2013 Tours and Excursions of The Old Cemeteries Society of Victoria
Tours given in daylight hours only. City by-laws prohibit entrance to the cemetery after dark. Sunday Cemetery History Tours: Tours start at 2:00 pm. Meet at 1:45 pm in front of Oregano’s, Fairfield Plaza, 1544 Fairfield Rd. Others start where noted.Charge: $5 for non-members; $2 for members. No reservations needed. Tours are held regardless of weather. Contact www.oldcem.bc.ca or 250.598.8870.
February 13 (Wednesday). 7:30 pm. OCS Annual General Meeting at James Bay New Horizons, 234 Menzies St. Speaker: Drew Waveryn about “Graves of the Dunsmuirs: From Scotland to Singapore.”
February 17. Heritage Homes and Neighbourhoods. This is the theme of Heritage Week 2013, to be presented by a team of OCS members representing many of the city’s heritage neighbourhoods: Esquimalt, Victoria West, James Bay, Fairfield, Oaklands.
February 24. Black History. After 1858 Victoria was a haven for blacks escaping racism in California and many are buried at RBC. A Black poet of the 1860s, a man who was a slave during the time of George Washington, a Black city councillor and many other people will be discussed. A joint tour by the OCS and the BC Black History Awareness Society for Black History Month.
March 3. St. Luke’s Church and Churchyard. St. Luke’s Anglican Church is one of Victoria’s heritage gems and its picturesque churchyard is the final resting place for many pioneer families in the Cedar Hill and Gordon Head areas. Meet in the parking lot off Cedar Hill Cross Rd., at the corner of Cedar Hill Rd.
March 17. Irish Columbia. March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day, so we couldn’t resist asking Michael Halleran to delve into his files about Victoria’s Irish pioneers to tell us about the heroes, villains, famous and not-so-famous who are buried at RBC.
March 24. An Angler’s Paradise. From the 1880s to 1914 Vancouver Island was known throughout the British Empire as an “angler’s paradise,” its famous trout and salmon rivers attracting both settlers and wealthy tourists. Dr. Diana Pedersen will share her research on the social history of sport fishing and sporting tourism.
March 31. Pet Stories. A new tour, all about pets, from the mundane to the unusual. Hear about Gray Friars Bobby, Miss Wilson’s parrot, Emily Carr’s Woo, Old Muggins (the dog who raised money for charity), a cat at Ross Bay Villa, Gov. Seymour’s vanishing cat and many more.
April 7. Golden Weddings. Professor Emerita of History, Sylvia Van Kirk, is fascinated by the number of golden wedding anniversaries described years ago in glowing detail by the local newspapers. She has selected some of the best stories for this week’s tour.
April 14. Life at Sea. Maritime historian Tom Pound will visit the graves of many of the seafarers buried at RBC and recount what life was like at sea for those who served in the Royal Canadian Navy, the Merchant Navy and on other vessels.
April 21. What’s Growing on That Grave? Long-time OCS member, neighbour of RBC and gardening expert Carole Todd will identify the trees, bushes and flowers on a selection of graves and discuss their cultivation and history.
April 28. National Day of Mourning for Workers. Long-time OCS member Yvonne Van Ruskenveld will lead this first-time tour in honour of men and women who died in the workplace. She has found fascinating stories, many never told before on our tours.
May is Asian Heritage Month and three tours are planned on this theme.
May 5. Chinese Cemetery. The first tour of Asian Heritage Month will be conducted by Victoria City Councillor Charlayne Thornton-Joe who will lead a tour at the Chinese Cemetery, a National Historic Site, including her grandfather’s grave. Meet at the cemetery, foot of Crescent Road, off King George Terrace.
May 12. Japanese at Ross Bay. The second tour of Asian Heritage Month will be conducted by Gordon and Ann-Lee Switzer, authors of Gateway to Paradise: Canada’s First Japanese Community, a history of Japanese in Victoria. RBC includes graves of about 150 Japanese, including the wife of Canada’s first Japanese immigrant.
May 15 (Wednesday). 7:30 pm. OCS Spring Meetingat James Bay New Horizons, 234 Menzies Street.
May 19. Chinese at Ross Bay. Chinese were buried at RBC before the Chinese Cemetery was created. Many were exhumed and sent back to China; some were moved to the cemetery at Harling Point; others were washed out to sea in a violent storm in 1909. Historian John Adams will talk about this amazing part of RBC’s history.
May 26. Point Ellice Bridge Disaster. Today is the 117th anniversary of North America’s worst streetcar accident, when an overloaded streetcar plunged through the rotten bridge and 55 people lost their lives. Popular OCS tour leader Joyce Mackie will visit the graves of many victims buried at RBC.
June 2. “Awake and Dreaming” is the name of Kit Pearson’s award-winning juvenile fiction novel that features a ghost at RBC. The author has been leading this very popular tour for many years. She will visit the graves that inspired her writing, read excerpts from her book and finish the tour with a surprise ending.
