SCOTT, Andrew (1947- )

Author Tags: Art, Outdoors, Place Names

LITERARY LOCATION: Telegraph Creek, the only town on the Stikine River, about 260 km upstream from its mouth. Accessible by the Stewart-Cassiar Highway and Highway 57, via Dease Lake.

A former Western Living editor (1980-1987) and a longtime Georgia Straight travel columnist (having first contributed to the Straight in 1974), Welsh-born journalist Andrew Scott is the unparalleled expert on West Coast place names. The tiny but venerable village of Telegraph Creek is his favourite place to visit. After it arose with the discovery of gold in 1861, the community became the gateway for two gold rushes in the Cassiar (1874-76) and the Klondike (1898-99). Briefly bolstered by construction crews for the Alaska Highway, Telegraph Creek endures in Tahltan territory as a poignant reminder of B.C.'s pioneering past.

[SEE Andrew Scott's personal essay on his travels BELOW]


Andrew Scott's well-researched The Promise of Paradise: Utopian Communities in British Columbia (Harbour 2017 $24.95) is a revised and updated second edition of an important book from 1997, with several new sections, thirty additional photos, a number of maps, an appendix and a detailed index. In it Scott explores the successes and failures of the many idealistic intentional communities that have appeared across BC over the past 150 years, from the “model” Christian villages of the missionaries, through the Doukhobors, the Brother XII cult and the counterculture era, to today’s sophisticated co-housing projects.

"Many communities discovered hardship, disillusionment and failure," he says, "but new groups sprang up—and continue to spring up—to take their place."

With engaging first-person accounts, the book affords detailed and reliable records of communalists such the early Scandinavian settlers who, with great stamina and courage, created utopian colonies at Bella Coola, Cape Scott and Sointula. Scott similarly relates the history of the Emissaries of Divine Light, who went forth from their base at 100 Mile House to build hotels, own a jet and establish branches around the world.

The 1960s and ‘70s are a particular focus, from the Sunshine Coast's many communes, which set off a storm of hostility from locals, to the Ochiltree Organic Commune in the Cariboo, which rebelled against hippie standards to embrace meat-eating and coffee-drinking.

More than a compendium of astounding misadventures, this book offers Scott's intriguing analysis of what moves people to search for paradise as he sifts through the wreckage of the utopia-seekers’ dreams to lay bare the practices and philosophies of today's intentional communities.

At the outset of 2010, Andrew Scott won the Lieutenant Governor's medal for best B.C. historical book from the B.C. Historical Society for his monumental Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names: A Complete Reference to Coastal British Columbia (Harbour 2009). In April of 2010, Scott's Encyclopedia also won the Roderick Haig-Brown Prize for best book about British Columbia. [SEE REVIEW BELOW]

Accepting the second award, Scott said, "I'm glad the Encyclopedia worked out as well as it did, because I sense that Harbour had a tough time coming up with just the right person for the job. i.e., someone willing to devote three years to writing half-a-million words and 4,000 entries. In other words, someone a little bit insane.

"When I got to 'M' -- and its sneaky little offspring 'Mc' -- I was definitely feeling that English had too many letters in its alphabet, but by the time I reached 'Z' I was wondering what I was going to do with myself after it was all finished.

"Well, the folks at Harbour had an answer for that. As Vici Johnstone, general manager at the time, said: 'Andrew, your work has just begun.' She was referring, of course, to the book’s production—a massive job. So I’d like to thank all the folks at Harbour for their incredible work, but three people especially: Audrey McClellan, my editor; Anna Comfort, production manager at the time; and Peter Robson, who whipped the 500 images and maps into shape.

"The whole process was like dealing with one of those giant runaway snowballs you often find in comic strips; the damn thing keeps getting larger and larger, and it’s all you can do just to keep out in front of it. At least, that’s how I felt. But the staff at Harbour were undaunted. You would think they put together an encyclopedia every week.

"I'm thrilled to win this particular award because Roderick Haig-Brown is a hero of mine. I hope that, by potentially deepening our understanding of the land, through the names we give to its places, my book can, in a curious sort of way, honour Haig-Brown's legacy."

