Nanaimo Historical Society Fonds
Series 2. Sound Recordings : Tape 29A - Side A
Transcribed by Lois Park, September 2008
Talk by Judge Stanley Wardill - Given before the Nanaimo Historical Society Tuesday, April 16, 1974
Subject - History of Wardill Family - His Grandparents came to Nanaimo in 1887.
Recorded by [?]
[No name given of the person doing the introduction - sound quality is very poor]
Madam President and Members of the Historical Society - This being the centennial year, we are very fortunate in having a native son speak to us. Now this Judge Stan Wardill has born in Nanaimo, educated at the high school and went to university at UBC and graduated as a lawyer. His family have [inaudible?] in Nanaimo and I remember in 1912 buying my first bicycle from him to go from Mrs. [inaudible?] select boarding house along to the powder works every day to work. [chuckles from the audience] The family had [inaudible?] and they were very musical. In fact, his father used to play at [inaudible] orchestra on Sunday evenings. Now, then in those days, 1912, Nanaimo was a very musical town, they had two musical societies and they seemed to play every other Sunday one in the Opera House and the other in the old skating rink.
Now Judge Stanley Wardill is now a member in Nanaimo and he has made a study of the frailties of human nature, both men and women, and he has kept up with the modern ideas and the changes in this world and he, it is my understanding, he has given justice with mercy, but he hasn't forgotten that old saying in the Gilbert and Sullivan opera “the judgment has to meet the crime”. And so coming from him, I think, because this history is coming from a native son and a person that must be associated so much with the development of Nanaimo, that this history is true and that is the best person to get to relate all the history.
And now without any further ado, I would ask Mr. Wardill, Judge Wardill, to give us his historical talk.
Judge Stanley Wardill
Madam President and Ladies and Gentlemen and your Highness [clears his throat to the sound of laughter].
It is a privilege to be asked to speak here tonight. It is amazing when you start to put down a few facts and figures just how much history you, the whole family is involved in, and how much they are active in the community and I should have started earlier in writing this matter out because I ran out of time today.
As I progressed along through the family to the younger people, I didn't have much time left to write anything about them. So I really started out to be quite verbose, you might say, on the elder members of the family including my Father and Grandfather and then slacken off when I got to the younger members like my Uncle Oz and Aunt Kate in San Francisco.
I brought along the old family bible that I was fortunate enough to acquire and just to start with it refers to my Grandfather being married to a Sarah Ellen Watson. She was born in September 1958 [sic] and as to the year my Grandfather was born I don't have those figures or dates. But they were married in York Cathedral in 1885 and the only reason I know this is because on the wall of our house on Cavan Street was a picture of the cathedral and my Dad said that is where they were married. They weren't married right in the main part of the cathedral but I gather in the manse or something, one of the smaller offices, not in the main body of the church.
So shortly after they were married they arrived, well I should say before that, my Father was born in 1886 and he was a year old when they arrived here in 1887. From the stories I have heard, when they bought their ticket over in London they got - their rail ticket paid from Halifax to Port Moody. By the time they got to Port Moody, of course, the railway had already got in to Vancouver so they got a little extra from the CPR and they got from Port Moody into Vancouver free of charge.
So how they got from, I don't know the name of the boat they came on to Nanaimo, but they arrived in Nanaimo and as far as I know they always resided on Selby Street. That is the only house I ever heard of that they ever lived in and that is on the last block on Selby where it meets Victoria Road. Some of the old people, you will remember the neighbors, a lot of you will remember the neighbors - Mr. & Mrs. Jim [Bodin?] used to work in the hoist at Protection Island and I gather also down here at the No. 1 and Mr. & Mrs. [Narson?] that ran the grocery store and I almost forgot somebody until tonight-- McRae's that lived across the street. McRae actually built our house for us on Cavan Street here in 1928. Tommy Mills, or the Mills family were next door to them on Selby Street. Johnny Beck, I don't know how soon he came or how long he was a neighbor but he was right across the street from them.
There is a lot of contacts at this point but I mentioned a lot of people. The house was rather unusual because it had a painting in the dining room ceiling and I gather my Grandfather who was originally a marine engineer before he came to Nanaimo and sailed the seven seas was a bit of a fellow who used to bring everybody home, anybody that didn't have a place to stay or wanted a meal, he would bring them home. In this particular painting, arrived or got put on the ceiling by one of these fellows who in exchange for a few days board and room, he painted the ceiling. I gather he laid on a scaffold on his back and painted and not too long ago when they remodelled the Selby Street house I took my boys up there and you could see the old painting still on the roof as they were bringing the plaster down.
But I had better not get too far along out of line with my little story here. As somebody already mentioned earlier, already mentioned the Wardill family house on Selby Street seemed to be the musical center of Nanaimo. Of all the stories I heard that everybody brought their instruments there as often as they wanted and any time there was a party. There was always a party at the Wardill house on Selby Street.
