Bob who made the important discovery of Elizabeth`s maiden name as McCormick, which will hopefully lead us someday to learn the names and backgrounds of the parents of the McBride children who left County Down for Canada.

Samuel McBride was also prominent in London, both as a hardy tinsmith (a trade often contracted as “tinker“), and in many capacities as a volunteer, including two decades of service as an alderman, as an officer in the Volunteer Fire Brigade, as Secretary of the Mount Pleasant Cemetery Society, and with a number of church-related activities.  While still a teen-ager, he served in the militia called  up in response to the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837.  Samuel was in relatively good health up until his death at 86 in 1905.  During his later years he was respected as a London pioneer, and was the subject of several feature stories by local newspapers.

Eliza also enjoyed 86 years of life.  She married Alexander Lowrie and had a son Edwin and daughter Eliza Jane.   Family historian Harry Bapty married Eliza Jane Bapty and they had five children.




Obituary information on Samuel`s mother Elizabeth McCormick and his first wife Elizabeth Webster in the Christian Guardian publication.


Bios of William McBride and Samuel McBride written in the 1920s by descendants.



Alexander McBride (1833-1912) was born in Cobourg, Upper Canada, the only child of the original McBride-McCormick family from County Down to be born in Canada. He was the best businessman in the family, starting a hardware store with his tinsmith brother Samuel. He moved west in the 1880s and was mayor of Calgary in 1896. His Calgary-based company established hardware stores in Alberta and British Columbia, including Cranbrook where his son J.D. McBride ran the local store, and Rossland, where his nephew George Walter McBride was manager, and his great-nephew Roland Leigh McBride later worked before joining the Wood Vallance company in Nelson.



In June 1994, soon after I began researching the family tree, I visited George and Jean McBride in London, Ontario. They gave me a wonderful tour of the city, including the Mt Pleasant Cemetery where more than 20 McBride descendants and extended family members are buried. George is a descendant of William McBride, who came to Canada as a 14-year-old in 1831, and his wife Charlotte Hillier. In the photo, George and Jean are beside the tombstone of William and Charlotte. Photo by Sam McBride


150 Years Since Edgar Dewdney Blazed A Trail Through the Kootenays




The Honourable Edgar Dewdney (1835-1916)

By Sam McBride I have felt the presence of Edgar Dewdney for as long as I can remember.   Paintings and photographs of him lined the walls of our home in Nelson, and many of the books in our family library were inherited from him. His namesake (and my grandfather), Edgar Edwin Lawrence “Ted“ Dewdney (1880-1952), knew him intimately as uncle, godfather, and legal guardian after Ted became an orphan at age 11.  I never got to know Ted because he died when I was a baby, but his wife, my grandmother Helen Peters Dewdney (1887-1976), lived in our home as a widow and often talked about Ted and Uncle Edgar.


Cary Castle, the viceregal residence of British Columbia, where Edgar and Jane Dewdney resided between 1892 and 1897 when he was Lieutenant Governor.

young edgar 001

Edgar as a young engineer

She referred to Uncle Edgar as a great man who was also an affable and courteous gentleman.  She said Edgar and his wife Jane Moir (who were called Ned and Jeannie within the family and among close friends), who had no children of their own, were fond of – and kind to — their many nephews and nieces.  In addition to Ted, Edgar`s brother Walter Dewdney (1836-1892) had a daughter Rose Valentine Dewdney (1879-1941) and son Walter Robert Dewdney (1877-1956).  And Jane`s sister Susan Louisa Moir Allison (1846-1937) in the Similkameen Valley of southern B.C. had 14 children, several of whom lived with the Dewdneys in the 1890s while attending school in Victoria. Ted`s only complaint about Uncle Edgar was that he insisted that Ted begin a career with the Bank of Montreal when he was just 16 years old.  Ted was keen on history and literature, wanted to attend university, and had no interest in banking, but he respected his uncle greatly and did what he was told, commencing service with the Bank of Montreal as a teller in Victoria in 1897, rising to branch manager at Greenwood in 1915, and retiring in Nelson in 1940 after 43 years with the bank. Helen said there was a special relationship between Uncle Edgar and Ted, as Ted was the youngest of his late brother`s children and lived with Edgar and Jeannie for the longest time.  Ted also shared Uncle Edgar`s interest in history and literature, though not to the extent that he would allow Ted to go to university as he longed to. In the end, Edgar left most of his historical memorabilia to Ted in his will, including substantial correspondence between Edgar and Sir John A. Macdonald when Edgar held the federal government`s senior positions impacting Western Canada from the mid-1870s to the early 1890s.  Since the 1960s the historically valuable letters have been held by the Glenbow Archives in Calgary as The Dewdney Papers.  The Glenbow Archives in Calgary acquired the letters from the Dewdney family in the 1960s, and organized them in a collection known as the Dewdney Family Papers that has been used extensively by researchers.

jane collage

Edgar`s wife Jane Shaw Moir  (1843-1906)

edgar drawings of trail

Sketch by Edgar Dewdney, among his drawings while building the Dewdney Trail.

