DICKSON, Greg




Author Tags: Geography, War

Greg Dickson grew up in Osoyoos in the South Okanagan where he developed a love of B.C. history and geography. He spent his summers working in the B.C. fruit industry and using his weekends to travel around to old mining camps and ghost towns. One summer spent on an archaeology dig for the Osoyoos Indian Band led to a lifetime interest in First Nations history and culture. For over twenty years Greg worked as a broadcaster and journalist for CBC Radio and Television. He started at CFPR in Prince Rupert in the early 1980s hosting the noon and afternoon shows, traveling extensively in the Nass Valley, the Hazeltons and Haida Gwaii. During this time he covered the South Moresby campaign and First Nations treaty issues. As a CBC Radio news reporter in Calgary and Vancouver, he went on to cover major Aboriginal rights issues including the Nisga'a treaty, the Apex Alpine blockades, Delgamuukw, and the siege at Gustafsen Lake. He became a public affairs officer with the Ministry of Education. He lives with his wife Sheryl beside the Coquitlam River. He has also taught journalism at the B.C. Institute of Technology in Burnaby and worked as a television producer for CBC Newsworld in Vancouver and London, England.

In 2005, as director of B.C. Almanac, he co-wrote the B.C. Almanac Book of Greatest British Columbians with host Mark Forsythe. Their second book is The Trail of 1858: British Columbia's Gold Rush Past (Harbour 2007).

Of the 611,000 Canadians who fought for King and Country in World War One, 55,570 were from British Columbia. That was the highest per capita enlistment rate in Canada. Of that contingent, 6,225 died in battle at a time when the overall population of B.C. was only 400,000. Including stories, artifacts and photos from Mark Forsythe's audience for his BC Almanac program on CBC Radio, Mark Forsythe and Greg Dickson's From the West Coast to the Western Front: British Columbians and the Great War (Harbour 2014) marks the 100th anniversary of World War One. Among those profiled is First Nations soldier George Maclean who won a Distinguished Conduct Medal, the second-highest award for gallantry available to non-commissioned officers and privates in the Great War. During the Battle of Vimy Ridge, armed with a dozen “pineapples” – Mill bombs also known as grenades – he launched a solo attack and captured 19 prisoners, getting wounded in the process. Maclean was a rancher from the Head of the Lake Band in the Okanagan who enlisted in Vernon in 1916, having previously served with the Canadian Mounted Rifles during the Boer War. Shot in the arm by a sniper during his heroics at Vimy, Maclean returned to Canada for treatment and became a fireman in Vancouver. He died in 1934.

DATE OF BIRTH: Jan. 3, 1956

PLACE OF BIRTH: Oliver, B.C.

EMPLOYMENT OTHER THAN WRITING: Media Relations, Ministry of Education

BOOKS:

From the West Coast to the Western Front: British Columbians and the Great War (Harbour 2014)

The Trail of 1858: British Columbia's Gold Rush Past (Harbour 2007) co-authored with Mark Forsythe

The BC Almanac Book of Greatest British Columbians (Harbour 2005) co-authored with Mark Forsythe

[BCBW 2014]

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
The Trail of 1858: British Columbia's Gold Rush Past
From the West Coast to the Western Front: British Columbians and the Great War

BC Almanac
Review (2007)



BC Almanac Book of Greatest British Columbians (Harbour $39.95) includes obligatory notables such as Emily Carr, Terry Fox and W.A.C. Bennett, plus a few surprises. One of their Almanac listeners apprised them of the following item:

“Joseph Leopold Coyle was an inventor of the egg carton. He lived in Aldermere, a historic community close to Telkwa/Smithers in central B.C. Lynn Sherville, a local historian, talks about the reasons for this invention. "Gabriel Lecroix, a local rancher, was in the business of shipping eggs to the Aldermere Hotel. Few of Lacroix eggs ever arrived intact, leading to loud criticisms and recriminations between the packer and the hotel.

