Victoria BC

James Cook

The early ferry from Seattle landed us in Victoria on Vancouver Island, British Columbia at lunchtime. That gave us only a day and a half to get to know this delightful city, and this was nowhere near enough time to do it justice.

It enabled us time to walk around the eight block by eight blocks of the downtown area and take in the friendly relaxed atmosphere. We admired the architecture of its main buildings around the harbour front and smiled to see the statue of James Cook who claimed the island for England in 1778.

There were two main highlights of Victoria for me, a family reunion and the Butchart Gardens.

A Morrison Reunion

This was a reunion, if that is the right word, at least 400 years in the making. Using one of the latest tools to family historians, DNA testing, I had some time ago been able to make contact with a very, very distant cousin. Like me, my Morrison cousin also had his roots in the Isle of Man however the available written records going back to the 1700s were not enough to provide a family connection, but Y-DNA testing was. It showed that we are related but it seems our common ancestor must have lived in the 1600s or even the 1500s.

Isle of Man Flag

As part of our trip we arranged a lunch get together with Gary, his wife Vicki, Jenny and I and we got to know each other a little and will definitely stay in contact.

The Butchart Gardens

A short bus ride from Victoria is the Butchart Gardens, the most popular tourist attraction on the island.

Here I was intrigued to discover a civil engineering connection and, considering my own career in that area, it made our visit even more meaningful to me. We learned that Richard Butchart was a Canadian pioneer in the manufacture of Portland cement, the main component in the manufacture of concrete. He purchased hundreds of acres of land on the Saanich Peninsula because of its limestone deposits; limestone, in turn, being the principle ingredient in Portland cement. Once the limestone had been exhausted the site was left with ugly scars on the landscape and deep quarries. It was then that Richard Butchart’s wife Jennie started what was to became her prized gardens.

The Sunken Gardens

Over many years, and originally for her own benefit, she was able to transform the site (of 55 acres) into an amazing array of mass planting of flowers, the original Japanese garden, a large rose garden and the impressive sunken garden in the former quarry, complete with its display water spouts. As the gardens were progressively developed, more and more visitors were eager to look at them and eventually through popular demand a commercial enterprise came into being.

The gardens definitely lived up to all our expectation and even exceeded them. It was a most relaxing couple of hours. Our day was topped off with a boat ride into the adjoining waterways of Tod Inlet on the sunniest day we have had so far on tour.





Ballaugh, Isle of Man

Ballaugh in a small village in the north-west of the Isle of Man, about half an hour’s scenic drive from the capital Douglas, and it has a number of claims to fame. (If you need to know more about the Isle, Wikipedia is a good start).

IOM ballaugh old church

Ballaugh Old Church

Probably the least important fact about Ballaugh is that it was the stomping ground of my Manx Morrison ancestors. As far as I can tell, great-great grandfather William Morrison was born in Ballaugh, as were at least two earlier generations back to the mid-1700s. More family research is required in this area.

In terms of real fame, the village is on the Isle of Man TT course and famous, or maybe notorious, because of the Ballaugh Bridge where bikes usually become airborne as they scream through. The bridge was the site of a death a couple of years ago when a rider struggling with brake problems hit the wall of The Raven pub at an estimated 170mph.

Ballaugh Bridge

Ballaugh Bridge

The Raven with Rowan and Padding

The Raven with Rowan and Padding






Being one of the more dangerous motor cycle circuits, primarily because it all on public roads, there is a lot of significant padding around poles and buildings next to the road to help protect riders who come to grief. The Raven pub has always been padded but the publican advised that since the tragedy the padding has been doubled.

That leads me to another point. The Raven was visited during an earlier Manx tour that I took with brother Trevor in 2010, for a meal and a pint. I was instructed that I really did need to make a return visit and being an obedient child we decided to stop there for a pub lunch.

IOM ravens clawAgain it was most pleasant and maybe could have been more so if I wasn’t driving. Apart from providing a great value pub lunch (I had my usual soup) I tried the Raven’s Claw ale brewed especially for The Raven and can attest to its quality. It is apparently a very popular brew and the publican advised that during the two weeks of the TT, he sells over 4,000 pints. This has contributed to making The Raven the number one pub on the Isle of Man.