LITERARY LOCATION: Courthouse, 35 Front Street, Nanaimo

In Lynne Bowen's Boss Whistle (1982), she describes the Big Strike (1912-1914) of coal miners for which the militia was brought into Nanaimo to quell riots in the summer of 1913. A large group of union men was arrested one evening and marched into the Rattenbury-styled courthouse between a double row of militiamen with bayonets fixed.


Harsh conditions encountered by miners in the Dunsmuir family mines on Vancouver Island gave rise to B.C.'s sometimes formidable labour movement, hence Lynne Bowen's Boss Whistle: The Coal Miners of Vancouver Island Remember (1982) is a literary vein that leads to the heart of a province that has relied almost exclusively on resource-based industries such as mining.

Since 1849, when the Hudson's Bay Company sought coal on Vancouver Island, mining evolved into B.C.'s third-largest industry, in terms of dollar value, behind logging and tourism. But mining-related literature is miniscule compared to books on logging and fishing.

Culled from Myrtle Bergren's 130 hours of interviews, and sponsored by Nanaimo's Coal Tyee Society, Boss Whistle: The Coal Miners of Vancouver Island Remember (1982) is an indispensable oral history of Vancouver Island colliers and their families. After it received the Eaton's B.C. Book Award, Bowen dug deeper and provided a sequel, Three Dollar Dreams (1987), to outline the frequently violent labour history of coal mining on southern Vancouver Island from 1848 to 1900. This led to her study of coal baron, Robert Dunsmuir, also the subject of two plays by Rod Langley.

Italian immigrants first arrived in B.C. via San Francisco in the early 1860s. They gave us Calona Wines (Capozzi), Vancouver Whitecaps (Lenarduzzi) and fancy restaurants (Menghi). Their collective story in B.C. has been told by Lynne Bowen in Whoever Gives Us Bread (Harbour $32.95), including the plight of 53 Italians who were shipped off to a Kananaskis internment camp for fear that they would form a fifth column in support of Mussolini. Bowen's history received a 2012 F.G. Bressani Literary Prize for Creative Non-Fiction. 978-1-55365-607-4

Lynne Bowen is one of the leading non-fiction authors of British Columbia. As an award-winning popular historian, consultant, writing professor, journalist and oral historian, she has chiefly written about Vancouver Island.

CITY/TOWN: Nanaimo

DATE OF BIRTH: August 22, 1940

PLACE OF BIRTH: Indian Head, Saskatchewan



Teaching writing. Rogers Communications Co-Chair of Creative Non-Fiction Writing at UBC, 1992-; Co-Chair of the Creative Writing Program, University of British Columbia, 2000-02
Columnist, Times-Colonist, 2003-2005
Compiler of Chronologies and Indexes for The Quest Library, XYZ Publishing, 1999-
Script and Research consultant on the video "Harbour City", Rod Langley, producer, 1996
Researcher of images and writer of text for the Nanaimo Heritage Interpretive Routes, 1991 to 1994
Sessional Lecturer, History, Malaspina College, Nanaimo, 1987 to 1990
Co-writer, Nanaimo Heritage Video, 1989
Co-writer, "One Hundred Years Below", Rod Langley, producer, 1987
Accessioning Coal Tyee Oral History Collection, Provincial Archives of British Columbia, 1983
Radio columnist, CKEG, Nanaimo, 1981


