HARVEY, Robert

Author Tags: 1850-1900, Early B.C., Fiction, Maritime

Born in Duncan, B.C. on June 22 1927, Robert Harvey worked on coastal tugboats as a teenager. Not to be confused with R.G. Harvey, Robert Harvey of Denman Island was a courtroom lawyer for 54 years prior to his retirement, whereupon he diligently researched a novel about his intrepid seafaring relative, Captain James Gaudin, who married the daughter of B.C. pioneer Alexander Caulfield Anderson and his wife Eliza at the family farm in North Saanich in 1873.

With the most unwieldy title ever given to a novel written in British Columbia, No Tame Cat - Fur Trade Daughter, Her Cape Horn Captain and the Chilean Courtesan (Ptarmigan Press, 2009), Harvey recalls the life and times of the Jersey-born sea captain who rounded Cape Horn many times before eventually settling in Victoria to raise five children and serve as District Agent for the Minister of Marine & Fisheries after thirty years at sea.

Harvey's fictionalized version of Gaudin's life is supported by research into his own family history and 600 pages of HBC logbooks for the barques Prince of Wales, Ocean Nymph and Lady Lampson. After introducing Gaudin's first command in the HBC barque Ocean Nymph, Harvey concentrates on Gaudin's command of the barque Lady Lampson (1869-1879) which he sailed nine times around the Horn from London to the Pacific Northwest. The cover painting of that ship by Jack W. Hardcastle (1881-1980) was commissioned by the author's father, Robert Oliver Dunsmuir Harvey Q.C. (1900-1958) who placed great emphasis on his familial connections to the Gaudin and Anderson families.

Captain Gaudin was born in Jersey, Channel Islands, on January 28, 1838, and died on January 12, 1913 in Victoria. Two years earlier he had travelled to the Yukon to visit his son J.R.P. Gaudin, an engineer who had designed and fabricated the ship (sic: pre-fabricated the stern-wheeler) Anglian, taken the ship to Wrangell, Alaska, up the Stikine River overland to Lake Teslin and re-assembled it for the Canadian Development Corporation in the winter of 1897-1898.


No Tame Cat: Fur Trade Daughter, Her Cape Horn Captain and the Chilean Courtesan (Ptarmigan Press, 2009) $25 978-0-919537-82-8

[BCBW 2010]

S.S. Beaver itinerary, 1850
Backgrounder (2010)

My recent trip to Winnipeg to read the microfilm log of the HBC Barque Cowlitz enables me to describe the itinerary of the S. S. Beaver as a tug towing the Cowlitz, laden with trading goods from Fort Victoria on April 25 1850, first, to the HBC Fort Rupert at Beaver Harbour near present-day Port Hardy; and then back again into the Strait of Georgia to enter the Fraser River to reach Fort Langley by May 19. Considering the time taken to unload in the north, this can be described as highball towing.

On the way up, the barque logged passing Sangster Island on April 26; and being delayed until April 29 to depart Duncan Bay to steam through the Rapids at Seymour Narrows. On April 30, facing a strong flood tide, tug and tow anchored in Blenkinsop Bay to await tide change. By May 2 they arrived at anchor in Beaver Harbour to begin unloading cattle and cargo to the fort and to take on supply of cordwood for the steam boiler.

May 11 saw tug and tow departing in morning to anchor in Cheslakees, which seems to have been the place named after the chief of the Nimpkish Indian Village Captain Vancouver called in at in 1792.

May 13 saw them depart on their way to Fort Langley and pass Chatham Point.

May 14 saw them through Seymour Rapids after waiting for slack tide, and coming to anchor in Duncan Bay.

May 16 saw them anchored off Sangster Island, which was by then newly-named after the sometime captain of the HBC barque Lama.

May 17 enter Fraser River, arriving at Fort Langley by May 19 to unload balance of cargo.

June 11 saw them depart downriver, grounding on what the captain logged as the North Sands. The tide fell, and the Cowlitz began to crack and bend down aft, creating a hogged condition. After she came clear with a higher tide on June 15, her arrival in Fort Victoria created a controversy. She arrived at Fort Victoria under tow on June 17.

Captain McNeill had his way to see orders given to Captain Weynton to sail the vessel for London by way of Oahu. On the way, casks of whale oil breached, creating such a smell that the HBC decided to sell the vessel. The Company had no other vessel to send Captain Weynton to, so he may have lost his job for allowing Captain McNeill to hazard the sailing vessel in the tow.

-- Robert Harvey