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Saturday, Nov.19, 7:00pm

Gabriola Community Hall


Celebrating the 70th Anniversary of Malcolm Lowry’s inspiration for October Ferry to Gabriola

Ivan Bulic

 In 1946, British novelist Malcolm Lowry, soon to be famous with publication of Under the Volcano (considered one of the great novels of the 20th century), was facing eviction from his squatter’s cabin on North Vancouver’s Dollarton Flats. Looking for a new home, Malcolm and his wife Margerie took the Atrevida ferry to Gabriola in October.

The Lowrys never did settle on Gabriola, although they did stay 3-4 days in the Anderson Lodge (now Surf Lodge). Malcolm’s notes from the Gabriola trip inspired his last novel, October Ferry to Gabriola, published posthumously in 1970. It is the only major literary work to feature a Gulf Island.

To mark the 70th anniversary of Lowry’s trip to Gabriola, the Gabriola Museum and the Friends of the Library have teamed up with the Gabriola Library, the Ferry Advisory Committee and the Gabriola Arts Council to sponsor a week-long series of events that include a presentation by Malcolm Lowry scholar Sherrill Grace (Oct.1) and performances of Charlotte Cameron’s play October ferries to Gabriola with Drew Staniland and the Twilight Radio Theatre (Oct.2,3). On Oct 04, Drew Staniland will host a screening of the award winning documentary Volcano- An inquiry into the life and death of Malcolm Lowry.

Finally, on Oct. 6, an historic plaque commemorating Lowry’s iconic ferry ride will be unveiled at the Nanaimo terminal of the Gabriola ferry and later that afternoon the Friends of the Library’s Wendy Strachan will host a screening of Under the Volcano, a feature film starring Albert Finney.

For anyone interested in knowing more about Malcolm Lowry, his writing, and his relationship to Gabriola, Phyllis Reeve’s informative article written for the SHALE in 2008 is an excellent summary.

SHALE No.18 April 2008
Malcolm Lowry on Gabriola —the October Ferry, 1946
by Phyllis Reeve


Malcolm Lowry boarded the Gabriola ferry, Atrevida, on October 7, 1946, fretting under the weight of two enormous worries.

After ten years of anguished writing and rewriting, he was about to see the first galley proofs of Under the Volcano, which could be one of the great novels of the twentieth or any century.

Also, he and his wife Margerie were threatened with eviction from their shack at Dollarton, a small community on the north shore of Burrard Inlet at the mouth of Indian Arm. Like innumerable other visitors to Gabriola, they were house-hunting.

They knew of an old house that might still be for sale, and possibly within their means. There was a lot, certainly affordable, but requiring building from scratch with all the implied hassle and delay. The dilemma, so familiar to Islanders, puzzled the Lowrys, as it puzzled Ethan and Jacqueline Llewelyn, characters soon to be created as protagonists of a novel entitled, October Ferry to Gabriola.

“Gabriola! Ah, if it should prove the right place… the dreamed-of place…” Jacqueline envisioned, as the ferry edged away from Nanaimo.  We know just how she felt.

The Lowrys heard about Gabriola from their former landlady in Vancouver, Mrs. J.D. Smith, whose daughter Angela had married a Nanaimo restaurateur, Alfred McKee. The McKees owned a cottage on Gabriola, and could show and tell the wonders of the island.

In those days before BC Ferries, Malcolm and Margerie travelled from Vancouver to Victoria by the BC Coast Steamship Service (CPR), then from Victoria to Nanaimo by bus, and finally to Gabriola by a privately run ferry. A taxi took them to Anderson Lodge, now Surf Lodge, about a mile from the McKee cabin. They stayed three or four days, then returned from Nanaimo to Vancouver by the CPR ferry.

Sheryl Salloum documented the Gabriola excursion in Malcolm Lowry; Vancouver Days, an invaluable resource for the British Columbia part of the Lowry saga.

She included a charming interview with Alfred McKee; and sketch maps of the boat routes, Nanaimo harbour and the downtown area, and of Gabriola, with most points of interest at the North End in the Berry Point/ Taylor Bay area.

