Vancouver Island Scoundrels, Eccentrics and Originals is a cutely-sized volume comprising 20 stories of the aforementioned types. I say types rather than people because it includes Caddy the Cadborosaurus, Miss Wilson’s parrot, the Pig War and the Darcy
Island leper colony (more on this in my next column).
An easy read, a light introduction to the original (sorry Hitchhike Mike, you were born too late) Vancouver Island characters.
And there were many -Victoria’s classy madam, Amor de Cosmos, Jimmy Chicken, Brother XII and Madame X among them.
Reading about these folks and the environment that fostered them is more revealing of colonial life than any history textbook.
I have to be honest, the real reason I picked up Ruttan’s book was to see if the “Great Ecclesiastical
Divide” was included. Sure enough, the Battle of the Bishops is there. In 1874 Bishop Edward Cridge broke away from the imposing hill-top Anglican Church in a dispute with Bishop Hill. Hill favoured the high “Popish” style of the Church of England. Cridge formed a new congregation with less formal ceremony and more common appeal. Half the town followed him. Sir James Douglas donated the land for the modest church (now a National Historic Site) at Blanshard and Humbolt Street.
Pioneers, Edward and Mary Cridge did much more for young Victoria than squabble over Christian doctrine. They were two of Victoria’s first social reformers. He was the original superintendent of education, together they founded the first hospital (to become Jubilee Hospital) and Mary created the first orphanage (now the Cridge Centre for the Family).
And, unlike many colonists, they were decent and supportive to non-white immigrants and First Nation peoples of the area. This good work and their personal history, in the political and social context of developing Victoria, is thoroughly documented in Quiet Reformers – the Legacy of Early Victoria’s Bishop Edward and Mary Cridge, by Ian MacDonald and Betty O’Keefe (Ronsdale Press, 2010), a book of interest to anyone interested in the life and times of the second half of the 19th century as Victoria evolved from a rudimentary camp inside the bastion to an important colonial centre.
Oh and, by the way, I am the great, grand-daughter of Edward and Mary Cridge.
Susan Lee is a Ucluelet bookseller and reviews books for the Westerly News.