At the same time, the family donated Edgar`s ceremonial Lieutenant-Governor`s uniform and several scrapbooks of photographs taken by Edgar to the Nelson Museum.  Today the uniform is featured in the Touchstones Museum in Nelson and the scrapbooks are preserved in the Touchstones Archives.  One of the scrapbooks has an interesting note attached in Edgar`s handwriting that says: “Give this to Teddy when I die“.

I have often thought Edgar Dewdney had the type of life that someone could write a novel around.    His life reminds me a bit of the lead character the Forrest Gump movie – he ends up in the middle of history happening around him, whether he likes it or not.   He knew all of the colourful characters of British Columbia, from Governor James Douglas to Premier Richard McBride, including colourful Pacific Province characters like his close longtime friend Judge Matthew Begbie and his political enemy Willam A. Smith, who famously changed his name to Amor de Cosmos.   As premier of B.C., de Cosmo insisted that the CPR line be built via Bute Inlet over a series of bridges to the north part of Vancouver Island and terminate in Victoria, but Edgar was just as adamant that the best route was down the Fraser Valley to terminate at the future site of Vancouver, which is what happened.  He doubted that the other option was even possible, no matter what the cost amounted to.

crowft 001

There was friendship and mutual respect between Edgar Dewdney and Chief Crowfoot.

Edgar was also part of the Canadian federal government, either as or an MP and cabinet minister or senior appointed official, for more than 20 years, and knew every prime minister from Sir John A. Macdonald to Sir Robert Borden, and including the Metis rebel Louis Riel, and all of the key players in the greatest project ever undertaken in Canada, the Canadian Pacific Railway.  He has the distinction of being the only person to serve as Lieutenant Governor for two jurisdictions — the Northwest Territories (1881-1888) and British Columbia (1892-1897). Compared to his contemporaries, particularly in the U.S., Edgar got along with the native peoples exceptionally well, beginning with the first leg of the Dewdney Trail between Hope and the Similkameen in 1861.  He was amazed at the work done by his Indian crews, particularly an older woman who carried a 120-pound bag of sugar up and down the steep slopes  of the trail, which largely followed  walking trails established over many generations by the First Nations people.  He was frustrated when trail workers refused to go beyond the borders of their tribe, but adapted and hired members of the next tribe along, as well as crews of white and Chinese workers.   There was mutual respect between Edgar and the two most famous chiefs of that era, Sioux Chief Sitting Bull (who met with Edgar after escaping with his warriors to Canada after defeating General Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn) and Blackfoot Chief Crowfoot.

z charlotte dewdney

Edgar`s sister Charlotte Cave-Brown-Cave (1829-1909) was one of three Dewdney siblings in Devon to emigrate to B.C. after hearing enthusiastic descriptions from Edgar. Family photo.

The extinction of the buffalo on the prairies by the 1880s was catastrophic for the native peoples, as it disrupted their way of life and caused mass starvation.  As Lieutenant Governor of the Northwest Territories and Minister of Indian Affairs in the John A. Macdonald government, Edgar Dewdney encouraged the chiefs to move their tribes from hunting to agriculture.  This initiative fell far short of its objective, as numerous difficulties were encountered, including corruption and poor performance by the agricultural trainers the government hired to work with the tribes.  The government`s efforts to distribute food to the starving tribes were often much too little, much too late.  As resentment from this crisis contributed to the Riel Rebellion of 1885, some observers have said that Edgar Dewdney deserved some of the blame for the rebellion breaking out.  However, it is generally agreed that there would have been many more casualties in the rebellion if Crowfoot had not met with Edgar and agreed to remain neutral.  After the rebellion`s Metis leader Louis Riel was convicted of treason in a Regina trial, the federal cabinet, led by PM Macdonald, decided that Riel must hang.  It fell to Edgar Dewdney to sign the death warrant.  He was subsequently derided the rest of his life by French-Canadians and other political opponents as The Man Who Signed Riel`s Death Warrant.   In his initiatives as senior federal minister for the Northwest Territories — which, in his era, included the jurisdictions that would later be the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba — Edgar meant well, but, from a modern perspective, was certainly colonialist and patronizing, and had scant regard for the value of native culture.   Western Canada historian Hugh Dempsey, author of “Crowfoot: Chief of the Blackfeet“, commented on Edgar Dewdney:  “Although much of his career was marked with controversy, his relations with the Indians were good.“

dewd23 001

Edgar at the opening ceremony for the Qu’Appelle and Long Lake Railroad in Saskatchewan in 1886. BELOW: detail of the photo shows how Edgar (wearing white top hat at right) stood out in a crowd with his height of six feet, four inches. Jane, who was five feet, three inches in height, is to his right with a shovel. BOTTOM: Another view of the railroad commencement ceremony. Family photos.