The only South End site marked is the Roman Catholic Church, known to Islanders as the Log Church. The Lowrys almost certainly did not visit the South End, but one of the chapters in October Ferry recounts an encounter between Ethan and a priest who invited him to visit his “pretty little chapel”.

The eviction from Dollarton did not happen.  Malcolm and Margerie did not move to Gabriola.

They took away with them their usual accumulation of notes on scenes, characters, and vignettes to be worked up into fiction. But Malcolm was slipping hopelessly into the throes of his fatal alcohol addiction. He did not drink while on Gabriola, McKee testified, but such abstinence could not at that point be more than temporary.

The last great co-ordinated efforts of his genius went into the corrections of the Volcano proofs. He did turn the notes into a story, then a novel that was supposed to be October Ferry, but he had lost the capacity to sink himself and his work into the layers upon layers of meticulously crafted narrative and metaphor which make Volcano great, and which he intended for the new novel. By the time of his death in 1957, he still had not shown his publishers a draft that they could accept.

Margerie did what she could with the manuscript, without changing or polishing more than was absolutely necessary, and in 1970, World Publishing brought out October Ferry to Gabriola, edited by Margerie Lowry. Later editions came from Penguin (with a striking cover appropriately using Frederick Varley’s painting Night Ferry, Vancouver), Viking, and Douglas & McIntyre. Long out-of-print, it turns up occasionally in second-hand bookshops and at Page’s Resort on Gabriola.

As a bookseller, I faced two frequent questions. Is it about Gabriola? No, it’s more about coming to Gabriola, about what brings people to the islands, and what they are seeking. The book ends with the ferry nearing the dock; none of the narrative takes place on Gabriola itself.

The second question is more difficult. Is it any good? If the questioner does not know Lowry’s works, the question is unanswerable, and, if they are looking for light reading, they should be discouraged from wasting their money and taking away one of the few remaining copies. If they do know Lowry, or if they really want to know, the answer has to be “…yes”. And “…no”. Some passages are wrenchingly beautiful and powerful. Others are as banal as anything in the mystery-romance novels that Margerie sometimes wrote. It remains a work-in-progress.

And that brings us to The Voyage that Never Ends. Douglas Day and Gordon Bowker, in their large biographies of Lowry, have little to say about the facts of the Gabriola interlude, although Bowker calls it, “a fateful trip, the beginning of a voyage into a creative image from which Lowry was never able to extricate himself”, and examines the personal anguish which went into the attempted novel.

At the end of his life, Lowry was contemplating a huge and complicated connecting of his life’s work, including the novels, into a sequence that would be called The Voyage that Never Ends.

For readers as well as writers, the voyage never ends. Some of us on Gabriola decided to take an in-depth look at our Lowry connection and organized A Gabriola Tribute to Malcolm Lowry at the Sandstone Studio at Page’s Resort, on October (of course) 29, 1994.

About thirty readers, writers, scholars, and friends of Lowry and/or Gabriola gathered to share thoughts and memorabilia, art, and music, and to take a new look at Our Island as a Creative Image. We published the day’s proceedings as the chapbook: Malcolm Lowry’s October Ferry; a Gabriola Island Tribute.

Dr. Patricia Merivale of the University of British Columbia peeled away some of the layers which constitute October Ferry, despite its unfinished state. A spiritual autobiography, somewhere between autobiography and fiction, it is also a travelogue, in which the bus journey from Victoria to Nanaimo becomes an evocation of our West Coast as a pastoral idyll.

Beneath the autobiographical modernist surface, she showed us a Gothic quest romance: the bus as the Greyhound of Heaven, the Nanaimo bastion as castle, the Atrevida as Charon’s ferry to the Underworld, the Log Church as the Perilous Chapel. And the Holy Grail is Gabriola itself, “the place-towards-which, the ideal of the heart, the home to which ‘you can’t go home again’, and that is why Ethan can’t get to it within the fiction of this story”.

Writer and broadcaster Norman Newton led us into a Nanaimo waterfront beer parlour, which Lowry called the Ocean Spray and
which Salloum identified as the Hotel Plaza, later the Villa Hotel, on Front Street. Lowry’s rich imagination endows the unattractive denizens of this sordid bar with a magic mysticism, a parallel with characters and situations in William Blake’s Visions of the Daughters of Albion.