Andrew Scott has been a Vancouver Sun reporter, Alaska Airlines Magazine publisher (1987-1989), a Globe & Mail editor (1989-1991) and a major contributor to the Encyclopedia of British Columbia. Andrew Scott has hundreds of credits as a freelance writer and is the recipient of eight Western and National magazine awards. His work covers a wide range of topics and often deals with environmental issues.

A monthly Georgia Straight column called Ecotourism, renamed Coastlines in January of 1988, led to two volumes about his journeys and kayaking discoveries along B.C.'s shores. His partner, artist Katherine Johnson, "was by my side (or slightly ahead of me) on most of these journeys." Here Andrew Scott reminisces about his travels in B.C.:


There are many places dear to me in BC, for many reasons. Some are close to my heart because of the people I visited them with and the personal events that took place there. Others I've been drawn to because they had unusual features or pasts. A number are remote and hard-to-reach, which often seems part of their appeal. A few simply have intriguing names (think Calamity Harbour or Swindle Island).

Over the years, I've spent much time exploring the province's geography and history—both to educate myself and to satisfy my wanderlust. I try not to get too hung up on destinations. As we're often reminded, it's the journey that's important, and most good journeys end up taking you places you had never dreamed of. But having a destination can get you started on a journey. And destinations that have beckoned you strongly over long periods of time are probably worth reaching, as they're sure to show you something unexpected.

In 1977 I hitchhiked to the Yukon to visit a friend who had scored a summer job in Dawson. At the turn-off to the Stewart-Cassiar Highway I stuck out my lucky thumb and caught a terrific ride: all the way to Whitehorse, 1,157 kilometres north. Five hundred kilometres in we passed through the one-horse hamlet of Dease Lake, where a gravel road branched off the highway and corkscrewed its way to Telegraph Creek. Now this was a road I'd always wanted to go down. It followed, I'd heard, a hair-raising but truly satisfying route that wound partly along the Grand Canyon of the Stikine River and ended just beyond one of BC's most historic and isolated villages.

I couldn't, of course, abandon the ride to Whitehorse; that would have been crazy. So we drove on. As the junction receded in the mirror, I wondered if I'd ever pass this way again, and if so, how many years in the future that might be.

Well, 35 years, to be precise.

My second time through Dease Lake I was driving, rather than hitching, with my wife Katherine, rather than a kind-hearted but long-forgotten stranger. We were sheltering in motels, not tents. The steep, narrow 112-km Telegraph Creek road was much the same, supposedly, as it had been before, with one-lane bridges and sheer drop-offs, but also with fabulous views of the Tanzilla, Tahltan and Stikine rivers.

This was Tahltan First Nation territory. We saw age-old fishing camps and village sites, and clambered out to the edge of the Grand Canyon, searching in vain for the mountain goats that cling to its cliffs. Three hundred metres below us the muddy, swirling river boiled between its stony walls. The canyon is one of the most difficult and dangerous river descents on the planet, and no one managed to navigate it until 1981, when a group of kayakers succeeded.

Of old Telegraph Creek, little was left: an ancient church, a few decrepit miners' log cabins. The former Hudson's Bay trading post, transformed into a café, was closed for the summer. The silence was overwhelming, the only sound a whispering in the cottonwoods. The massive Stikine surged just a few metres away. I tried to imagine what this place might have been like in the late 1800s, when it was the limit of river navigation and a noisy customs and transfer point for miners en route to the Cassiar and Klondike gold rushes.

The only place to stay was at Glenora, 30 kilometres further on. Glenora had also been a gold rush staging spot, though no trace of this history remains. Instead, an intrepid couple, Rick and Barb McCutcheon, run a bed & breakfast there called Up the Creek. After a glass of wine and a meal of sockeye salmon and vegetables fresh from the garden, they showed us their paradisal property—the only destination they had ever needed—where they had hand-crafted a home and small farm, raised a family and become part of a tight-knit community. We slept well that night in our own little cabin, the valley holding us in a soft embrace. The summer light slowly faded. A leafy fragrance wafted us to sleep. For a few fleeting hours, at least, journey and destination became one.


