Ucluelet event salutes George Fraser, his legacy

Just about 70 years after he left Ucluelet on a boat at age 90, George Fraser was remembered for all the evidence of him there is still in town.

The Ucluelet pioneer whose famed hybrid rhodies put him and the West Coast on the horticultural map was a hit at the Ucluelet Community Centre, where the society bearing his name had a plant sale, presentation, music and activities.

“236 acres, 236 bucks .. that was it,” but that 236 acres was “at the edge of the world,” said presenter Dave McIntosh as he flipped through slides showing historic Ukee images.

A Scottish immigrant who came to Ucluelet at age 40 after becoming foreman of then-new Beacon Hill Park in Victoria, Fraser operated his nursery and a four-acre garden cleared (perhaps with the help of his two younger brothers, who emigrated here as well, and an ox) on his 236 acres. There was a pond, with goldfish and lilies.

The soil was glacial till – leftovers, basically. He beefed it up, so to speak, with cow manure and seaweed he hauled with a scow from up the inlet, McIntosh said.

Fraser had few kind words for the deer and the salal that even then plagued the gardeners of Ucluelet, McIntosh said, citing bemused mutterings regretting that pit-lamping was illegal.

Air Force pilots in training nearby were given heather seeds to drop, making Fraser something of a “ecoterrorist,” McIntosh quipped.

WESTERLY NEWS PHOTOS JACKIE CARMICHAEL

His dwelling, a very modest home that measured 12×18″, with an outhouse tacked onto the back.

Despite the challenges, Fraser cultivated all sorts of plants, but he became known for his rhododendron hybrids, with several named for him in the western world’s top gardening circles.

“He worked incredibly hard,”

McIntosh said.

He traveled to Portland or Victoria for meetings, but his work was revered from New York to England’s Kew Gardens to Boston.

Just 10 or so pioneer awards have been given by the American Rhododendron Society – one of them to George. In addition, a plaque in his honour has been posted at Fochabers, in northern Scotland, saluting one of the town’s most famous sons.

A rhododendron Fraser planted in 1889 in Beacon Hill Park in Victoria (by Fountain Lake) still blooms.

The Shelter Islands were renamed the George Fraser Islands in his honour.

“He’s left a bit of a legacy,” McIntosh said.

George Fraser played the violin – his old fiddle was lovingly restored with the help of a Victoria’s Jim Smith.

He was vital long into his golden years.

“He was getting tired of hauling cow manure and seaweed in his 80s,” McIntosh said.

George Fraser was a generous man, who gave land for the UAC hall – which was in turn parceled out, in part, for the Ucluelet Elementary School and high school. Around Ucluelet and Tofino, you will find blooms from the bushes he planted. The Fraserii, the John Blair, and others, along Fraser Lane and Imperial Lane, at Fletcher’s Cove and in Ken Gibson’s yard in Tofino.

When he was being taken by boat to Port Alberni, as he was dying, in May of 1944, he reportedly said “I don’t know where I’m going to end up, but it doesn’t matter – I’ve had my heaven here on earth,” McIntosh said.

editor@westerlynews.ca

Just Posted

Ahousaht welcomes massive Surfrider Canada conference to Meares Island near Tofino

“It was the first time we’ve all come together.”

Ucluelet shakes up emergency services, removes manager, eyes new sirens

District has eliminated Emergency and Environmental Manager position

Is Steve Nash Vancouver Island’s best athlete of all-time?

As Captain Canada gets ready to enter basketball’s Hall of Fame it’s time to debate his legacy

Who is Vancouver Island’s greatest athlete ever?

We want to know, you get to choose in a 64-athlete tournament bracket

VIDEO: After the floods, comes the cleanup as Grand Forks rebuilds

Business owners in downtown wonder how long it will take for things to go back to normal

Study recommends jurors receive more financial and psychological support

Federal justice committee calls for 11 policy changes to mitigate juror stress

Research needed on impact of microplastics on B.C. shellfish industry: study

SFU’s department of biological sciences recommends deeper look into shellfish ingesting microbeads

B.C. dad pens letter urging overhaul of youth health laws after son’s fatal overdose

The Infants Act currently states children under 19 years old may consent to medical treatment on own

Singh sides with B.C. in hornet’s nest of pipeline politics for the NDP

Singh had called for a more thorough environmental review process on the proposal

30 C in B.C., 30 cm of snow expected for eastern Canada

It might be hot in B.C., but the rest of Canada still dealing with cold

Horgan defends fight to both retain and restrict Alberta oil imports

Alberta says pipeline bottlenecks are kneecapping the industry, costing millions of dollars a day

RCMP caution boaters after two kids pass out from carbon monoxide poisoning

Both children were given oxygen and taken to hospital

B.C. invests $115M to create 200 new nurse practitioner jobs

Health Minister says 780,000 B.C. residents don’t have a family doctor

Most Read