Oak Bay Chronicles

Blog of in-depth stories of historical people, places and events in the district of Oak Bay, where I grew up and whither I returned to be near my ageing parents and with my wife Paula to start a family. I have lived there for fifty years, in all.

mum Harry AgnesGinny Grant (my mum), Harry Keith, Agnes Newton Keith, Victoria, July 1950. See the long article about Agnes and Harry Keith.

Judging by commentary, the most successful piece published so far is The Quixotic Gallantry of Herrick McGregor, a story of World War I.

The McNeill family history is a work-in-progress, as is the family history of Rosalind Watson and Henry Esson Young. Ditto my compilation of shipwrecks off the coast of Oak Bay.

March 2018: the blog has been honoured with a Communication Award by the Hallmark Heritage Society.

Spanish Flu in Victoria, Canada, 1918-1920

This project began as a team production in a third-year History course at the University of Victoria in 2014. My contributions became this website, which is transitional to a book that will be published mid-2018.

Included are narratives of the Spanish Flu’s appearance and spread and local efforts to contain it over an eighteen-month period beginning in October 1918; statistics gleaned from medical health reports municipal and provincial, with what I believe is a first try at establishing a mortality rate for Spanish Flu in Greater Victoria; and a memorial grove of both victims and survivors of Spanish Flu, with the stories of a representative few.

MacLachlan2 loIn Loving Memory of Our Darling Son and Brother ¶ Spr. Albert Roy Maclachlan ¶ Born May 22, 1891 Died Sept. 29, 1918Gone a Little Before ¶ Ross Bay Cemetery, Section M, Row 70 @ east half of Column 3

A room near the Bazaar

Articles written after two months travelling in Turkey, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Czechia (Czech Republic), and Germany with my wife in 2014. While leaving much unfinished, I laboured over several articles that invited deeper investigation: Pamuk’s Museum of Consolations, High Mass Stephansdom, Homage à Schubert.

1041 Freud YvettePhoto inscribed and framed, in glass-door cupboard, Freud Museum, Vienna. Sigmund Freud confessed to liking music only a little. Yvette Guilbert, above, was captured singing on the museum audioguide, illustrating Freud’s taste for sentimental — or was it clever? — pop music.

To illustrate the extraordinary power Schubert’s music exerts, I traced the locale of the gravestone of an English musician where the second theme from the composer’s Quintet in C Major is quoted, then arranged with a member of the cemetery’s society of volunteers to take a photo of it for inclusion in my homage.


John Saunders’s headstone, by Bob Flanagan, Friends of West Norwood Cemetery, London. Intertwined with the Schubert melody are the concluding lines of Shakespeare’s Sonnet XVIII: “So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,/So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”

Looking for Onseself: Contributions to the study of Charles Olson

A book-length internet anthology of the literary journal Minutes of the Charles Olson Society, undertaken for its creator and eminent Olson scholar, the late Ralph Maud. It has turned into a tribute to Olson, a spiritual mentor to me, and Maud, a scholar and friend. I’m keeping it alive in hope it may be of use to literary folk.

Duncan-Olson-Witt-DiamantRobert Duncan, Charles Olson and Ruth Witt-Diamant on the campus of San Francisco State College, March 8, 1957. Photographer unknown. Photo courtesy the Poetry Center, San Francisco State University