AKRIGG, Helen Brown




Born in Prince Rupert, British Columbia in 1921, she received a B.A. from UBC in 1943. After raising a family she returned to academic life and in 1964 earned an M.A. in history from UBC. Her thesis was on the history of settlement and economic development in the Shuswap Lake district, where the Akriggs had a cottage. She and her husband George Philip Akrigg wrote two widely-used B.C. histories, British Columbia Chronicle: 1778-1846 and British Columbia Chronicle: Vol. II 1847-1871, plus they produced a perennial bestseller, 1001 British Columbia Place Names, which includes anecdotes, maps and historical characters. The couple were pioneers in the field of self-publishing under their imprint, Discovery Press. She has contributed numerous historical essays on B.C. history. Her father was E.C. Manning, a Chief Forester of B.C., after whom Manning Park is named. In 1970 she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. George and Helen Akrigg won the Government of British Columbia's first Heritage Award in 1995.

Books published, co-authored with George Philip Akrigg.

1001 British Columbia Place Names (Discovery Press, 1969).
British Columbia Chronicle, 1778-1846 (Discovery Press, 1975).
British Columbia Chronicle, Vol II, 1847-1871 (Discovery Press, 1977).
H.M.S. Virago in the Pacific (Sono Nis Press, 1992).
British Columbia Place Names (UBC Press, 1997).

[BCBW May 2003]

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
British Columbia Chronicle 1847-1871: Gold and Colonists
British Columbia Chronicle 1778-1846, Adventurers by Sea and Land

British Columbia Place Names (UBC $19.95)
Info



Everyone knows Spuzzum -- but what about Houdini Needles? Miniskirt? Elephant Crossing? They're three of the thousand-plus names for towns, rivers, mountains and lakes explained by Philip and Helen Akrigg in their updated and revised British Columbia Place Names (UBC $19.95), based on over forty years of research.

According to the Akriggs, Houdini Needles, located in the Adamant Mountains (northeast of Revelstoke), is "so named because only a contortionist like Houdini could ascend these peaks." Miniskirt, northwest of Victoria, is near Skirt Mountain. When a name was required in 1976 for 'a minor eminence to the northeast of the mountain', Miniskirt seemed a logical choice.

The derivation of the name Elephant Crossing, near the Canadian Armed Forces base at Holberg (west of Port Hardy), is much more complicated.

When a logging truck is unloaded, the trailer portion is hoisted up behind the driver's cab and carried piggyback for the return journey, with the 'reach' (the long connecting bar) jutting out above the cab. Upon seeing this strange sight at a roadway crossing, a warrant officer, newly arrived from Ontario, remarked that the empty trucks looked like elephants holding up their trunks.

The intersection on Vancouver Island became known as Elephant Crossing. A sign embellished with pink elephants now marks the spot and the name is in the Gazetteer of Canada.

The Akriggs' 1001 B.C. Place Names first appeared in 1969. Now retired UBC professors, they were the first recipients of the new B.C. Heritage Award to celebrate outstanding contributions to the understanding of B.C.'s past. The Akriggs pioneered B.C.'s self-publishing tradition when they began their own imprint, Discovery Press, for British Columbia Chronicles, a two-volume history which appeared in 1975 and 1977.
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