It seemed that Malcolm Lowry had given a symbolic structure not only to his fiction, but also to our reality. As the day progressed, we made another discovery.

Our symposium confirmed Malcolm Lowry’s famous capacity for infectious sociability. Poet Earle Birney called him “a great writer and the most lovable of men”. So neighbours, other writers from Birney’s circle, landladies, and chance acquaintances became his friends and, like Hilda and Phil Thomas and Norman Newton, were quick to rescue him from his self-inflicted mishaps.

West Coast writers feel Lowry to be one of themselves, and they continue to write about real or imagined encounters, as Gabriolan
Sandy Frances Duncan did in her story, “Was that Malcolm Lowry?” which she read at the symposium.8 In her essay for our published proceedings, she evoked the peculiar camaraderie, nostalgia, and 8 Anthologized in Vancouver Short Stories, Vancouver: UBC Press, 1985. recognition, even among previous strangers, which pervaded the Gabriola event.9

And so it is that Canadian Literature and Gabriola lay claim to Malcolm Lowry, even though he was born and died in England, and spent only 14 of his 48 years in Canada, and a couple of days on Gabriola. ◊

Raking the hay on Horseshoe Road farm, Gabriola circa 1960.

Daniel Lunn Brown (on rake), grandchildren Danna Lynn Brown, Brian Edward Piper, and Leonard Daniel Piper (on horse)

“My father, Tim Brown, was born on Gabriola in 1923. In 1919 the Browns came from Scotland with their children, including Tim’s father, Daniel Lunn Brown. Today Tim has the honour of being the oldest living native Gabriolan. He still knows every inch of his farm, and shares tales of the long, rich history of his community. His involvement in the development of Gabriola spans the entire island, where he logged, built roads, delivered freight, milled lumber and maintained a functioning farm.”

Come hop aboard Gertie at the Museum to discover Gabriola’s historic places and stories.

Pioneer descendent Danna Lewis (Brown) believes story telling has an essential role in history. “The stories of the pioneers that I’ve listened to all my life bring history alive more than any chronology.

The stories reflect the emotions and relationships of people. I grew up in a culture of storytelling that doesn’t exist today. For example, Gossip Corner is one place in time that reflects Gabriola’s history of gathering together to share stories. ”

One of Gabriola’s stories that Danna enjoys is about an early pioneer, Mr Shaw. “When Mr Shaw donated the land for the east end school (beside the community hall) in the late 1800s, one of the gifting conditions was that if the school district ever wanted to sell that land, they would have to get the full agreement of three south end farmers. As he turned away, Mr Shaw is rumoured to have said ‘Do you know any farmers that agree on anything?’”

Find out where Gossip Corner really was!

Tickets can be purchased from the Museum (Daily, 10:30-4:00) for $30pp and $50/2 people. Bring your own drinking water.

Additional tour dates

North End

Thursday evenings, 6:30-8:00
Jul 7, Jul 28, Aug 18, Sep 1

Circle Tour

Sunday afternoons, 2:00-4:00
Jul 10, Jul 31, Aug 21, Sep 4

Hidden India:

A photo-journey to Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat

Many islanders have enjoyed Steve and Alison’s travel talks about their treks to Antarctica, New Guinea, Burma and China’s Yunnan Province – always spiced with a liberal dose of humour. Their latest show on Hidden India promises the same combination of exotic locales, stunning images and entertaining commentary.

“Those seeking views of the Taj Mahal will be disappointed,”

Gabriola travelers and photographers Steve Struthers and Alison Douglas promise when describing their new presentation based on a recent photo-journey to seldom visited regions of India.

At 7 pm on Tuesday, June 7 at the new Roxy Theater (behind Twin Beaches Mall), Steve and Alison will share their story of the voyage to Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat. While there, they had opportunities to experience chaotic markets in tiny traditional villages, and interacted with more than 62 diverse ethnic groups in Orissa alone.

Photo courtesy of Steve Struthers. Click here to visit Steve Struthers Photography website and see more of his stunning and original photographs.

This event is sponsored by the Gabriola Museum. It is a repeat performance of the last in the Museum’s 2016 Spring Gabriola Stories presentation series. Admission is by donation.

