Lighthouse History – 53 (1929-05-01 – 1929-05-01)

Lighthouse History – 53 (1929-05-01 – 1929-05-01)

The following extracts taken from early Victoria, British Columbia (BC) newspapers are credited to Leona Taylor for her excellent work in indexing the papers. Full information can be found here: ”Index of Historical Victoria Newspapers“, 2007-09.

Please Note: December 20, 2012 – I am continuing this series with Lighthouse History #51 because the newspapers have now been indexed up to 1932. I quit posting at #50 as the extracts only went to 1926. They have now been extended from 1927 to 1932 so I will sift through the data for anything lighhouse!

 photo of Captain Gillam, appointed skipper of Princess Norah. May 4, 1 – Captain Edward Gillam, 65, dies suddenly onboard Norah, while nearing Tofino May 3. Coming to Victoria from St George’s Bay, NF [born Dec, 1863] in 1903, he joined the old Queen City as quarterdeck man under Captain Townsend, another west coast veteran. Through successive stages, aided by a deep love for the sea and accumulated knowledge, he rose to Captain. 
When Queen City left the west coast route he transferred to the BC Coast SS Service’s Tees as commander. Later he took over command of Princess Maquinna, which was built here by the BC Marine Railway Company in 1913, constructed and equipped to meet the roughest of weather on the coast. 
From Maquinna he transferred to Princess Mary, and from that ship to the new Princess Norah on Apr 1. It was he who safely conveyed Lord and Lady Willingdon aboard the vessel on her inaugural cruise Apr 8 and 11. 
The coastal run, by its isolation from civilization, calling for prompt action in time of peril, quick decision in case of rescue of shipwrecked mariners and capacity to deal with the mixed elements of a frontier community, gave to Gillam an opportunity which has come to no other master of the BC Coast SS Service in this generation. How well he rose to the occasion is known to every resident of the Island. 
He did wonderful work in saving life, as the thrilling stories which came out of the wilderness from time to time testified; he showed a capacity to handle the stubborn types or Indians who paddled their canoes to the steamers which from time to time he commanded, and he maintained under conditions of great stress that reputation for thoroughness which is the special pride of the merchant service. 
His reputation became a tradition of the west coast, and the numerous stories told of him created almost a legend, which served in good stead when he adjudicated the problems of the Indian tribal quarrels in his capacity as a magistrate on that wild, rocky coast which he lived long enough to see served with lighthouses, lifeboat stations, wireless equipment, and signs of industry in many snug coves which a few years ago were abandoned to the gull and herring. 
No seaman on this coast had a greater knowledge of the tortuous channels of the west coast, and the freedom from mishap of the vessels he successfully captained, testified to his thorough knowledge of coastal waters, and the presence of many treacherous shoals which still await survey. 
‘Captain Gillam had more nautical knowledge of the west coast than any man who had voyaged up and down in regular steamship service,’ said Captain J W Troup. ‘The coast is a hard and dangerous coast to navigate, and Gillam was successful from the day he took over command of the company’s vessels. One can imagine the conditions he had to contend with in the early days with settlements few and far between, and law and order carried out in a haphazard manner. The CPR had great confidence and respect for Gillam, and his loss will be felt indeed deeply,’ Troup concluded. 
He leaves a wife, 3 daughters. May 4, 4 – editorial…; May 5 – 33 – Gillam was on his way from his quarters to the saloon when he apparently had a fit of dizziness, for he fell forward down the companionway and when picked up was found to have sustained fatal injuries. Remains were brought from Tofino to Port Alberni by launch and from there to Nanaimo by motor car, and to Victoria by train. 
His passing recalls many incidents of rescue, such as that of schooner Soquel, when from Tees a lifeboat was launched and, under Gillam’s skillful management it headed into the breakers and succeeded in reaching the stranded ship and saving the crew. 
It was recalled how he made a gallant attempt to save the crew of Carelmapu off Long Beach, when in command of Maquinna. Gillam responded to the distress signals, altered his course, stood in as closely as possible and dropped anchor. While preparing to send a rope aboard Maquinna’s anchor broke and he was forced to stand out to sea to save his ship. A number of lives were lost on the Chilean vessel, but his effort in the condition of the storm-swept sea was regarded as an unusually brave one. He was due for retirement last year, but with the advent of Norah to the Coast it was decided to extend his term of service for 12 months. Pallbearers: Captains R A Hunter, P J Hickey, and W Thomas, Chief Engineer John Hudson, Assistant Superintendent T Moffat, H Gaerdes. [Colonist, 1929-05-01, p. 21]

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Retired (2001) British Columbia lighthouse keeper after 32 years on the lights.