Toronto-born Mary E. Hughes of Salt Spring Island self-published a biography of her grandfather, Frank Welsman: Canadian Conductor (Trafford, 2006), to assert the Toronto Symphony Orchestra originated in 1906, not 1923.

This volume is both a Canadian biography and a history of music for a period which has not to date been well documented. It adds information to the history of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra which currently dates its origins to 1923. Set lightly amidst Toronto's social and political history, there is documentation about musical activity in Toronto from 1870 until the 1920s. This period in Toronto's musical development has not been addressed in such detail, and Frank Welsman's story is central to it. Above all, the author seeks to explain how and why the Toronto Symphony Orchestra succeeded as Toronto's first permanent orchestra. In addition to primary sources, the author has drawn extensively on oral history garnered from various members of Welsman's family. The book is illustrated with several historic photographs of people and places relevant to the story.

As well, Mary Hughes self-published her memoir of living aboard a ship in The Life and Times of the Floathouse Zastrozzi ($15 2011). She asserts that getting a 1917 Heintzman piano down the ramp at Fisherman's Wharf in Victoria was a minor challenge compared to what she and Alan Hughes faced in their twelve years living aboard. Over the years, Zastrozzi narrowly avoided a near collision with the Coho ferry, repelled a mink invasion, and only barely survived sinking at the dock. Then there was the daunting challenge of moving her ashore on Salt Spring Island in 2002. There's a healthy dose of harbour politics and Mary's take on the harbour divestiture story, as well as some stories of float home life early in the last century. Her book is available at a few coastal book outlets, plus the author is also selling books from her website,, from her front porch on Salt Spring Island or contact

Imagining Violet, Mary E. Hughes' first work of historical fiction, uses letters to tell the story of a 16-year-old Anglo-Irish girl who went to Germany in 1891 to study violin on her own. Violet is based on a few jottings that Hughes' grandmother made in her Bible. Published by the author and First Choice Books in 2018, the book is available at Salt Spring Books, the Salt Spring Library and via

PHOTO: Frank Welsman

[BCBW 2018] "Music"