deaildewd 002 another scene of long lake ceremony There is mystery associated with Edgar`s ancestry.   Some researchers say his parents were Charles Dewdney and Fanny Hollingshead, and others say they were John Dewdney and Elizabeth Parsons.  There were a number of Dewdneys with similar first names in the coastal communities of the English county of Devonshire in the 1830s, which has led to confusion.  Edgar`s birth day of November 8, 1835 is solid, but potential birth years for Walter range from 1833 to 1839.  I go with the date of July 16, 1836 which was used in a family history produced in the 1940s by Walter`s granddaughter Harriet Keating.   Neither Edgar nor his siblings ever commented on their parents.   The most likely parents are missing from the 1841 census, so they may have died.   In the 1851 census Edgar and Walter are listed as students at the Templeton School in Exeter, Devon.

edgar and jane dewdney

Edgar and Jeannie with dogs at their Regina residence, 1885.

Edgar studied engineering in Cardiff, Wales and then moved to London to work as private secretary to John Lorry Rickards, who had been in Indian at the time of the India Mutiny of 1857.  Before deciding to go to British Columbia, Edgar originally planned to go to India.   In 2009 a researcher published a report in B.C. History magazine that determined that Edgar`s father was a lowly boatman, so Edgar was pretending to be from a higher class after he arrived in B.C.   Personally, I do not think that it was that big a deal.  Once Edgar had built the Dewdney Trail, he was known as the trail-builder from Devon, with no specifics mentioned about his ancestry.  Somewhere along the line, someone provided the means with which he acquired a good education as well as engineering training that stood him in good stead with the projects he took on in B.C.

jane dewdney letter from john a macdonald

Letter from Sir John A. Macdonald to Jane Dewdney on Macdonald`s 74th birthday in 1889. Family Collection.

Upon arriving in Victoria at age 23 in May of 1859, he stood out among other pioneers for two reasons: first, at six foot four and a muscular 200 pounds, he was literally head and shoulders above just about everyone else; and, secondly, he was a capable civil engineer at a time when such skills were in great demand in a colony burgeoning with gold discoveries, including some areas that could only be accessed by travelling through the United States and up river valleys.  This was a threat to the colony`s sovereignty at a time when many Americans subscribed to the Manifest Destiny concept of the U.S. eventually taking over all of North America.  The American interest in the north part of the continent was demonstrated when Alaska was purchased from Russia for $7.2 million in 1867.  Linking Alaska with the U.S. mainland by acquiring British Columbia — either by purchase or military conquest — seemed the logical next step for some Americans in that expansionist era. Edgar`s first substantial job after arriving in Victoria was to head a team of Royal Engineers to lay out New Westminster, the new capital of the mainland colony of British Columbia.   His success at this venture led to other contracts, most notably a mule trail from the frontier community of Hope to the future site of Princeton.  It was the first stage of what would become known as the Dewdney Trail, crossing a multitude of mountain ranges, waterways and heavily-forested areas.

susan allison diaries 001

Reflections of Edgar`s sister-in-law Susan Moir Allison

In August 1860, travelling on a river streamer between New Westminster and Hope, Edgar met Thomas Glennie, a Scot who planned to homestead near Hope.  Accompanying Glennie was his wife Susan Louisa Moir Glennie, and her two daughters from a previous marriage Jane, 17, and Susan, 15.   The girls were born and raised in the colony of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in a genteel English colonial environment, but with hardly any money in the family.  Edgar, 25, was enraptured by Jane and took every opportunity to get together with her in subsequent years, culminating in their wedding at the Anglican Christ Church in Hope in March 1864.  Today, as the province`s oldest and longest operating church, Christ Church is a national historic site. Jane`s sister Susan married John Fall Allison in 1868 and became an enthusiastic outdoorswoman in a remote dwelling near the current site of Princeton.   Her story is colourfully told in the 1976 “A Pioneer Gentlewoman in British Columbia: The Recollections of Susan Allison“, edited by B.C. historian Margaret Ormsby, who described Edgar Dewdney thus: “A kindly man who had no children of his own, he was generous to his own and to Jane`s nieces and nephews.“

Unlike Susan, Jane in later years preferred city life to frontier abodes.  Jane thrived in the invigorating political scene in Ottawa, but her favorite home was in Oak Bay, immediately east of Victoria, where she enjoyed the mild climate, was close to many friends and relatives, and had wonderful gardens.  Through his career Edgar`s favourite job was in the 1890s as Lieutenant-Governor of B.C., where he and Jane held court in the vice-regal residence Cary Castle.