“As Coyle's newspaper office was in immediate vicinity, he was privy to the disagreements and decided to do something about it." He invented the egg carton and built the machine to turn it out. He had no mechanical training and had a grade education in a small rural school. He bought a book on mechanical drawings, paper and the instruments, then started teaching himself. He also started the first newspaper in Smithers, The Interior News that we still have today.

“In 1918 Coyle sold the newspaper and moved to New Westminster to manufacture his egg carton. He never got rich because he sold his patent due to a lack of funds to manufacture it. He died in New Westminster.” The Who’s Who project evolved from Almanac’s request for its listeners to nominate the 100 Greatest British Columbians of all time. These suggestions have been augmented by invited submissions from provincial experts and divided into sections such as Crusaders & Reformers, Scientists & Innovators, Rogues & Rascals, etc.

1-55017-368-5


The Trail of 1858: British Columbia’s Gold Rush Past
Review



Mark Forsythe and Greg Dickson of CBC Radio’s BC Almanac build books like folks in Saskatchewan used to raise their barns. It’s a community affair and everyone is invited to pitch in.

To recognize the province’s 150th anniversary as a modern political state, former Lieutenant Governor Iona Campagnolo, herself a history enthusiast, has provided the foreword for their latest illustrated omnibus, The Trail of 1858: British Columbia’s Gold Rush Past (Harbour $26.95), with contributions from dozens of experts and so-called ordinary citizens.

There were indeed strange things done in the midnight sun, and in the Cariboo gold rush. Even though John “Cariboo” Cameron had helped establish the first cemetery for Barkerville, he offered $12 per day and a bonus of $2,000 (approximately $33,000 today) to any man who would help carry his deceased wife Sophia’s coffin from Williams Creek to Victoria.

The blizzard-ridden, 36-day ordeal enabled Cameron to temporarily bury his beloved in Victoria. After amassing his fortune at Cameronton in the Cariboo, he returned to Victoria with $300,000 worth of gold ($7.5 million today) and took Sophia’s body by ship, around South America, to be buried in her hometown of Glengarry, Ontario, thereby honouring her dying request.

Hurdy-Gurdy Girls. The Old Douglas Trail. The arrival of the Commodore, bringing black residents from California. The Chilcotin War. Cataline, the Cariboo’s best-known packer. Judge Matthew Baillie Begbie. Those infamous camels, imported but never used. The paternalistic autocrat James Douglas. Stagecoach driver Stephen Tingley. Joseph Trutch, who constructed the first Alexandra suspension bridge in 1863. Herman Otto Bowe and the Alkali Lake ranch.

It’s all packed into one mother-lode. Some of the history nuggets uncovered include a photo of Nam Sing, the first Chinese miner in the Cariboo, the peacemaking Chief Spintlum of the Nlaka’pamux (Thompson), the ‘miner’s angel, Irishwoman Nellie Cashman, a lifelong prospector and spinster who travelled by dogsled north of the Arctic Circle, as well as Richard Wright’s introduction to the ‘poet/scout’ Jack Crawford.

It turns out that Scotsman James Anderson, often described as the Robert Service of the Cariboo Gold Rush, had some competition from another stage performer, Jack Crawford, a long-haired U.S. army scout who was a theatrical partner of Buffalo Bill Cody and Wild Bill Hickok.

After Buffalo Bill drunkenly shot Crawford during one of their shows, Crawford took his own Wild West show north to Barkerville and Victoria. In 2004, Richard Wright and Amy Newman revived Crawford’s reputation with a stage show called Campfire Tales of Captain Jack Crawford at Barkerville’s Theatre Royal.

Statistically, it was easier to find gold than a non-Aboriginal wife. The two “brides’ ships” sent from England in 1862-63 did little to adjust the gender imbalance. Jean Barman’s contributions include a short essay on the shortage of European-born women in the Cariboo gold fields.