CITY/TOWN: Halfmoon Bay

DATE OF BIRTH: Nov 26, 1947

PLACE OF BIRTH: Swansea, Wales




AWARDS: BC2000 Book Award (for Secret Coastline), 1994 National Magazine Gold Award for Personal Journalism, Western Magazine Awards for Science, Technology and Medicine (1995), Best Article, BC (1994), Editorial Innovation and Impact (1994) and Travel (1986)

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
The Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names: A Complete Reference to Coastal British Columbia
The Promise of Paradise: Utopian Communities in BC


Raincoast Place Names: A Complete Reference to Coastal British Columbia (Harbour, 2009)
The People's Water: The Fight for the Sunshine Coast's Drinking Watershed (Sunshine Coast Conservation Association, 2009), with Daniel Bouman
Secret Coastline 2: More Journeys and Discoveries Along BC's Shores (Whitecap, 2005).
Painter, Paddler: The Art and Adventures of Stewart Marshall (TouchWood Editions, 2003).
Secret Coastline: Journeys and Discoveries along BC's Shores (Whitecap, 2000).
The Promise of Paradise: Utopian Communities in BC (Whitecap, 1997).

[BCBW 2015] "Outdoors" "Art" "Place Names"

Secret Coastline: Journeys and Discoveries Along B.C.’s Shores (Whitecap $18.95)

Halfmoon Bay kayaker Andrew Scott knows first-hand that the B.C. coastline has a cumulative length that’s two-thirds of the distance around the planet. It offers “a lot of room to hide in, or to find oneself.” Scott has parlayed his intimate knowledge of remote inlets into a monthly Georgia Straight column, Coastlines, which, in turn, have been expanded into five sections for Secret Coastline: Journeys and Discoveries Along B.C.’s Shores (Whitecap $18.95). Faces of the Coast recounts personal meetings; Flora and Fauna looks at non-human species; Coastal Villages visits tiny communities; By Way of Water is a paean to various watercraft; World’s Apart depicts six lesser known islands. 1-55110-902-6


The Promise of Paradise: Utopian Communities in British Columbia (Whitecap $17.95)

Andrew Scott recalls pioneers who started idealistic communities in The Promise of Paradise: Utopian Communities in British Columbia (Whitecap $17.95). Scott, who helped plan an agricultural co op in the 1970s, examines the motivations and beliefs that have led people to seek alternative communities in B.C., a few of which have succeeded.
1 55110 622 1

[BCBW 1997]

Raincoast Place Names: A Complete Reference for Coastal British Columbia

To celebrate the centennial of Captain John T. Walbran’s groundbreaking work on coastal names of B.C., Sechelt-based Andrew Scott has produced a 650-page lighthouse of a book, Raincoast Place Names: A Complete Reference for Coastal British Columbia (Harbour $49.95), destined to stand tall for decades.

Published in 1909, British Columbia Coast Names by Captain John T. Walbran is a classic of B.C. literature.
As skipper of the federal lighthouse tender Quadra, Walbran researched coastal place names by exploring remote channels, often interviewing or corresponding with many of the province’s pioneer residents and mariners.

For the past several years, Andrew Scott has kayaked in Captain Walbran’s wake, gathering new information for a follow-up text that surpasses Walbran in both size and depth.

More than 2,000 new B.C. place names have been added to the coast in the 20th century, so Scott’s text is not a rehash of Walbran. He has supplied the origins and meanings of more than 5,200 names, with photos and maps.

Visitors to Balcom Inlet might like to know a Rudyard Kipling short story is supposedly based on the ordeal of sealers Sprott Balcom and William Hughes, who were imprisoned in Russia for alleged illegal hunting, stripped of their possessions and money, and had to scrounge their way home to Victoria via Japan.

Similarly, boaters near McLean Island will surely appreciate knowing that sealing skipper Alex McLean, whose gigantic moustache could be tied behind his neck, was rumoured to be the model for Wolf Larsen in Jack London’s novel Sea Wolf.