Susan Allison was in good health until close to her death in 1937 at 91.  She learned the Chinook language and had many friends among her native neighbours.  As her husband was often away from home prospecting or engaged in other business ventures, Susan relied on assistance from her Chinook women friends to deliver her babies.  Her diaries include a number of stories about Edgar and Jane that show them interacting as close relatives in everyday life.  One autumn day Edgar and Jane were visiting when Susan purchased a huge number of salmon from a native fisherman.   Edgar and Jane rolled up their sleeves and joined Susan and some friends in a work bee assembly line where they cleaned all the salmon and preserved the meat with salt and spices, so that Susan and her children were well-fed with fish through the winter months.

edgar digging

Hon. Edgar Dewdney turns first sod for railroad from Calgary to Edmonton in 1891. At age 55, he was still an imposing figure of physical vigour in Western Canada.

The discovery of gold in the East Kootenay region in 1865 led the colonial governor, Frederick Seymour to offer Edgar a contract to extend the trail to Wild Horse Creek, near the site of today`s Cranbrook.  Edgar knew nothing of the country beyond the Similkameen Valley, but accepted the job, as long as he could choose his own men and be assured that they would be paid.   This would bring the total length of the Dewdney Trail to 450 miles across some of the most rugged and scenic terrain on the continent.  In a letter to Edgar dated April 10, 1865, Gov. Seymour said that, in addition to building the mule trail, “you will make accurate sketches of the different lines examined, with full notes of the nature of the soil and timber, the course and size of the different streams and rivers, the quantity and probable extent of prairie and grazing land, the nature of the different rock, and, where found, the heights of as many different points above the level of the sea as can be obtained, and if possible the latitudes and longitudes of all important points and such other general information as may be useful in preparing a map of the country through which you pass“

Dewdney, Chief Piapot and his warriors, and the Montreal Garrison Artillery, Regina, Saskatchewan, 1885

Edgar Dewdney bottom left, with Chief Piapot and his warriors, and the Montreal Garrison Artillery in Regina in 1885.

edgar painting 2

Painting of Edgar Dewdney c. 1875.  Frame is 22 inches wide and 26 inches high. Family collection.

The timing of the trail work in the spring of 1865 was significant, because the U.S. Civil War essentially ended on April 9, 1865 with the surrender of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee to Union Gen. U.S. Grant at Appomattox Court House in Virginia.  With the war over, Britain and Canada faced the dire prospect of hundreds of thousands of trained soldiers of the victorious North invading and taking control of lands north of the 49th parallel, as Britain had sided with the South in several controversial incidents.   The fact that much of the planning of the conspiracy to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln occurred in Montreal was another reason to worry about American retaliation against Canada.  As it turned out, the only incursions from the U.S. were the small, poorly-organized Fenian Raids in Ontario and New Brunswick of groups of Irish-American soldiers aiming to strike at Britain – who they saw as oppressing their native Ireland – by attacking Canada.  The fear of invasion from the United States was a key reason that British North American colonies agreed to unite in the self-governing dominion of Canada in 1867.


The existing Edgar Dewdney memorabilia includes a bible (sideways, lower shelf) presented to Edgar and Jane after their wedding ceremony at the Anglican Christ Church in March 1864.  Family collection

writing on inside of bible

Inside page of 1864 bible with inscription from Rev. Alexander David Pringle.  Author photo

