Monday, July 6, 2015

A Giant Stick for England

In 1867, Gassy Jack Deighton unfurled the Union Jack as he stood on the roof of Gastown's first tiny building. He growled in his whisky-bass voice "The blood and guts of Old England..."

In many ways, Vancouver is the most Canadian of cities and also the most American in British Columbia. However, there has never been any doubt on where the city's allegiance lay. Through the city's troubled years, the blood of old England - keep a stiff upper lip and carry on - was evident. In times of trouble, we've had the guts of England too. Vancouver's patriotism has stood the test of time even if it isn't as ceremonious and suave as many other provinces. 

A piece of Vancouver historical trivia concerns two of the city's founders and two diversely different people - Gassy Jack and Captain Edward Stamp. Their goal was to keep the old flag flying at opposite ends of the British Empire. Gassy Jack's flag fluttered over the saloon in the middle of the forest until B.C. joined the confederation in 1871. Then Gassy Jack exchanged the Union Jack for its newer version. It was the first Canadian ensign to be flown on the mainland of British Columbia.

The distance between the shores of the Pacific Ocean to the heart of London, England is half the span of the world and Captain Stamp was carrying out his part of the flag duty. In 1859, Stamp cut a giant spar while logging on Alberni Canal. In the name of lumbermen on Vancouver Island, he shipped it to London as a gift to Kew Gardens. The pole fell and broke as it was being erected but Stamp was not deterred. He cut and shipped an even larger stick in 1861, before he moved to the inlets. 

The giant stick was placed and for many years remained one of the minor wonders of Europe. IT was the largest single piece of timber ever seen by millions of Londoners and visitors. Sadly, by 1912, the piece of wood became rotten to be safe any longer. The curator of the gardens sent an appeal "to the gentlemen of the timber trade of Vancouver and British Columbia" to find a replacement.

This is the Union Jack, the first flag flown atop Gassy Jack's saloon.
After British Columbia entered the Confederation of Canada, the Royal Union Flag was flown.
In 1965, Canada got her own flag.
(These three flags are from the site the Chatham Daily News)
Since we are talking flags, here is the one British Columbia used from 1870 to 1906. Compliments of Wikipedia

Vancouver's lumbermen rose to the challenge. Just as Stamp did in '61, the loggers set forth to do in 1912. Actually, they wanted to outdo Stamp! For two years, the timbermen combed the forests of B.C., looking for the right tree. It had to be taller than the tallest tree, slimmer than the slimmest, true, straight and sound. Eleven trees were felled but discarded for imperfections.

The twelve tree was six feet at the butt, 220 feet long and 18 inches inside the bark at the top. It filled every specification.

The tree was brought to Vancouver and shaped by expert broadaxe men. A 33-inch cylinder was used for the first 15 feet, from there a tapered octagon, 31 3/4 inches at 25 feet, 30 1/2 inches at 41 feet, 29 3/8 inches at 52 feet, 24 inches at 102 feet and 19 inches at 152 feet. At the 157 foot it became round again, at 190 feet, 15 inches in diameter, at 215 feet, 12 inches.

The current flag of British Columbia. From Wikipedia

Thanks to the book Vancouver, From Milltown to Metropolis by Alan Morley for the above information.

I hope you find the beauty around you.


  1. Your flag is a welcome sight whenever I see it flown here in America. I feel I have a friend right around the corner. I hope Government never changes that and if they do I will always feel Canada is my closest friend.