Selma Park is named for the Selma, a pleasure palace turned coastal steamer. Its former owner, Sir Henry Paget, held mad parties aboard, some of which featured excessive behaviour by the likes of Prince Edward and actress Lily Langtry. Renamed Chasina, the vessel became a rum-runner and then disappeared in 1931, along with its crew of 11, en route from Hong Kong to Macao.

The Union steamship Cutch, another former private yacht, was built for an Indian prince, the Maharaja of Cutch. It ran onto this rock now called Cutch Rock in 1899 and ended its days as a gunboat for the Colombian navy.
The name Kiln Bay has nothing to do with kilns. It’s a misspelling. The feature commemorates US artist Wilfred Kihn, who specialized in documenting First Nation cultures and travelled up the Skeena River in 1924 to sketch Gitksan poles and carvings near Hazelton.

There are lots more such errors enshrined on the maritime charts. South of Calvert Island, it’s easy to run aground on Pearl Rocks. Early fur trader James Hanna called them, with good reason, the Peril Rocks. Peril somehow got changed to Pearl on Captain Vancouver’s chart.

Alert Bay is named for HMS Alert, which spent seven years patrolling the B.C. coast in the 1850s and ’60s. It went on to lead a famous British mission to the high Arctic, chart Magellan Strait, help rescue the lost polar expedition of Adolphus Greeley, survey Hudson Bay and supply the lighthouses of Nova Scotia before being broken up in 1894.
Lucy McNeill, daughter of Hudson’s Bay Company official William McNeill and his first wife, Mathilda, a Kaigani Haida chief, was a “miraculously unfettered Victorian female,” according to B.C. memoirist Helen Meilleur. “She was so adaptable that she could occupy the VIP cabin aboard the Labouchere ... and then set off in a canoe for weeks of weather-exposed travel to Indian villages.” That’s how the Lucy Islands got their name.

Similarly, Gillen Harbour is named for William Gillen, a Halifax fisherman, who ran Bamfield’s lifeboat station, skippered halibut vessels off Haida Gwaii and took the legendary St Roch on its first voyage to the Arctic. Gillen became an Arctic specialist, running supply ships for the Hudson’s Bay Co, before mysteriously drowning in Vancouver Harbour in 1930.

There are not any Butthead Islets but there are Beavis Islets. Lancelot Beavis joined the great clipper ships as a youth. He was captain of the Micronesia, which burned to the waterline off the coast of England, then served on Atlantic cattle carriers, which he despised, did marine survey work on the B.C. coast and trained sailors at Esquimalt in World War I. Beavis ended up operating ferries to West Vancouver before retiring to write his memoirs, Passage from Sail to Steam.

Passing Lohbrunner Island, kayakers might want to know Max Lohbrunner bought B.C.’s last whaling ship, the Green, moored it in Victoria Harbour and lived aboard for 20 years, surrounded by junk. He cleverly evaded the city’s attempts to move him until the Green eventually sank. Its harpoon gun is in the Maritime Museum.

A former Western Living editor (1980-1987) and Georgia Straight travel columnist, Welsh-born Andrew Scott has also been a Vancouver Sun reporter, Alaska Airlines Magazine publisher (1987-1989) and a Globe & Mail editor (1989-1991). His monthly Georgia Straight column called Ecotourism, renamed Coastlines in January of 1998, led to two volumes about his journeys and kayaking discoveries along B.C.’s shores with his partner Katherine Johnston who “was by my side (or slightly ahead of me) on most of these journeys.”

Happy Walbran Centennial.

[BCBW 2009]

Nominated for Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names
BC Book Prizes (2010)

from BC Book Prizes catalogue
Raincoast Place Names describes the original First Nations cultures, the heroics of the 18th-century explorers and fur traders, the grueling survey and settlement efforts of the 19th century, the lives of colonial officials, missionaries, gold seekers and homesteaders and the histories of nearly every important vessel to sail or cruise the coast. Four thousand entries consider, in intriguing detail, the stories behind over five thousand place names: how they were discovered, who named them and why, and what the names reveal. The book also examines the rich heritage of BC place names added in the 20th century. These new entries reflect the world of the steamship era, the ships and skippers of the Union and Princess lines, the heroes of the two World Wars and the sealing fleet, Esquimalt’s naval base and BC’s fishing, canning, mining and logging industries. Andrew Scott is the author of five previous books. He lives in Sechelt.