Folklife Village:

From Expo 86 to Gabriola village centre

May 04, 2016: Gabriola Museum Press Release

Gabriola’s Folklife Village was originally constructed as the Folklife Pavilion for Vancouver’s Expo 86 world fair that ran from May to October, 1986.


When Expo 86 closed, Folklife was dismantled and stored in a Delta field until Steve Wohlleben reassembled it on Gabriola in 1993 as Folklife Village. It would be the biggest structural recycling project in BC. And it would create a new commercial and cultural hub that would transform life on Gabriola. Today Gabriola is the only location outside of Vancouver that can boast an intact Expo pavilion.

Engineer Bill Kristofferson and developer Steve Wohlleben supervise construction of Folklife Village in 1993.

The Folklife Pavilion at Vancouver’s Expo 86 fair was built of old growth BC fir and showcased Canada’s culture, music, dance, crafts and food.

Expo’s Folklife Pavilion featured a unique post and beam architecture made from old growth BC fir, that boasted the largest timber truss – 96 feet (29.2 metres) – in Canada. The Pavilion showcased Canadian culture, arts, music, dance, crafts and food, and was visited by more than two million fair goers.

Before moving the dismantled structure to Gabriola, Wohlleben had to clear a site at North Rd and Lockinvar, recruit local tradespeople, and figure a way of hauling 27 huge truckloads to the island, as the trailers were too big for the ferry.


The trailers were eventually barged into Descanso Bay and unloaded onto the beach, from where they negotiated tight turns, narrow roads and steep grades up to the building site for reassembly.

“It was like piecing together a 30,000 sq ft wooden jigsaw puzzle, while juggling finances, site construction and design, permitting, leasing space to prospective tenants, and dealing with a myriad of unforeseen problems,” said Wohlleben.


To mark the 30th anniversary of the creation of Expo 86’s Folklife Pavilion and its transformation into today’s Folklife Village, the Gabriola Museum and the management of Folklife Village will unveil a historic panel at noon on Tues, May 17 at Folklife Village.

From Gabriola to the Bering Sea and Back

as published in the Sounder, March 16, 2016

Only a handful of small-boat sailors have dared to venture “north of 60” into Alaska’s Bering Sea; one of the stormiest and most dangerous stretches of water on the planet. Gabriola sailor Bert terHart is one of them.

At 7 pm, on Thurs, Mar 24 at the Hive Emporium, we will have the chance to hear the story of Bert’s six-month, 3000 nautical mile cruise from Gabriola to Kodiak Island, the Aleutian Archipelago and the Bering Sea.
A former officer in the Canadian Special Forces, Bert is also an oceanographer, information technologist and expert sailor who teaches navigation and seamanship skills for the Gabriola Power Squadron. During his Bering Sea cruise, Bert applied all of his experience and skills to navigating the Aleutians. In the process, he got to know many of the local people whose stories and adventures are every bit as big as the stormy seas and landscapes they live and work on.

This multi-media event is sponsored by the Gabriola Museum, and is the second in the 2016 Gabriolan Stories spring presentation series.

Admission is by donation.

Museum’s 2016 Talk Series opens with presentation on Martin Mars water bomber.

 Submitted to the Sounder by: Gabriola Historical and Museum Society

 BC’s iconic Martin Mars water bomber is the biggest seaplane in the world. And few people know more about the big red airplane than Gabriola artist, local historian and forest engineer, Doug Harrison.

Harrison will launch the Gabriola Museum’s 2016 Talk Series with a multi media story about the Martin Mars water bomber at 7 pm on Thurs, Feb 25 at the Hive Emporium in the Folklife Village centre.


original painting of Martin Mars water bomber by Doug Harrison

“So many Gabriolans have amazing life experiences and incredible stories to tell,” said Lisa Griffith, Gabriola Historical and Museum Society president. “In order to enable islanders to share their experiences, the Museum is organizing a new series of annual presentations that we are calling Gabriolan Stories. And the first event will feature Doug Harrison, a remarkable Gabriolan with an equally remarkable story to tell.