So, in addition to building the trail, Edgar was on a mission of discovery and reconnaissance for a governor extremely curious about economic prospects for the land they were about to access through a west-east route – without having to approach it from the United States — for the first time. In 1998 the Boundary Museum Society based in Grand Forks, B.C. transcribed and published Edgar`s notes and letters as the trail was being built in 1865, in a binder called Edgar Dewdney: Diary Notes Written on the Trail.   As someone who grew up in Nelson, my favourite part of Edgar`s correspondence was letters associated with a sidetrip he took with an Indian companion in a birchbark canoe from the current site of Castlegar, up the churning Kootenay River (doing 14 portages to get through the rapids) to the current site of Nelson, and up the West Arm and then toward the North end of Kootenay Lake.  The purpose was to check out possible routes for the trail on the east side of Kootenay Lake.  They went to Crawford Bay and partly up the valley to the St. Mary`s River in the East Kootenay, but Edgar decided it wasn`t worth it because travelling miners would not want to pay to be ferried across the lake. In a letter to the governor dated June 29, 1865, Edgar said: “I did not reach the north end (of Kootenay Lake), thinking I should only be wasting my time, but I traveled up sufficiently near to take its bearing.   The scenery on both sides of the Lake is very bold and grand.  The greater part of the rock around the Lake is granite of the coarsest description with large quantities of quartz running in veins of different thickness north and south.  I explored several but could find no trace of gold.“

titley book 001

Biography of Edgar Dewdney by Brian Titley.

“The Lake abounds in minerals, iron and large quantities of galena with which I fell satisfied there is silver but I had no means of testing it and unfortunately left my specimens behind,“ he wrote, demonstrating a keen eye for future industry in the region.   Returning to the project staging headquarters at Fort Sheppard (near the current site of Trail), Edgar and his companion Peter shot the spectacular Kootenay rapids in their canoe, and Edgar noted that Bonnington Falls was the most beautiful waterfall he had ever seen.  Years later he said in an interview that his favourite mode of transport in rivers and lakes was the birchbark canoe, which kept paddlers dry and could be easily repaired.

While they were better off than most pioneer couples, Edgar and Jane were never affluent.  In that era before pensions, Edgar was always worried about he and Jane running out of money in their retirement years.   His eager involvement in land speculation and investments in mining companies were almost like a gambling addiction.   He tended to lose much more often than gain from such speculation, but the fact that he was involved got him into trouble during his political career.   Opponents accused him of conflicts of interest, particularly when he influenced the location of the city of Regina to encompass land which partially owned through investment in a syndicate.   Everything was in the open and his boss John A. Macdonald had no problem with it, but the situation looked bad and was a stain on Edgar`s reputation for the rest of his life.  His response to accusers was to say he would have gained more money if the other option for locating Regina was chosen, because he had a larger stake in that ownership syndicate! One of the criticisms of Edgar as a politician and administrator was that he was “overly loyal“ to John A. Macdonald.   Like many Canadians, Edgar was a great admirer of the charismatic Macdonald, and proud of his loyalty to his Prime Minister and party leader.   But he was also a very close personal friend of Macdonald and his wife Agnes.  And Jane in turn was a good friend of Agnes and Sir John.   Macdonald`s high opinion of Edgar was shown when he named Edgar co-executor of his will (along with his son Hugh), and arranged with Edgar to be trustee of a fund to support Macdonald`s handicapped daughter Mary.   When Macdonald died in June 1891, Edgar was at his bedside along with members of Macdonald`s family.  A couple of years later, Lady Macdonald and Mary stayed at Cary Castle for several months as guests of the Dewdneys. Edgar owned and loved many dogs over the years and spoiled them.   Jeannie was not so keen on the dogs, and was particularly put out when one of the dogs insisted in sleeping under the bed when he was away. In 1897, Edgar took great pleasure in providing his assent as lieutenant-governor to legislation that established Nelson, Rossland and Grand Forks as municipalities.   He could remember going through those sites when they were just part of the wilderness.  In his retirement years Edgar travelled to the Kootenays several times to visit friends and check out investment prospects.   Reporters from the local newspapers would come to his hotel and enjoy  hearing his stories of the old days in the region.  He also had pleasant visits with his nephew and ward Ted Dewdney who was working as a bank clerk in Rossland.

edgar's locket of john a macd and wife

Existing Edgar Dewdney memorabilia includes this pendant with images of Sir John A. Macdonald and Jane Dewdney, who were Edgar`s two favourite people in the world.  Family collection.

After a long string of provincial and federal electoral victories, Edgar was defeated in the Nov. 7, 1900, losing to his Liberal opponent 1,772 to 1,627.  Ironically, he was defeated just two days after his 65th birthday while running in the New Westminster riding for the first time – the same community he laid out as a young engineer four decades earlier. Edgar would then experience déjà vu in another respect as a contractor.  The province of B.C. was in the midst of railway fever.   With the southern interior proving to be a land of great mineral wealth and logging prospects, the government and the CPR were worried that the dynamic Great Northern Railway led by James Jerome Hill would capture the freight and wealth of that region through branch lines off its main line near the Canadian border.  There was also great pressure on Premier James Dunsmuir from businesses in the Kootenays and the Lower Mainland for the construction of a Coast To Kootenay railway.  In July of 1901 Edgar Dewdney was commissioned to take charge of a government survey to determine the viability of a rail line through the Hope Mountains.  It was almost exactly 40 years since he faced the task of building a mule trail through the same terrain.  A big difference was that rail lines had to keep within an acceptable grade, or the trains could not pull their loads going uphill, or safely brake going downhill.

mccul 001

Book on the Kettle Valley Railway includes Edgar Dewdney`s 1901 feasibility study for a railway through the Hope Mountains — 40 years after he built a trail through the same terrains.