The Promise of Paradise
Review 2017

REVIEW: The Promise of Paradise: Utopian Communities in British Columbia

By Andrew Scott

Madeira Park: Harbour Publishing, 2017. $24.95 / 978-1-55017-771-8

Reviewed by Keith Norbury


Five centuries ago, when Thomas More conceived of a fictional perfect society, he named it Utopia, from a Greek word meaning “nowhere.” Three-and-half centuries later, when Samuel Butler lampooned the notion of the perfect society, he called his fictional place Erewhon -- an anagram of nowhere.

Given how life imitates art, it’s no surprise that dispossessed people in search of societal perfection should find themselves in the middle of nowhere. That’s certainly where journalist Andrew Scott encountered most of the predominantly communal societies surveyed in a recently expanded and updated edition of The Promise of Paradise: Utopian Communities in British Columbia (Whitecap, 1997).

Scott returns here to many of the utopias he visited during his original research. Several are still intact, some even flourishing, while others are plugging along, “struggling to maintain their culture,” and “tenaciously clinging to their remaining strongholds,” as he notes in the preface.

For the most part, the stabs at perfection went nowhere. “Ultimately, all utopias are doomed,” Scott writes starkly. The value is in the journey, he says, calling utopian communities “living laboratories” for “trying to invent improved versions of ourselves so that we can survive and evolve as a species.”

For people who don’t mind a little solitude, or who even crave it occasionally, the idea of living shoulder-to-shoulder with perfect strangers in an intentional community hardly seems idyllic. The societies not run by autocrats, operating instead on a consensus model, tended to collapse under their own weight. “Modern intentional communities often place a heavy emphasis on co-operation, consensual decision-making and shared responsibility,” Scott writes.

The trouble is that the process “can become so drawn out that the wheels grind to a halt.”

But beyond being “not for everyone,” communal living is something people fear and, “because North American society is hostile to anything that threatens privacy and private property, early utopian communities were forced to B.C.’s margins.”

Consequently, Norwegians settled at Bella Coola, Finns attempted a utopia on Malcolm Island, Danes flocked to Cape Scott on the northern tip of Vancouver Island, and the Doukhobors arrived in the Kootenays from Russia by way of Cyprus and Saskatchewan. Each remote locale represented “a blank slate where any number of ambitious schemes might take root and flower.”

The weeds, though, typically proved overwhelming as did the snakes -- and the snake-oil merchants drawn to B.C.’s margins of remote islands and interior valleys.

Most British Columbians will be familiar with Brother XII and his following on De Courcy Island and environs. The Promise of Paradise devotes a whole chapter to Brother XII (born Edward Wilson in England in 1878), mostly drawing on John Oliphant’s 1991 biography, although Scott also weaves in an account of a kayak trip he and a companion made to the scenes of the cult leader’s crimes.

Scott’s forays included visits to what may or may not have been the abode of the tyrannical Madame Zee, Brother XII’s partner in crime, and the House of Mystery, a shack where Wilson mediated and received his inspiration.

Oh, and Scott met a man who admitted he had been searching twenty years for Brother XII’s legendary trove of gold.

Scott presents a good primer on the legend, even if he fails to remove its shroud of mystery. For Scott, Brother XII is a cautionary tale: “He represents what can happen if people hand over their free will when joining a collective enterprise.”

Less malevolent forces proved the downfall of most utopian societies. The Danish experiment at Cape Scott foundered in part because it couldn’t support its clergyman. The nearby Norwegian settlement at Quatsino withered because the provincial government failed to build a promised road -- although a small village survives to this day.

A common thread of the communities is religious, or at least spiritual, devotion of a Calvinist bent. Even the putatively secular versions often featured painstaking toil. The 55-hectare Woodshare Farm near Lumby required a $2,000 ante for new members who were expected to work fifty hours a week in exchange for a $3 weekly clothing allowance and “a balanced vegetarian diet and comfortable shelter.” A few utopias experimented with free love and polygamy, and Scott tells of high-spirited young women from a farm at Galley Bay skinny-dipping out to greet and annoy boaters on Desolation Sound.