As a professional forest engineer, Harrison spent much of his career fighting some of the most devastating wildfires on Vancouver Island, including the notorious 1967 Taylor River fire. It burned through more than 5000 acres of timberland before threatening to destroy the town of Port Alberni. Even as people in Port Alberni were being evacuated, the fire was finally stopped by the Martin Mars water bombers that flew through blinding smoke and ash to bring the inferno under control.

Gabriolan Stories is a production of the Gabriola Historical and Museum Society. Admission by donation.

The Gabriola Historical and Museum Society will hold its Annual General Meeting on Sunday, January 24th at 2pm at the WI Hall, 476 South Road.

The meeting is open to members as well as anyone interested in supporting the telling of Gabriola stories. In addition to highlighting some of the significant milestones of 2015, the President’s Report will touch on major themes that emerged from a recent Strategic Planning session. The Museum seeks to engage with the community and to increase its relevancy to all Gabriolans – from schoolchildren to seniors – through its programmes and displays.

Immediately following the AGM, two musicians and board members of the Princeton & District Museum and Archives, Jon Bartlett and Rika Ruebsaat (Jon&, will perform their acclaimed show, “Soviet Princeton”. This hour long presentation tells a compelling and relatively unknown story of the Princeton Miners’ strike with archival photos and songs.
Jon and Rika have written a book, Soviet Princeton: Slim Evans and the 1932/33 Miners’ Strike”, which will be available for purchase after their performance. A donation jar will be on hand to collect funds which will go directly to the performers to offset their travelling expenses.

About Soviet Princeton: “The winter of 1932–33 saw the small interior town of Princeton, BC divided. Accusations of outside agitators and charges by mounted provincial police into picket lines of workers, Ku Klux Klan threats and a beating and cross–burning, the kidnapping of legendary labour organizer Slim Evans who was bundled onto the next train out of town (though he returned soon enough) ––– Princeton’s few thousand citizens saw much of the human drama of the Great Depression play out right in their own lives over the course of just a few months.”


Bob Bossin's 'Davey the Punk' poster Gabriola Museum benefit

 Tickets are $17 in advance at North Road Sports and online at <>  or $20 at the door.

We hope you will be able to join us for our final event before the Museum closes its doors for 2015 :  a performance of “Davy the Punk”.

Bob Bossin will be performing his one-man show, probably for the last time on Gabriola, on the evening of Saturday, October 10th, at the Phoenix Theatre at the Haven as a benefit for the Gabriola Historical & Museum Society. In a larger sense, it is also Bob’s gift to the community of Gabriola and takes place, appropriately enough, during the Gabriola Arts Council’s Thanksgiving Studio Tour and is presented in partnership with Gabriola Players.

“Davy the Punk” had its debut – originally as a one-act play – at the 2012 Gabriola Theatre Festival. Since then it has had some 60 performances across the country, grown a second act, and added Bob’s mother as a major character. The one-man musical centres on the life of Bob’s father in Toronto’s gambling underworld – a story that is, according to CBC’s Michael Enright, “fascinating… amazing and sometimes hilarious.” It is, “so outrageous,” says writer Andreas Schroeder, “it’s worthy of a Mordecai Richler novel.”

The funds raised will enable the Museum to continue to provide innovative programming within our community and to continue to tell compelling Gabriola stories.

The Gabriola Historical and Museum Society gratefully acknowledges the generosity and community spirit of Bob Bossin.

We hope to see you on October 10th at 7.30pm at the Haven.

Gabriola Museum raffle poster

Lynn Dillon, of Nanaimo, is the happy winner of the Museum’s 2015 raffle. Congratulations, Lynn!

The draw was made by Lizhen Mao (a friendly bystander),  in front of a group of about 15 people at the Folk Life Village.

The Museum thanks all the people that purchased raffle tickets. We look forward to creating more programs and events that “tell island stories”.

Gabriola Museum raffle draw
Photo courtesy of Steve Struthers.

