Author Tags: Outdoors
Born on May 13, 1898, Raymond Murray Patterson attended Oxford and joined the World War One war effort in the spring of 1917. After a stint as a prisoner-of-war (under mostly comfortable circumstances) during the spring and summer of 1918, he became a bank employee in London. He first came to Canada from England in 1924. He explored the Peace River area of northern Alberta, homesteaded there, and searched for gold on the South Nahanni River in the late 1920s; explorations that served as the basis for his best-known book, The Dangerous River (1954).
Patterson married his sweetheart Marigold Portman in 1929 and they moved to Alberta in 1930, first operating a sheep ranch called Buckspring, then selling it to buy Buffalo Head Ranch, a dude ranch in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, southwest of Calgary, in 1933. That year he self-published an eight-page booklet entitled The Flat River Country North West Territories of Canada. With George Pocaterra and Adolf Baumgart, he spent the next 16 years exploring the high country of the Continental Divide when he wasn't raising cattle at Buffalo Head. During WW II he briefly worked as an oil company guide in conjunction with a secret road that was being planned to connect northern B.C. to Fairbanks, Alaska. He and his family moved to Vancouver Island after World War II, selling Buffalo Head Ranch in 1945. He increasingly turned his hand to writing, first selling an article to The Beaver magazine in 1947. It was entitled 'River of Deadmen's Valley'. In 1948 he travelled through the Stikine-Dease watershed, along the Stikine, Dease and Laird Rivers in a 14-foot canoe. In 1949 he explored the Parsnip, Finlay and Peace Rivers in a 17-foot canoe. In 1951 he self-published Dear Mother: A Collection of Letters Written from Rossall Between 1911 and March 1917.
Patterson sold his Vancouver Island house in 1960 and took up residence in England, devoting much of time to researching Napoleon in Europe. He re-settled in Victoria in 1962. His proximity to fledgling publisher Gray Campbell resulted in Far Pastures, a compendium of stories from Blackwood's Magazine and The Beaver that Campbell persuaded him to revise for a connecting narrative. Patterson also benefitted from diaries and copies of his own letters to England that had been saved. His explorations of the Cassiar district and Stikine region served as the subject matter for Trail to the Interior (Toronto: Macmillan, 1966; Horsdal & Schubart, 1993). His explorations of the Peace, Pack and Parsnip Rivers resulted in Finlay's River (Toronto: Macmillan, 1972), an 'anthology' of personal and historical information about that region that was drastically altered and flooded by the Peace River Project.
Raymond M. Patterson celebrated 50 years of marriage in 1979. He died in Victoria on October 20, 1984.
David Finch has written a biography, R.M. Patterson: A Life of Great Adventure (Rocky Mountain Books, 2000). His daughter June Blanchet wrote in 2004, "RMP was an elegant man; it must have been difficult for his friends and contemporaries to believe that he could flourish in remote and primitive situations."
Those Earlier Hills Reminiscences 1928 to 1961 (Touchwood, 2008) is compilation of articles by Patterson that appeared in the Hudson's Bay Company-published The Beaver: Magazine of the North during a 25-year epoch that included the long-serving editors Clifford P. Wilson and Malvina Bolus. After he made his journey down the Nahanni River in 1927, R.M. Patterson's outdoor memoirs appeared in nearly every issue of The Beaver during the 1930s and 1940s.
Dear Mother: A Collection of Letters Written fom Rossall Between 1911 and March 1917 (Self-published, 1951).
The Dangerous River (New York: William Sloane Associates, 1954; London: Allen & Unwin, 1955; Gray's Publishing, 1966, 1969)
The Buffalo Head (New York: William Sloane Associates, 1961; Touch Wood, 2005)
Far Pastures (Sidney: Gray's Publishing, 1963, 1973; Touch Wood, 2005)
Trail to the Interior (Toronto: Macmillan, 1966, 1970)
Finlay's River (New York: William Morrow & Co., 1968; Touchwood, 2006)
Nahanni Journals: R.M. Patterson's 1927-1929 Journals (University of Alberta Press, 2007). Edited by Richard C. Davis. Foreword by Justin Trudeau.
Those Earlier Hills Reminiscences 1928 to 1961 (Touchwood, 2008). $24.95 978-1-894898-67-6
[BCBW 2008] "Outdoors" "Classic"
R.M. Patterson: A Life of Great Adventure (Rocky Mountain $34.95)
Once described by Bruce Hutchison as a mixture of Thoreau and Jack London, R.M. Patterson left a comfortable position with the Bank of England in the 1920s to look for gold and adventure in the Peace River country and the Yukon. Patterson twice canoed down the treacherous Nahanni River to write the best-known of his five books, The Dangerous River, republished this year by Boston Mills Press. David Finch’s R.M. Patterson: A Life of Great Adventure (Rocky Mountain $34.95) profiles the explorer, rancher and dyed-in-the-wool conservative who died in Victoria. A foreword by Gray Campbell, who published Patterson, was written prior to Campbell’s death last year. R.M. Patterson 0-921102-75-5; Dangerous 1-55046-316-0
[BCBW SPRING 2001]