The Sons of Freedom sect of the Doukhobors also discovered the shock value of nudity, as well as of bombings and arsons. It certainly caught media’s attentions, although Scott carefully stresses that the sect represented a small fraction of the Doukhobor communities.

Nevertheless, the Sons of Freedom originally “served as the community’s conscience, criticizing worldly trends,” before being moved to direct action, which included burning down their own homes. Of the Doukhobors generally, Scott argues, their social and economic structures, including their “large community homes,” were similar to those of More’s Utopia itself.

No universal standards exist for classifying utopian societies, Scott admits. So he invents his own classification, defining all his utopias as “created with deliberate intent; none were accidental or haphazard.” Nonetheless, some of his examples don’t fit with the rest. The Nisga’a people of the Nass Valley, for example, had already occupied their place for thousands of years -- time immemorial, as their elders would say -- before negotiating and enacting the treaty that returned self-government to them.

Scott observed such a vast improvement in the Nass Valley post-treaty, compared with what he had seen on a quick visit decades earlier, that he deemed the reborn Nisga’a Nation as worthy of inclusion in his utopian survey.

To quibble further, the book’s first utopian example is another First Nations community, Metlakatla. At least in that case, it was the utopian vision of one man -- the Anglican missionary William Duncan (1832-1918). His followers were the Tsimshian people of the vicinity of present-day Prince Rupert.

Duncan aimed to convert them to western civilization -- and by the 1870s, he had succeeded in creating a “model Indian village” that became “the world’s most famous example of how Christianity could supposedly transform and elevate First Nations people.”

It didn’t last: Duncan eventually moved Metlakatla to an island of the Alaska Panhandle after the U.S. government granted squatting rights to the villagers. That action came after the Canadian government short-sightedly rebuffed Duncan’s pleas to grant expanded property rights to the First Nations people of the original Metlakatla.

While Scott acknowledges that by today’s standards Duncan was autocratic and cruel, the author nevertheless portrays him as figure ahead of his time who cared about the people he was trying to convert — even if he had zero tolerance for such traditions as the potlatch.

No wonder Scott found on a trip to the present-day Tsimshian village of Metlakatla that Duncan remains a polarizing figure.

Also out of place is the attention Scott places on co-housing as a contemporary mode of utopian living. That’s despite his own admission that in expensive Vancouver, the main attraction of co-housing is its affordability. Then again, it fits the overarching theme that a utopia brings together people fleeing adversity of one sort or another.

Scott sprinkles fascinating historic tidbits throughout the book. For instance, we learn that George M. Dawson, the federal geologist who surveyed Cape Scott, is the eponym of Dawson City.

He also reveals that Kalervo Oberg, the anthropologist who devised the term “culture shock,” spent his formative years at Sointula, the Finnish utopia on Malcolm Island. Founded by Matti Kurikka in 1901, Sointula went bankrupt in 1905, although about a hundred of the colonists remained on the island as more traditional homesteaders. Despite their individual independence, they still built such collective amenities as a hall, graveyard, and a co-op store.

Among Scott’s many fascinating revelations is how the utopias formed in the first place. Sometimes, the visionary posted a newspaper ad. Scott even did so himself in 1976, in a publication called The Smallholder. His group was proposing an intentional community on Texada Island. The plan went … nowhere.

While Scott clearly has an affinity for utopia seekers, he has his limits. He calls the hippies “America’s children of affluence,” which might be self-deprecating considering he is of similar vintage.

Among the hippie communes was one near Powell River, where Mark Vonnegut, son of Kurt Vonnegut Jr., experienced the psychotic break recounted in the memoir, The Eden Express (Bantam, 1975).

Scott’s fleeting mention of that makes the reader anxious to learn more about that utopian experiment as well as about the home of those young women swimming nude in Desolation Sound.

Perhaps Scott can explore those and other intentional communities in detail in a third edition.


A fourth-generation British Columbian, Keith Norbury has worked full-time as a journalist since 1986. His writing has appeared in dozens of publications in Canada and the U.S., including the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, and This Magazine. He lives in Saanich, B.C.


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