(August 22, Yale, B.C.)
If I was still writing for the Province newspaper, the gold old tabloid in its glory days of chasing pitbulls and ambulances, it would have been easy to write the lede for this blog entry.
After all, here we are at the Yale Historic Site on a pleasant Sunday afternoon, with lots of folks listening to the musicians playing popular music, checking out the exhibits in the museum and the Living History tents and enjoying a barbequed hotdog and a bevvie in anticipation of a visit from Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff.
So, if this was the Province, it would be a cinch. “They packed the Yale Historic site on Sunday for Iggy’s pop concert.” Fortunately this isn’t the Tab, but it still leaves me with the problem of how to begin to describe a very special day: “George Monro Grant Day.”
Probably by asking a question: Why would the federal Liberal Leader, leader of the Opposition, swing his summer barbeque circuit bus up the Fraser Canyon to this tiny (but historically significant) community? Historic is the key word here, because Ignatieff has a personal historic link to this special place.
I have lots of time to reflect on this link as I stand in front of the General Store tent in my Simon Fraser costume (loaned courtesy of the Friends of Fort Langley, thanks), minding the New Pathways to Gold Society table stacked with brochures on the Heritage Trails projects, our “2020 Vision” heritage development document and DVDs of the Canyon War: The Untold Story documentary. We’re flanked by pop-up posters, one of which is a near-life-sized portrait of George Munro Grant himself (and thanks to Queen’s University Archives and the folks at Allegra printing in New West for making it happen). The tent, by the way, is part of the Yale: A Living History exhibit on display at the site, which puts you back in time to the gold rush of 1858.
The gold rush was long gone by the time Sir Sanford Fleming, who was surveying the route for the Canadian Pacific Railway, came through town in October 1872. Fleming’s secretary was his life-long friend, George Monro Grant, a Nova Scotian clergyman and educator who had been instrumental in getting his reluctant province to join Confederation in 1867.
Grant and Fleming’s journey was an epic, starting in Halifax and ending thousands of kilometres later on the West Coast. During the trip, Grant kept a detailed diary which would become the basis of his book Ocean to Ocean, credited for inspiring many Easterners to move west. Yale, of course, would become the headquarters for the Canadian Pacific Railroad during the construction of the National Dream.