“I never saw diggers so desirous of marrying as those of British Columbia,” commented one observer.

Given that few miners could afford to send money to bring over an English girl or a Scotch lassie, they invariably appraised potential Aboriginal partners in terms of White notions of beauty and dress. Barman has retrieved some stanzas from “The Maid of Lillooet,” written in 1862, to make her point.

Her elastic bust no stays
confined,
Her raven tresses flowed
free as wind;
Whilst her waist, her
neck and her ankles small
Were encircled by bandlets,
beadwrought all.
Her head as the wild deer’s,
erect and proud,
To superior beauty never
owed;
Like the diamond sparkling
in the night,
Her glistening black eyes
beamed with light…

Net proceeds from the sale of The Trail of 1858 are being directed to the British Columbia Historical Federation.

1-55017-424-X

[BCBW 2008] "History" "Gold Rush"



From the West Coast to the Western Front
Book Excerpt (2014)



It is one of the better-kept secrets of BC history. Not only did BC purchase two Seattle-built submarines in 1914. We went on to build submarines for export to the Russians at a hidden factory at Barnet in Burnaby. Nothing remains of the factory now other than a creek named in its honour, but in its heyday, safely concealed beside the CP rail line on Burrard Inlet, the British Pacific Construction and Engineering Company was a going concern.

The man behind the company was James Venn Paterson, the same man who headed the Seattle shipyard that sold two submarines to Premier McBride on the eve of the Great War in 1914.

Burnaby seems an odd place to build submarines for the Russian Navy. And the story is a strange one. Our allies, including the Russians, were anxious to buy submarines wherever they could find them. The Americans could build them but couldn’t sell them directly without contravening their own neutrality laws. So Paterson’s Seattle shipyard started looking for ways to build subs to their own patented specifications in Canada. To keep the business, they set up the British Pacific Construction and Engineering Company at Vancouver. The company then found a quiet stretch of shoreline in Burnaby where they could build subs without attracting attention.

The site was closely guarded and the crews sworn to secrecy. And the work started. The design was good and the subs were built to be dismantled and shipped by rail or sea to customers who could then reassemble them closer to the theatre of war where they were needed.

“The works are surrounded by a high barbed wire fence,” a secret report stated, “...and search lights are being erected on the machine shops. There is a military guard of nine men there loaned by the Military, and already five submarines are laid down and well underway.” Over two hundred men were soon at work and that grew to over 450 working day and night shifts.

Russia was the first paying customer. It needed subs to defend itself against the German Navy and its Turkish allies in the Baltic and Black Seas. European shipyards couldn’t help, and the Russians were advised to see Paterson, who was glad to assist. The subs were to be shipped to Vladivostok, and then to travel by Trans-Siberian rail to Petrograd where they would be assembled for service in the Baltic. Three subs were shipped in December 1916. Eventually five would reach Russia.

As if getting submarines across Russia wasn’t complicated enough, in 1917 Russia was shaken by revolution. The submarines were caught up in the chaos as the Russian Imperial Navy crumbled away.

“Their careers were brief,” wrote historian William Kaye Lamb in BC Studies (Autumn 1986).”The AG-14 was lost with all hands in 1917, and the other four were all scuttled early in April 1918 at their base in Finland to prevent them from falling into the hands of the advancing Germans.”

If you want to find one of the Burnaby-built submarines, you might try travelling to the Baltic Sea. In June 2003 a diving company found the AG-14. The team was actually searching for a missing Swedish DC-3 that was shot down by the Russians in 1952 over the Baltic. They recovered the plane and also located the AG-14, missing since 1917.

It turns out that the captain of the AG-14 was none other than Antonius Essen, the only son of the Russian Admiral Nikolai Essen, head of the Russian Baltic Sea Fleet. Admiral Essen died suddenly of pneumonia in 1915. His family received another shock when son Antonius went down with his crew when the AG-14 hit a mine two years later.