Gabriola Roots: The Land Provides film premiere


Scarecrow Auction fundraiser

Sept. 4, 2015

Many thanks to

Steve Struthers, our event photographer,

Gerry Stefanson* (Cymbal Wear) and Derek Mattes, our intrepid auctioneers,

Sonja Zupanec (Just Another Weed Patch), who donated the lovely flower arrangement for the door prize,

Village Food Mart, who supplied the tents

David Andrews, for the projector, computer, and technical expertise,

Arbutus Home Hardware, for the popcorn machine, and

Sheila Norgate, for the use of her movie screen

*Gerry is co-sponsoring the PHC Dog Show at the Common’s Fall Fair, Sunday, Sept.13 at 11:30.

Many Thanks to our scarecrow creators

Wheelbarrel Garden and Nursery

Village Food Mart

Mid-Island Co-op

The Gabe Shop

Wild Rose Nursery

Coastal Community Insurance Services

Rick Cranston

Coast Realty-Royal Lepage

Gerry the auctioneer at the Gabriola Museum scarecrow auction
Our fun and funky scarecrows were auctioned off by the inimitable Gerry the auctioneer, and his sidekick Derek.
Derek, Gerry's sidekick at the Gabriola Museum

Introduction and background to the Event

The  30 minute film will be preceded by a fun, live auction of the quirky scarecrows created and donated by local businesses and artists to complement the theme of the video. The auction will be for the benefit of the Museum to enable us to undertake similarly ambitious projects in the future.

DVD copies of the film will be available in the Museum gift shop.

The Scarecrows will be on display from September 1-3, at Folklife Village.

In the event of rain, the screening will take place inside the Museum.

Gabriola Museum scarecrow auction-the Gabe Shop
Gabriola Museum scarecrow auction-Coastal Community scarecrow
Gabriola Museum scarecrow by Rick Cranston
Gabriola MUseum scarecrow auction - Royal Lepage

FILM PREMIERE UNDER THE STARS (with Scarecrows attending)

Excerpt from article submitted by the Gabriola Museum to the Gabriola Sounder newspaper.

Aug.25, 2015

THE LAND PROVIDES film focuses on the unique relationships islanders have to the land, from farming and harvesting to protecting wildlife and preserving the sanctity of the land. The film begins with the earliest islanders, the Coast Salish-Snuneymuxw, and then documents some of the settlers who followed, including the generations of Grays and the enduring Boultons.

Gabriola today supports a wide range of farmers and harvesters. Rosheen Holland and Bob Shields of Good Earth Farm provide healthful local produce. Naomi Melnyk of Cappon Corner Farm raises small livestock as well as produce. Innovative partners on the Watercliff Permaculture Farm are using new methods to grow crops on waterlogged land. The collective workers on the Namaste Farm are practicing multi-use land sharing and conservation. Margo Anfossie is a careful harvester of herbs and Lawrence Mayles has created a wildlife sanctuary on previously logged land. Geraldine Manson of the Snuneymuxw First Nation begins and ends the film with a perspective on the sacredness of the land.

Gabriola Museum scarecrow auction - Co-op scarecrow
poster of Gabriola Roots film premiere
Gabriola MUseum scarecrow auction - Wild rose scarecrow
Filmmaker Tobi Elliott (Granny Power, Between Wood & Water) was an early instigator of this film, partnering with the Museum to create a video that parallels THE LAND PROVIDES exhibit. “I have always been drawn to stories around the use of land and natural resources – and our relationship with them – so I was delighted to come on board and be able to pursue a story that’s close to my heart.”
Gabriola Museum scarecrow auction-wheelbarrel nursery
Gabriola Museum scarecrow auction - Village Food Mart

A new tradition has begun on the island – Canada Day at the Gabriola Museum will be back next year.

A young woman with a couple of small children was glad to see a Canada Day family event on the island. “In the past, we’ve gone to Nanaimo, with 10,000 other people, in the hot sun, ferry line-ups and end up with cranky children.  This is great!  We are having a lovely time, my kids are with their friends, and all we have is a ten minute drive home.”

The First Gabriola Cubs and Beavers raised the flag with ceremony and the crowd sang the national anthem. Naomi Beth Wakan, Nanaimo Poet Laureate, shared her poem, Our Flag. Then it was off to the races. The Water Balloon Toss was a favourite on the grassy lawn. Three-Legged Races and Spoon Races with a Golf Ball were next. And an old favourite, the Tug of War, was played out several times with boys versus girls, South Islanders versus North Islanders.
Tug-of-War.  Photograph courtesy of Elias Wakan.