Convocation Speaker, Concordia University College of Alberta, May 2000
"When the Muse Meets the Masses: Writing History in the Age of Creative Non-Fiction", address to the 52nd Annual Pacific Northwest History Conference, 1999 and to the British Columbia Universities Qualicum History Conference, 1999
Organizing Committee of Booming Ground Writers Community, University of British Columbia, appointed 1998
Editorial Advisory Board of XYZ Publishing, appointed 1998
"Recognizing Ourselves. The Writing of Canadian Popular History", Guest Lecturer at Concordia University College of Alberta Seventy-Fifth Anniversary, November 5, 1996
Mentor for Writers of History, Biography, and Autobiography, Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts, Sechelt, B.C., 1994
The Dunsmuirs of Nanaimo and Cumberland, Lecture Tours, 1991 to 1994
The Coal Mines of Nanaimo, Lecture Tours, beginning in 1987
"Shot Off the Solid", paper presented to the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum, 1991
"Friendly Societies: The British Tradition of Self-Help in a Vancouver Island Coal Mining Community", paper presented to The Canadian Society for the History of Medicine, Learned Societies Conference, University of Victoria, 1990
Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts, speaker, 1988
"Toward an Extended Definition of Oral Testimony: The Coal Miner on Nineteenth Century Vancouver Island", paper presented to the Conference on Ethnicity, Oral Testimony and the World of Work, Baddeck, Nova Scotia, 1986
"Coal Mining Areas of Nanaimo", Lecture Tour for the Canadian Association of Geographers Annual Meeting, 1984
"Gathering and Using Oral History in the Pursuit of the Story of Vancouver Island's Coal Miners", paper presented to the Canadian Oral History Association Annual meeting, Learned Societies Conference, University of British Columbia, 1983

[For other authors pertaining to mining, see abcbookworld entries for Aho, Aaro E.; Audain, James; Bain, David; Barlee, N.L.; Barr, David A.; Blake, Don; Brown, James N.J.; Brown, Murray; Caldwell, Francis E.; Cole, Sidney K.; Cox, Doug; Draper, Penny; Frolick, Vernon; Green, Lewis; Guppy, Walter; Hawkins, Elizabeth; Hedley, M.S.; Helm, Charles; Hemmingsen, John; Hines, Ben; Hudson, Rick; Hutchings, Ozzie; Jacobsen, Larry; Johnstone, Bill; Lammers, John; Laskowski, Janusz S.; May, David; Miller, Charles; Mouat, Jeremy; Newsome, Eric; Petersen, Eugene; Picard, Ed; Ramsey, Bruce; Rickard, T.A.; Roberts, W.R. (Bill); Robertson, Leslie A.; Taylor, G.W.; Trimble, William J.; Trueman, Allan Stanley; Warden, Geoff; Wilson, John; Zinovich, Jordan.] @2010.

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Boss Whistle: The Coal Miners of Vancouver Island Remember
Three Dollar Dreams
Whoever Gives us Bread: The Story of Italians in British Columbia
Those Island People


Those Island People (Rocky Point / Nanaimo Museum, 2014) $17.95 9780969740725 via Sandhill Marketing

Whoever Gives Us Bread: The Story of Italians in British Columbia (Harbour, 2011) 978-1-55365-608-1 $29.95

Robert Dunsmuir: Laird of the Mines. Montreal: XYZ Publishing, 1999.

Those Lake People, Stories of Cowichan Lake. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1995

Muddling Through, The Remarkable Story of the Barr Colonists. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1992

The Dunsmuirs of Nanaimo. Nanaimo: The Nanaimo Festival, 1989

Three Dollar Dreams. Lantzville: Oolichan Books, 1987

Boss Whistle, The Coal Miners of Vancouver Island Remember. Lantzville: Oolichan Books, 1982; revised edition, Nanaimo: Rocky Point Books and Nanaimo District Museum, 2002.


Certificate of Honour, British Columbia Historical Federation Writing Competition, 2000
Distinguished Alumni Award, Concordia University College of Alberta, 2000
Canadian Historical Association Regional Certificate of Merit, Prairies/Northwest Territories, 1992
Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize, B.C. Book Prizes, 1992
Roderick Haig-Brown Prize, Shortlist, 1987
Lieutenant-Governor's Medal for Writing British Columbia History, 1987
Canadian Historical Association Regional Certificate of Merit, British Columbia, 1983
Eaton's British Columbia Book Award, 1983

[BCBW 2016] "Eaton's"