(The Essens were actually ethnic Germans who for two centuries served loyally with the Russian Imperial Navy. Seven family members had been awarded the Order of St. George, Russia’s highest military decoration).

Back in Burnaby our submarine industry dreams came to an end when the Americans entered the war in 1917. Freed from the constraints of neutrality, submarine manufacturers could move back across the border. The secret Barnet factory was dismantled, leaving little behind but bits of wood and rusty metal.


B.C. goes to war
Excerpt 2014



"From the West Coast to the Western Front" by Mark Forsythe and Greg Dickson

It is one of the better-kept secrets of BC history. Not only did BC purchase two Seattle-built submarines in 1914. We went on to build submarines for export to the Russians at a hidden factory at Barnet in Burnaby. Nothing remains of the factory now other than a creek named in its honour, but in its heyday, safely concealed beside the CP rail line on Burrard Inlet, the British Pacific Construction and Engineering Company was a going concern.

The man behind the company was James Venn Paterson, the same man who headed the Seattle shipyard that sold two submarines to Premier McBride on the eve of the Great War in 1914.

Burnaby seems an odd place to build submarines for the Russian Navy. And the story is a strange one. Our allies, including the Russians, were anxious to buy submarines wherever they could find them. The Americans could build them but couldn’t sell them directly without contravening their own neutrality laws. So Paterson’s Seattle shipyard started looking for ways to build subs to their own patented specifications in Canada. To keep the business, they set up the British Pacific Construction and Engineering Company at Vancouver. The company then found a quiet stretch of shoreline in Burnaby where they could build subs without attracting attention.

The site was closely guarded and the crews sworn to secrecy. And the work started. The design was good and the subs were built to be dismantled and shipped by rail or sea to customers who could then reassemble them closer to the theatre of war where they were needed.

“The works are surrounded by a high barbed wire fence,” a secret report stated, “...and search lights are being erected on the machine shops. There is a military guard of nine men there loaned by the Military, and already five submarines are laid down and well underway.” Over two hundred men were soon at work and that grew to over 450 working day and night shifts.

Russia was the first paying customer. It needed subs to defend itself against the German Navy and its Turkish allies in the Baltic and Black Seas. European shipyards couldn’t help, and the Russians were advised to see Paterson, who was glad to assist. The subs were to be shipped to Vladivostok, and then to travel by Trans-Siberian rail to Petrograd where they would be assembled for service in the Baltic. Three subs were shipped in December 1916. Eventually five would reach Russia.

As if getting submarines across Russia wasn’t complicated enough, in 1917 Russia was shaken by revolution. The submarines were caught up in the chaos as the Russian Imperial Navy crumbled away.

“Their careers were brief,” wrote historian William Kaye Lamb in BC Studies (Autumn 1986).”The AG-14 was lost with all hands in 1917, and the other four were all scuttled early in April 1918 at their base in Finland to prevent them from falling into the hands of the advancing Germans.”

If you want to find one of the Burnaby-built submarines, you might try travelling to the Baltic Sea. In June 2003 a diving company found the AG-14. The team was actually searching for a missing Swedish DC-3 that was shot down by the Russians in 1952 over the Baltic. They recovered the plane and also located the AG-14, missing since 1917.

It turns out that the captain of the AG-14 was none other than Antonius Essen, the only son of the Russian Admiral Nikolai Essen, head of the Russian Baltic Sea Fleet. Admiral Essen died suddenly of pneumonia in 1915. His family received another shock when son Antonius went down with his crew when the AG-14 hit a mine two years later.

(The Essens were actually ethnic Germans who for two centuries served loyally with the Russian Imperial Navy. Seven family members had been awarded the Order of St. George, Russia’s highest military decoration).
Back in Burnaby our submarine industry dreams came to an end when the Americans entered the war in 1917. Freed from the constraints of neutrality, submarine manufacturers could move back across the border. The secret Barnet factory was dismantled, leaving little behind but bits of wood and rusty metal.