My grandfather, of course as I mentioned, was a steam engineer and had sailed a number of seas, I don't know that it was all seven seas prior to coming to Nanaimo. But over on the old house we have on Valdes Island there is a picture of the old ship that he used to sail in. It was combination steam and sail, unfortunately I didn't think of getting the name of it but it sailed out of [..pool?] in England. He was born, I think all - most of the family that I know of that are presently in England were born in Scarborough [Birmington?] and I guess this is one reason why they took to the sea-- they were started near the sea and kept on it. Even up to the present generation where we go boating every weekend over to Valdes.
My Father, or my Grandfather rather, when he came to Nanaimo he worked in the shops, he worked with the locomotives in particular. Then he was on one of the boats that I think the Alert and the Mermaid that ran to Protection Island, he was engineer on them for a number of years. I don't know the exact number of years that he worked on these various jobs but I do know he worked on each one, I never [he chuckles] like I never knew him work, as a matter of fact, I guess he retired when I first knew him and he died in 1928 when I was only seven years old so I didn't know too much about my Grandfather. I never knew my Grandmother on the Wardill side of the family or my Grandfather or Grandmother on the Seville side of the family.
But my Grandfather was always interested in the sea and I gather he was involved in a book called the Mermaid, I just happened to get a book from Alvin Brown last week and I didn't realize he was even in the book. [Inaudible sentence] This is a little story out of book called the Ship Wrecks of British Columbia and it is a fascinating book if anyone wants to read it. It talks about all the shipwrecks around Nanaimo and it includes a ship that was built for Mr. Haslam that you were talking about tonight. Sailing out of Nanaimo and going down, I think, on its maiden voyage off Campbell River and it was built to haul logs from somewhere up north back to the old Haslam Mill but this book is just fascinating to read. In fact, both my sons are reading it now; they are having a fight to see who can get the book first.
But out of this particular book, and I knew about the sinking of this particular vessel, as the whole family happened to be on it at the time. This is entitled [Speaker reads from Shipwrecks of British Columbia] “S.S. Mermaid - 1904. In the bitter-cold dawn of Friday, March 24, 1904, the little steamer MERMAID, under the command of Captain Walters, went to the bottom of the Jarvis Inlet as she was returning to Vancouver from a trip up the inlet with three passengers and a crew of six.”
Wardill: I think the crew of six was almost, I think five Wardills and the Captain. [Speaker reads from Shipwrecks of British Columbia] She struck the steep rocks of [Moorsam?] bluffs in the darkness about 5 a.m.
I don't know if you know Jervis Inlet but, even today, there are no navigational aids up in Jervis Inlet and with these high mountains and in the middle of the night it is very black up in there and I guess it was just black in those days.
[Speaker reads from Shipwrecks of British Columbia] Captain Walters had only one suitable place at which he could beach his sinking ship, this being several miles away on the opposite side of the inlet on the [Brittain?] River flats. However, before he could reach the river Engineer Wardill was forced on deck by rising water flooding the boiler, causing the MERMAID to lose steam and stop. The only alternative was to launch a lifeboat, but the Captain and his engineer stayed with their ship as long as there was any hope of saving her. The MERMAID only had a short distance to go to reach shore, but she sank in 60 fathoms (Jervis Inlet being noted for its extreme depths) and became a total loss. The ship's company and passengers were picked up by the Union Steamships' COMOX. The MERMAID, owned by B.A. Wardill of Nanaimo, previously was used as a ferry for the miners of Protection Island near Nanaimo. She had had an earlier sinking after striking a rock off nearby Newcastle Island on March 12, 1902.
I didn't realize just how many members of the family were on this boat until two years ago when my Aunt from San Francisco and we got talking about this. It appeared that my Dad was on it, my Aunt, my Uncle Oz and one of the others I don't know which one.
But anyway, they took the lifeboat it says here and rowed for two days down Jervis Inlet to the nearest settlement, which in those days was Pender Harbor. Now I know the Comox did pick them up but they did spend two days in the lifeboat before they got down to Pender Harbor.
And I happened to mention this to a famous historian around here, Jack Cass, when he was on the BC Ferries and it wasn't long before he came up with the report - within four days he had this back to me. In this official report that he got from somewhere, about the Mermaid:
It was reported on March 22, 1902 the steam ship the Mermaid was wrecked upon rocks which happens [inaudible - it appears that Wardill is reading this report as well]
It was refitted and towed to Victoria for repairs from Kanaka Bay near Nanaimo [inaudible sections] The steamer Mermaid Captain [Fullard?]. On short notice. ..resulted in parties with reasonable rates.
Then he goes on in 19.. it is the 27th of March here .. the steamship Mermaid was wrecked in Jervis Inlet, value $15,000.00, and what I have heard from members of the family my grandfather ..ship to buy it and if they had insurance I don't know but knowing my grandfather he probably didn't.
Nanaimo Harbour miners scow between Protection and Nanaimo. During his career, he had the misfortune of running on the reef in Kanaka Bay on Newcastle Island. The owners [?] west coast of Vancouver Island before returning to the East Coast, I have never heard about that but maybe it did. It stayed on the Jervis Inlet route until the wreck. What they were doing at the time was running loggers from Vancouver up into Howe Sound and to Jervis Inlet and it was on one of the return trips that they wrecked.