An Old Fashioned Canada Day at the Gabriola Museum

Submitted by the Gabriola Historical and Museum Society to the Gabriola Sounder

July 7, 2015.

It was a grand day. Several hundred Gabriolans, young and old, celebrated Canada Day at the Gabriola Museum. It “held the memories of an old time village picnic,” according to Gerry Stefanson, Master of Ceremonies for the day. Lines of symbolic flags created by Gabriola Elementary School students were hung from the trees. The giant logging arch had been painted bright yellow, the garden pathways cleared and mulched, and new signs hung on the outdoor exhibits.

Peter Joyes, the face-painting artist, had a constant line-up of children waiting to have their faces and arms covered with his intricate designs, colours and sequins.

“The Museum is attracting children and families, the right course to take as a Museum.” He said he’d had a lot of fun, and would return next year.

Two boys in three legged race.     Photograph courtesy of Elias Wakan.
Food tents (courtesy of Village Foods) were in the shade of the South Road in front of the Museum with a spice and whipped cream cake from Robert’s Place, a popcorn machine (courtesy of Arbutus Home Building Centre), watermelon (courtesy of Village Foods), and a lemonade stand.
Many thanks to Steve Struthers and Elias Wakan for the colourful pictures of our event. Photographs shown here are courtesy of Steve Struthers, except where Elias is credited.
Sunday, May 17th at 12 noon is the opening of the Museum’s new season and our 20th year anniversary. There will be a salute to the founders, new poetry by Naomi Beth Wakan, and a celebration of the many volunteers and members that help make our new exhibits and programs possible. Come and stroll around the outdoor garden with its new informational plaques and enjoy burgers prepared by Robert’s Place.

Highlights of Gabriola Museum’s new Season

Gabriola Roots: THE LAND PROVIDES is the theme of our new season with illustrated exhibit panels exploring the multiple ways we relate to the land, from the earliest food gathering, through the farming and then land development years, to the current crop of new farmers and foragers. Filmmaker Tobi Elliott is working with the Museum’s Display Committee to create a series of short films on Gabriolans who each have a very special connection to their land, connections that affect the community as a whole. They share their experiences with communal land sharing, market gardening, medicinal plant foraging, permaculture, and a First Nations perspective.

One of the new artifacts of THE LAND PROVIDES exhibit is this historic photo of the old Cooper Road barn and sheep, taken around 1970. It is believed that a Welsh stone-mason built the barn but little else is known about it. The Museum is always interested in any new information the community might be able to offer on artifacts.

There is an audio preview of the film, THE LAND PROVIDES, streaming on the CKGI (98.7 FM) website, under “Gabriola Current” which features news of the island. Available at, THE LAND PROVIDES segment is from 21:00-33:00 minutes in. The Museum is also producing a future series “Gabriola Stories” on CKGI FM. You can listen to the first podcast on our Gabriola Roots page.

There is also a new look for our website, to go along with our new logo, and our 20th anniversary.

The celebration will be held on the Museum Grounds, 505 South Road, Gabriola.

Gabriola Museum

Will the Land Provide?

“The Future of Agricultural Self-sufficiency on Gabriola”

(article published in the SOUNDER, February 24, 2015)

With close to 70 percent of all fruit and vegetables consumed in BC imported from California and the US, we will all have to start rethinking where our food comes from and how we grow it. Food production in California is suffering as the state goes through its fourth year of a devastating drought that climate scientists say may be the new normal.

Imagining how we will produce and consume food on the island over the next 20 years is the topic of discussion at the Museum’s public forum and panel discussion at 1:30 pm, on Sunday, March 8, at the Haven’s Phoenix Auditorium. Ivan Bulic will present a short history of farming and land uses on Gabriola. The discussion will be moderated by Steve Struthers and feature a panel including Rosheen Holland, long time grower at Good Earth Farm, Brian Crumblhulme, Island Tides food columnist, Mayne Island Trustee and organic gardener; and Pollen Heath, a permaculture-based market garden farmer at Watercliff Farm here on Gabriola.

