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.






Lest We Forget

On Friday I attended a funeral. Weatherwise, it was a rainy bleak day befitting the sadness we feel when saying a final goodbye to someone. Otherwise it was a day of happy recollection and celebration of the long and full life of Verdun Henry Walsh, who in his 99 years had touched many people, demonstrated by the large gathering.

I had not known Verdun as well as most at the funeral, only having met him on a dozen or more occasions over the years. Those occasions were Anzac Day reunions of the 2/12 Field Company RAE in which both Verdun and my late father, Alfred Ernest Morrison, had served during WWII. Not only had they served together but they had also been prisoners of war (POWs) together after the fall of Singapore in February 1942. Initially in Changi gaol, Verdun was shipped to Japan where he spent the duration of the war, while Dad was part of F Force on the notorious Burma Railway before returning to Changi.

Alfred Ernest MORRISON

Alfred Ernest MORRISON

The day was particularly poignant for me because later this week will be the 21st anniversary of my father’s death at 79 years of age. Like most POWs, Dad did not speak of his war experiences except for a few humourous episodes. So even with my own reading and research I have only a superficial knowledge of the hardships that he would have experienced.

It also makes me sad to realise how little I really know of my many aspects of my father’s life, and that after 21 years how many of my memories of my father are tending to fade. Family history research does help to fill some of the gaps, and also provide a means of preserving details of the lives of my ancestors and particularly the close family that I knew and loved.