In the book McCulloch`s Wonder: The Story of the Kettle Valley Railway, Barry Sanford notes that the government could hardly have picked an older man for the task, “but Dewdney`s long experience more than compensated for his lack of youthful agility.  He accepted the assignment with the vigor and enthusiasm he had shown for his assignment in the early 1860s, and promptly hired two of the most competent engineers in the country, Frank Moberly and Henry Carry, to assist him.“  An expedition of 30 men for the study left Victoria for Hope on August 1, 1901.  In March 1902 Edgar delivered his report to the provincial legislature.   He reported that three possible routes from Hope to Princeton were evaluated, but each option involved long stretches of severely adverse grades.  “The survey shows that the Hope Mountains cannot be crossed without encountering serious engineering difficulties which would necessitate a  very large expenditure of money, and I know of nothing so pressing, either in the way of development or along any line which might be determined on to warrant its construction.“ Many in B.C. were shocked that the growth-minded, ever optimistic pioneer Edgar Dewdney would recommend against building the rail line.  Despite his report, the project proceeded, and the Coquihalla Rail Line officially opened on July 31, 1916 – eight days before Edgar died.  He was proven to be correct in his conclusions, as the cost per mile of building the line through the Hope mountains was five times as expensive as the cost per mile of building the main line CPR through B.C., and it was a money-loser due to extraordinarily high operating costs, largely due to avalanches in winter, washouts in spring and forest fires in summer.   The railway eventually closed for good in 1959, and today parts of the line are a tourist attraction for biking and hiking.

edwar the confessor shrine westminster abbey 001

Edgar Dewdney memorabilia includes this souvenir card from Westminster Abbey from his visit to his native England in 1890. Family collection.

In January 1906 the Dewdney family experienced two deaths within three days, as Jane`s mother Susan, who was living with the Dewdneys in her early 90s, died on Jan. 27th and then Jane died on Jan. 30th.  Three years later Edgar travelled to England and married Blanche Plantagenet Kemeys-Tynte in Somerset, England.  In his earlier writings and interviews, Edgar said his intention when he left England for Victoria in 1859 was to stay for 10 years, earn the fortune he needed to live comfortably, and then return to his sweetheart who was waiting for him in England.  This led to a false story that Blanche was the sweetheart, and was still waiting for Edgar 50 years later in 1909!  A reason to think they are connected is that Blanche`s father, Charles Kemeys-Tynte, provided Edgar in 1859 with a letter of introduction to Colonial Secretary Edward Bulwer Lytton, who in turn provided Edgar with a letter of introduction to Governor James Douglas which he presented upon arrival in Victoria.  However, British census records indicate that Blanche was born in about 1854, so she would only have been about five years of age when Edgar left England, so she surely could not have been the sweetheart he left behind. Today Edgar Dewdney is remembered mainly in Western Canada, and particularly in British Columbia, his province of first residence and retirement.   He stood out among other men partly because of his height, but also because of his energy, optimism and confidence, his genuine love of outdoor frontier life, and his skills and vision as an engineer.

bcv ruler

Edgar as Lieutenant Governor of B.C. in 1893.   Family photo

He was the type of leader that people chose to name things after, like the municipality of Dewdney, Mount Dewdney, Dewdney Peak, Dewdney Creek, the Dewdney Trunk Road, Dewdney electoral constituency, Dewdney Schools, Dewdney Avenue in Regina and, most importantly, the Dewdney Trail.   And the City of Trail is named after Trail Creek, which in turn was named after the Dewdney Trail.  The City of Fernie is named after William Fernie, who was a foreman of Edgar`s in building the trail through the Kootenays.   Allison Pass at the top of the Hope-Princeton highway is named after Edgar`s brother-in-law John Fall Allison.

edgar daily journal 1894 feb 19

Edgar`s official diary for 1894 exists in the family memorabilia. ABOVE: This Feb. 25, 1894 entry mentions a serious fire in Kaslo.  It is interesting that a brother of his future wife Blanche Kemeys-Tynte visited the Dewdney`s at the lieutenant governor residence Cary Castle on Feb. 26, 1894.  BELOW: Diary notes from Jan. 8-9, 1894, including William Cornelius Van Horne of the CPR, and Col. James Peters, who was a cousin of Edgar`s ward Ted Dewdney`s future wife Helen Peters, who at the time was still a young girl residing in Charlottetown.  Family collection.

edgar 1894 diary jan 9


Postcard-style photographs of the Royal Family in Edgar`s personal scrapbook. At left is Queen Victoria with one of her daughters. At right is Carrie Trutch O`Reilly, who, with her husband Peter, was a long-time friend of the Dewdneys. Family collection.

