DAWSON, Will




Author Tags: 1850-1900, Early B.C., Maritime, Mitchell Press

Will Dawson was born in England, at Halifax near Yorkshire, and came to Canada as a young man. In 1932, having been thrown out of work by the Depression, Dawson travelled by bicycle from Montreal to Vancouver where he took up a career as a journalist, eventually becoming managing editor of a trade journal. During World War II, he worked as an engineer in an aircraft factory in eastern Canada. He returned to Vancouver and began outfitting the auxiliary yawl West Wind in 1945 with his wife Eileen. From spring to late fall. the Dawsons cruised the coastal waters of British Columbia in West Wind, using their cottage among the islands as a headquarters. Their cruising experiences provided much of the material for the broadcasts for which Will Dawson became well known on the West Coast. The Dawsons' maritime adventures led to the publication of their first book, a West Coast maritime memoir, Ahoy There (J.M. Dent, 1955), as well as the Evergreen Cruising and Fishing Guide (1959), containing maps and travel information. The latter was expanded and republished in three more editions as Coastal Cruising: An Authoritative Guide to British Columbia, Puget Sound-San Juan Islands Waters and The Waterways of Southeast Alaska (Vancouver: Mitchell Press, 1965).

Will Dawson also wrote an historical work, The War That Was Never Fought (Princeton, Auerbach, 1971), the story of the Pig War, an unusual Canada-US military confrontation in which a shot was never fired. For more than a decade the island of San Juan was jointly occupied by the British and Americans after an American farmer named Lyman Cutler shot a Hudson's Bay Comany pig in June of 1859 as it was rooting in his potato patch. When the Hudson's Bay Company demanded $100 in compensation for the 'stud pig', Cutler offered only $3 and declared, "It was just a damn pig." To protect Cutler, General William Harney arrived with American troops, whereupon British troops arrived to protect Canada's claim to the island. On October 21, 1872, the German Kaiser, as arbitrator of the border dispute, ruled clearly in favour of the United States, making Haro Strait as the international boundary for the Gulf Islands, thereby resolving the ambiguous wording of the Treaty of Washington (1846) that had led to confusion about the water boundary. The Kaiser's pro-American decision has remained in effect ever since.

BOOKS:

Ahoy There (Toronto, Vancouver: J.M. Dent, 1955).
Evergreen Cruising and Fishing Guide (1959)
Coastal Cruising: An Authoritative Guide to British Columbia, Puget Sound-San Juan Islands Waters and The Waterways of Southeast Alaska (Vancouver: Mitchell Press, 1965, 1968, 1973).
The War That Was Never Fought (Princeton, Auerbach, 1971).

[BCBW 2005]