Steve Struthers will also moderate “from the floor” and encourage questions and dialogue among participants, concerning all and any ideas, proposals, concerns about food production and consumption, including GMOs, the impact of climate change, agro-business, paving over agricultural land and small-scale local farming.

Gabriola Roots: The Land Provides will be the focus for a March 8 public forum as well as a new exhibit at the Gabriola Museum.  One theme will be our island’s ongoing ability to grow its own food.

Past Events

This listing of the Museum-sponsored events of the last few years illustrates the Museum’s commitment to bring Gabriola’s history to the community, and make it relevant to today.

2014 Events

From Gabriola to Flanders Fields

November, 2014

The community commemorates the centennial of the First World War.

For a transcipt of the presentation, and more WWI archival photos in our past exhibit, see  From Gabriola to Flanders Field.

 First Nation Treaties and Gulf Island Development

February, 2014 – video

“ First Nations are not opposed to development, they’re opposed to not being part of the discussion.”

That’s part of the message that Adam Olsen, a Tsartlip First Nations member, former municipal councilor delivered to the Gabriola Museum’s annual general meeting on February 23, 2014, at the Women’s Institute. Olsen has studied the impact of the treaties negotiated by Governor James Douglas in the 1850s on the development on Gabriola and neighbouring Gulf Islands. As a small business owner and community activist, Olsen has focused on building stronger relationships between First Nations, municipal governments and island communities. From 2008 to 2011, Olsen was a central Saanich Councilor who took a special interest in the municipality’s First Nation Community – to-Community Forum, and development issues. (VIDEO link below)

Bridges Over troubled Waters

February, 2014

History of fixed link proposals – Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands and the B.C. Mainland

See also article in Archives.

Between Wood and Water

January 2014

Between Wood and Water: restoring Dorothy, the oldest sailboat in Canada. A multimedia presentation by Gabriola boat builder and artist Tony Grove and documentary film maker Tobi Elliott.

Video of Adam Olsen’s talk at the AGM

2013 Events

The Story of Silva Bay Shipyard

October, 2013

The Story of Silva Bay Shipyard by Fred Withey

2012 Events

Early Settlers on the Gulf Islands

April, 2012

Presentation by historian Jean Barnam on the arrival of Hawaiian, African-America and Spanish settlers on the West Coast. Co-sponsored by Friends of the Library.

The Way it Was

February 2012

Cecil Ashley presented vintage movies from the 1930s and 1940s depicting the logging, sawmilling, and fishing industries on the west coast of BC activities of the time. The movies were complemented by local artist Doug Harrison’s Working West Coast paintings.

 Petroglyph tour

February, 2012

The tour was led by Dr. E.C. Krupp, Director of the Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles, CA, and Ian C. McLennan, Consultant to Museums, Science Centres Planetariums, Digital Theatres, Theme attractions, and World Expositions, Vancouver, B.C.

2011 Events

Giving Peace A Chance

October, 2011

Long-time peace and social activists Susan Yates, Holda Pattern, Jean McLaren and Ted Wilson recounted the story of the Gabriola Island Peace Association.

Flippers to Flukes

June, 2011

Information on Vancouver Aquarium’s BC Cetacean Sightings Network and the role that Gabriolans can play in reporting cetacean sightings. The speakers were Caitlin Birdsail and Heather Lord of Vancouver Aquarium. GROWLS co-sponsored the presentation.

Crossing the Waters

April, 2011

This was a multi-visual presentation on the history of ferry services to Gabriola Island with guest speaker Mark Stefanson, BC Ferries Vice-President of Public affairs.

2009 and 2010 Events

Vanishing Beacons: The Story of BC’s Lighthouses and Lightkeepers


Presented by Ivan Bulic, a Director for the Canadian Lightkeepers Association.

 Gabriola Historical and Museum society’s 15th Anniversary Celebration


Dr. Bryon Gordon discussed a scientific study to develop a process for dating petroglyphs.

 Potlatch of the Quamichan First Nation


A celebration of Jane Degnen’s descendants.

Prehistoric Rock Art


A presentation by Professor Jean Clottes.

Joined Hands


Grand Opening of the Joined Hands exhibit presenting the history and legacy of Jane Degnan and Louisa Silva (note link).