POOLE, Francis

Author Tags: Early B.C., Haida Gwaii

Upon publication in 1872, Poole was described as "the only educated Englishman who has ever lived on the Queen Charlotte Islands." Some 100 years later George Woodcock dismissed Poole for "his insufferably bombastic style" and "his inexcuseable failings as an observer." Poole's memoir, republished after 100 years, is often regarded as one of the more readable accounts of British Columbia in the late 19th century, invariably by those have not read it. With eight employees, Poole had arrived in 1862 as a mining engineer to prospect for copper on behalf of the Queen Charlotte Mining Company for almost two years. He claimed to have been "the first white man who had dared to go and live amongst the hostile Indians of Queen Charlotte Islands..." In 1790 Captain Gray had left a seaman to live among the Haida and collect furs; gold prospectors had preceded Poole in 1852 and 1859. Poole was a braggart and a liar who missed an opportunity to provide detailed commentary on the Haida when they were at the height of their numbers and their villages were still flourishing. "In two years Poole appears to have learnt nothing about the Haida winter ceremonials," wrote George Woodcock in BC Studies, "about their shamanic rites, about the function of the potlatch, about the systems of lineage, or about the social system.... He mentions Haida carving once... nor do he mention a carved pole of any kind... Poole was, in fact, so inflated by his own importanc, and so blinded by his prejudices, that what he really produced in Queen Charlotte Islands was not a true travel book but rather the self-portrait of a disagreeable man whose attention was centred on his own pursuit of the ignis fatuus of mineral wealth." Most of Poole's employees were Americans and Poole hated Americans, so ultimately his explorations ended when his men refused to tolerate him anymore.

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Queen Charlotte Islands, a Narrative of Discovery and Adventure in the North Pacific


Queen Charlotte Islands: A Narrative of Discovery and Adventure in the North Pacific (London: Hurst and Blackett, 1872. Republished by Douglas & McIntyre, 1972).

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2004] "QCI" "Early B.C."