Some observers have said the Dewdney Trail was of little consequence because it fell into disuse after a few years, which is true but a large part of Highway 3 of today follows the trail that Edgar blazed through the wilderness.   When the Salmo-Creston Highway was under construction in the early 1960s, it was proposed to call it the Dewdney Highway because it generally followed the Dewdney Trail, but officials decided instead to call it the Kootenay Skyway (locals just call it the Salmo-Creston).  In retrospect, the most valuable thing about the Dewdney Trail in its early years was a symbol of British and later Canadian determination to keep the Okanagan, Kootenays and other parts of southern B.C. free from control by the giant nation to the south.  And sections of the trail were used in several discoveries, including the Red Mountain find in 1890.

dewdney invite 1912 001

Invitation the Dewdneys received for dinner in 1912. Family collection.

Edgar died in August 1916 during one of the bleakest periods of the First World War.  The lists of Canadian casualties in newspapers went on and on, but the publishers still felt that the end of the life of one of the province`s greatest pioneers deserved extensive coverage on front pages and in editorials. In an editorial the day after he died, the Victoria Times said: “He was an exceedingly loveable person.  He impressed everyone he came in contact with his geniality and fine open-heartedness.   He ever had a kindly word for all who sought his advice.“ Over the years there have been numerous magazine and newspaper articles about Edgar Dewdney, as well as a 1999 UBC Press book The Frontier World of Edgar Dewdney by Brian Titley, a professor of education at the University of Lethbridge.   Titley also wrote the Edgar Dewdney entry in the Canadian Dictionary of Biographies, which concludes that Edgar “was an accomplished engineer, an indifferent businessman, an adequate administrator, and an undistinguished politician.  His greatest fault, perhaps, was his partisan loyalty to John A. Macdonald, which clouded his judgement at critical moments. He deserves some of the blame for the North-West rebellion and the repressive policies that followed it.  The roads he surveyed in British Columbia were his greatest achievement.“  An interesting review of the Titley book by J. William Brennan is at

edgar signed 1912 001

Signed photo of Uncle Edgar, 1912, as a gift to nephew Ted Dewdney on his marriage to Helen Peters. Family photo.

early photo of edgar grave 001

ABOVE: Photo of Edgar`s gravesite at Ross Bay Cemetery in Victoria shortly after the funeral in August 1916. BELOW: the gravesite today, including BOTTOM: name plate. Family photos.

edgar tombstone close up of edgar plaque Edgar Dewdney Chronology November 5, 1835 – born in Bideford, Devon on the southwest coast of England, son of Charles Dewdney and Fanny Hollingshead*

1851 – Edgar and younger brother Walter were boarders at Templeton Mansion School in Exeter, Devon. April 1854 – brother Walter Dewdney joins the 17th Lancers as a private, rising quickly to Troop Sergeant Major January 1858 – death of sister Rose Johnstone Dewdney at 29 in Devon. March 5, 1859 – Edgar left England on the Hamurg mail line steamer, arriving in New York after a stormy passage. May 18, 1859 – arrived in Victoria after sailing to Panama, crossing to the Pacific side by land, and sailing north via San Francisco to his destination. 1860 – Hired by Governor James Douglas to build a pack trail from Hope to the mining camps in the Similkameen Valley

