WILD, Roland

Author Tags: Journalism, Mitchell Press, Politics, Sports

Once upon a different time, the Nine O’Clock Gun in Stanley Park was fired to mark the beginning and closing of fishing hours in Burrard Inlet. With so many unemployed men trying to make a living by fishing, the canneries needed to restrict fishing to prevent over-supply. The citizens of Vancouver began to depend on the gun to set their watches. In recognition of times past, Roland Wild's The Nine O’Clock Gun (1952) is a semi-historical compilation of Vancouver stories tracing the fortunes of a fictional Scottish immigrant. Wild weaves a tale from the boisterous boom-town days of Gassy Jack Deighton to the repressive civic administration of Mayor Gerry McGeer.

Roland Wild was born on August 7, 1903 in Lancashire, England. As a journalist he worked for three years in the Punjab for the newspaper that had previously employed Rudyard Kipling. “American tourists were always coming into the office looking to buy mementos. I’d tell them if they came back in three or four hours I might be able to dig up Kipling’s chair. We had an excellent carpenter in the back!” Wild published a biography of an Indian Prince named Colonel HH Shri Sir Ranjitsinhji who was also a renowned cricketer, Ranji (1935, 1937), plus a biography of famous criminal lawyer Sir Henry Curtis-Bennett, Curtis (1936). His first novel, The Trial of Mary Court (1939) was about a murder trial in London’s Old Bailey. During the war Wild worked in psychological warfare, printing newspapers in German for the German population. In this capacity he met many Canadians, many of whom were homesick, particularly the British Columbians. He decided to emigrate in 1947.

Wild took a job with the Vancouver Herald during his first week in Vancouver. For many years he was solely responsible for the editorial page. “I’d write something about Russia, look up at the window and write something else, toss in a syndicated piece by Dorothy Thompson and pick some letters to the editor. Then I went and played a game of golf. I’d come back in the evenings for twenty minutes to read the proofs. My editor never changed a word. I never enjoyed myself so much.” When the Herald folded, Wild became one of four editorial writers for the Province. His biography of the second B.C premier, Amor de Cosmos (born William Alexander Smith) was published by Ryerson Press in 1958 to mark the 100th anniversary of the newspaper Amor de Cosmos had founded, The Victoria Colonist. The foreword to this biography was written by Premier W.A.C. Bennett. He wrote a book about Captain Smellie, who each year sailed with supplies into the Arctic from Montreal, Arctic Command (1964), and also wrote a book on golf, The Loneliest Game (Mitchell Press, 1969). For many years he wrote about golf for The Province. A long and ambitious novel, inspired by his visit to the Angkor Wat ruins in Cambodia in 1964, was never published.

[BCBW 2005] "Stanley Park"