It is always a bit of a rumour that somebody had been put on the boat to sabotage it because at that time they were running opposition to Union Steamships. In fact, my grandfather, according to my aunt when she was up here, had been warned by the captain, whether this is a rumour or fact no one will ever know, I guess. But that is what happened to the Mermaid. When I knew my grandfather he lived on Valdes, which has been part of the Wardill family's history, I think, for many years. And originally got there an old family by the name of Wake lived on Valdes and Mr. Wake was the, I guess you would call him a lineman for the telephone company. The original telephone line I gather ran from Nanaimo to Cedar, up to Dodd's Narrows over to Gabriola, down Gabriola across Valdes, across Gabriola Pass to Valdes, and down about seven miles on Valdes to a place we call Cable Bay and then across to Point Bay. It was old Mr. Wake that was the chap that looked after these telephone lines and I gather that how he got to know them - Mrs. Wake and my grandmother on the Wardill side went to school together in England. When they got out here - Mrs. Wake arrived before the Wardills did but they got together once they got out here.
It is interesting to note that old Mrs. Wake came around Cape Horn and up to Van - er Victoria rather and came by canoe from Victoria up to Valdes and in my various hunting trips on Valdes I located a member of the old insulators and horns that used to be tacked onto the trees in those days for carrying the telephone wires. It was a single wire [inaudible] with a wire on the ground to make the circuit. I have two or three things now that were used on the telephone line but the original property was given to an Admiral Wake who was, I believe, a brother of the Mrs. Wake's husband that I knew.
And it is strange how things work, this Admiral Wake, I don't remember the exact date now but he was sailing from Nanaimo to Valdes [inaudible] in those days and apparently was attacked off the north end of [inaudible?] Island in a sail boat [inaudible] and many years later in the Victoria Columnist some loggers had found some clothes on [inaudible?] and a number of things were found in these clothes and I often wonder if somebody [inaudible section] with a part of old [inaudible section].
Also, you should note that this happened the same day as an accident a few years ago that took the lives of three hippies that were living on Valdes, two guys and a girl and I remember this and I think they found the dog beach at Valdes but it was exactly on the same date in January [inaudible section]
Found the file with the Coroner's report on the inquiry [inaudible section] and it was the same date that [inaudible section].
Ah, I did get some more information from Phil Piper on a boat called the Albatross and then I proceeded to lose the information, but I remember some of the names. My grandfather was apparently involved in the ownership [inaudible] along with some names that I am sure some of you remember. One of them was [Roy?] Mitchell, who used to be in the real estate and insurance business. Some of the chaps apparently working on the crew of the old Albatross were old Jerry McGill, who used to be our local night watchman, and I have lost all the other names. Unfortunately, I will probably find them tomorrow after I have gone through the things on my desk.
But moving on to my father, as I mentioned, he was a year old when he arrived here having been [inaudible?] in England. And I don't know, he was a first class steam engineer also; he was involved with the shipping. He worked for [inaudible?] on the Mermaid and I know one thing he did mention to me many years ago was that he walked right across Vancouver Island. He used to brag about this in 1906. But what he did, he cheated a little; he walked across the shortest part of the island that was from Port Hardy to Coal Harbour. He went, apparently, to log at Coal Harbour and run a steam donkey up there for some logging company, which rather surprised me because I never suspected my father of being a logger.
He did work for many years [inaudible?] and he said that was the best job that he ever had. And he worked [inaudible?] in the brewery. And strange enough, he was almost a non-drinker so you [inaudible] any of the refreshments he could have gotten from the brewery.
He spent a number of years and I think most of the family working with the [inaudible?] Manson Grocery Store on Haliburton Street and it's strange how you remember certain things and I remember the old Manson telephone number was 272 and our [inaudible?] 343 but the Manson had a long history of association and, of course, [inaudible section] and myself [inaudible] Band.
But the Mansons and the Wardills have been great pals. I remember hearing my first radio at Doug Manson's house at the top of Nicol Street in about 1928. We use to go up every Sunday night to listen [inaudible section] to what we called the doll house, a one room place on the top of Nicol Street. [inaudible section] putting on earphones and now I can hear Vancouver, now there is Vancouver, all the way to Vancouver--tremendous. Now the kids turn on these [inaudible?] and get 50 odd stations and think nothing of it. How much it has advanced in such a short period of time.
[Large inaudible section where he is discussing his Uncle John and motorcycles - including taking someone to the hospital where he met someone who knew who had his uncle's motorbike and a discussion of Ladysmith ride on the motorbike, his father's musical ability- the rest is largely inaudible]
Transcriber's Note: The book Wardill is reading from is Shipwrecks of British Columbia by Fred Rogers ISBN 0-88894-034-3, copy right 1973 A.C. (Fred) Rogers- copy was obtained by special request from the Nanaimo Public Library by Lois Park, September 2008