March 25, 1864 – marries Jane Shaw Moir at the Anglican Christ Church in Hope, B.C. Mid-September 1865 – Miners began travelling from Hope to the Kootenay gold fields on the new four-foot wide, all-Canadian Dewdney Trail June 1866 – Private Walter Dewdney retires from 17th Lancers of the British Army after 12 years of service and moves to British Columbia. July 1, 1867 – Canada becomes a self-governing nation under the British North America Act. Dec. 5, 1867 — sister Charlotte Dewdney marries Rev. Jordayne Cave-Brown-Cave in Sappeton, B.C. December 1868 – elected to represent Kootenay in the colony`s Legislative Council March 4, 1870 – Louis Riel`s Metis provisional government executes Orangeman Thomas Scott. July 20, 1871 – British Columbia becomes a  Canadian province, largely based on the federal promise to build a railway across Canada. July 20, 1872 – elected  to represent Yale district in the federal parliament Jan. 22, 1872 – elected again to represent Yale district in the federal parliament July 27, 1876 — sister Fanny Dewdney Lethbridge marries John Lawrence in Victoria, B.C. Sept. 17, 1878 – re-elected to parliament for Yale by acclamation December 3, 1881-June 30, 1888 – took on the additional responsibilities of Lieutenant-Governor of the Northwest Territories May 30. 1879 – becomes federal  Indian Commissioner, appointed by PM Sir John A. Macdonald. May 1880 – meets with  Sioux Chief Sitting Bull (defeater of U.S. Gen. Custer at Little Big Horn)

March 26-June 3, 1885 – The North-West Rebellion (also known as the Riel Rebellion). May 9-12, 1885 – Canadian forces under Major General Middleton decisively defeat Metis forces May 15, 1885 – Louis Riel surrenders and is taken to Regina November 7, 1885 – Pounding of the last spike marks the completion of the transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railway. November 16, 1885 – Louis Riel is hanged in Regina.  Edgar Dewdney signed his death warrant, which made him persona non grata among French-Canadians for the rest of his life. Sept. 12, 1888 – elected MP in a federal by-election for Assiniboia East district Sept. 25, 1888 – June 6, 1892 – serves as Minister of the Interior and Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs under Prime Minister Macdonald. Sept. 25, 1888 – made a member of the Queen`s Privy Council, and thus holds the title of the Honourable Edgar Dewdney. April 25, 1890 — Chief Crowfoot dies.  Edgar writes: “He was beloved by his people, feared by his foes, esteemed by all.“ Sept. 9, 1890 – Edgar leaves for England on a mission to encourage emigration to Canada, and investment in Canadian business. March 5, 1891 – elected MP to represent Assiniboia East district June 6,  1891 – death of Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald.  Edgar Dewdney was among the relatives and close friends at his bedside when he passed away. June 16, 1891 – Oct. 16, 1892 – serves as Minister of the Interior and Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs under Prime Minister Abbott Jan. 25, 1892 – death of Edgar`s brother Walter Dewdney in Vernon Nov. 1, 1892 – became Lieutenant-Governor of British Columba and moved to Cary Castle, the viceregal estate of Lieutenant Governors.  He succeeds Hugh Nelson, after whom the City of Nelson, B.C. is named. August 16, 1896 – gold discovered in Klondike River in the Yukon, leading to the Klondike Gold Rush March 4, 1897 – As Lt-Governor, he assents to the incorporation of Rossland, Nelson and Grand Forks as municipalities, under the Speedy Incorporation of Towns Act.

Oct. 28, 1897 – death of brother-in-law John Fall Allison at age 70. Dec. 1, 1897 – retires as Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia and moves to home on Rockland Avenue in Oak Bay, B.C. Nov. 7, 1900 – defeated by Liberal opponent in the federal election in the New Westminster riding 1,772 to 1,627 July 1, 1901 – commissioned to report on potential routes for a rail line through the Hope Mountains for the Coast-to-Kootenay Railway. March 1902 – presented his report to the B.C. legislature, concluding that none of the potential routes for a railway through the Hope Mountains was feasible. January 27, 1906 – Jane`s mother Susan Glennie, who lived with Edgar and Jane in Oak Bay, dies at age 95l January 30, 1906 – wife Jane dies three days after her mother, at 62. August 5, 1909 – death of sister Charlotte Wright, 80, in Victoria September 1909 – married Blanche Plantagenet Kemeys-Tynte in Somerset, England August 31, 1914 – death of sister Fanny Lethbridge Lawrence, 81, in Victoria August 8, 1916 – died of heart failure at age 80 August 12, 1916 – his funeral, followed by burial at Ross Bay Cemetery in the Anglican section. March 27, 1936 – widow Blanche Dewdney dies at Leycroft, Salterton Road, Exmouth, Devon. February 1, 1937 – death of sister-in-law Susan Louisa Moir Allison in Vancouver at 91.

dewdney stones at Ross Bay Cemetery July 2008

In a separate area of Ross Bay Cemetery, about 50 feet from Edgar`s memorial,  are the gravesites of, from left to right: Edgar`s wife Jane Moir Dewdney, his sister Fanny Lawrence, and his mother-in-law Susan Glennie. Author photo.

edgar's death certificate4

Edgar Dewdney death certificate.