June 23. Fort Victoria 170th Anniversary Tribute.Fort Victoria was built by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1843 and to mark this year’s special anniversary a team of OCS members will recount stories about their favourite historical people and events linked with the fort.
June 30. Dominion Day. On the eve of Canada Day (formerly called Dominion Day) John Adams will lead a tour about the people at RBC linked to Confederation and events leading up to 1871 when BC joined Canada. Included will be the grave of the only Father of Confederation buried west of the Great Lakes.
2013 SUMMER TOUR PROGRAM
RBC tours each Sunday at 2 pm starting outside Oregano’s at the Fairfield Plaza. Other tours and events as noted.
Gossip in the Graveyard is a lively tour about many scoundrels, characters and eccentrics at RBC you won’t find in your history books! Glenn Perlstrom leads these lively tours which he fills with fascinating details.
Gold Rush! is about some of the colourful men and women buried at RBC who made history in the Fraser River Gold Rush of 1858 and other gold rushes. Yvonne Van Ruskenveld leads these tours, with many new stories each year.
July 7 Gold Rush!
July 14 Gossip in the Graveyard
July 21 Gold Rush!
July 28 Gossip in the Graveyard
Aug. 4 Gold Rush!
Aug. 11 Obon Ceremonyat 2:00 pm at the Kakehashi Monument in the SW corner of the cemetery. (Traditional Japanese Buddhist ceremony for the dead.) A celebration of Japanese food and traditional dancing will follow the ceremony at Ross Bay Villa, 1490 Fairfield Road.
Aug. 18 Gold Rush!
Aug. 25 Gossip in the Graveyard
2013 FALL PROGRAM
Sept. 1. Favourite Stories from the Old Cemeteries Files. OCS members will present some of their favourite stories collected over the past 25 years. Since the tours began in 1987 thousands of stories have been researched and told. Today’s tour features the highlights.
Sept. 8. Firefighters. Retired Victoria fireman, Mark Perkins, has a wealth of information about the city’s firefighting history. He will visit the graves of many firemen who are buried at RBC and tell the fascinating stories of their lives and work.
Sept. 14 (Saturday). Field Trip to the Cowichan Valley. A day-long coach excursion to cemeteries and historic sites. Lunch is included. See brochure or contact OCS for details.
Sept. 15. Poetry Connections. Professor Emeritus of English, Bill Magee, is a wonderful storyteller and has put together a delightful tour based on poems, including Ode on a Grecian Urn, The Ballad of Sir Patrick Spens and Bishop Orders His Tomb at St. Praxed’s Church.
Sept. 22. Jewish Cemetery Tour. This year marks the 150th anniversary of Synagogue Emanu-El, so OCS has prepared a tour of the Jewish Cemetery (which is even older) to visit the graves of members of the congregation and tell their stories. Meet outside the cemetery gates, Fernwood Road at Cedar Hill Road. Men please wear a hat.
Sept. 29. Mysterious Mary Ann. Historian and archivist Sherri Robinson will lead this first-time tour based on her research about nurseries and greenhouses, especially the Fairview Nursery where Esquimalt Plaza is today. Mary Ann, the owner for many years, had an amazing life. Come on the tour to find out why.
Oct. 6. Women’s History at RBC. One of the highlights of Women’s History Month is Yvonne Van Ruskenveld’s annual tour with new stories about famous, daring, heroic, forgotten and sometimes unusual women buried at RBC.
Oct. 13. Provisioners. Sylvia Van Kirk will visit the graves of grocers, butchers, bakers and other provisioners who provided 19th century Victorians with their food and drink before the era of modern supermarkets.
Oct. 20. Psychic Tour. Clairvoyant medium Dawn Kirkham and members of her paranormal investigating team Beyond Belief Paranormal Events will lead a walk through the cemetery and share information they receive from the location or the spirits they encounter. They will also explain what clairvoyance is and demonstrate some basic techniques they use.
Oct. 18-30. Ghost Bus-tours®. Our 20th annual bus excursion past some of Victoria’s most haunted sites. New route and many new stories. Reserve your seat early. Check the website www.discoverthepast.com for details.
Oct. 27. Annual Ghost Tour. Tours depart in front of Oregano’s, Fairfield Plaza, every 15 minutes from 1 to 3 pm to accommodate large numbers. This is always the OCS’s most popular tour of the year. No reservations required.
Nov. 3. Murder Most Foul. Back again by popular demand, Michael Halleran takes us to graves of murderers and their victims and tells the grisly tales he has found in coroners’ files and old newspapers.
Nov. 10. Veterans’ Cemetery Remembrance Tour. John Azar conducts his annual tour to veterans’ graves, with fascinating stories of the people and their times, from the Crimean War to the present day. Meet at the Veterans’ Cemetery, one of Victoria’s most picturesque. Access off Colville Rd. near the Base Hospital.
November 13 (Wednesday). 7:30 pm. OCS Fall Meetingat James Bay New Horizons, 234 Menzies Street.
Nov. 17. Masjid Al-lman: A Visit to Victoria’s New Mosque. Opened in November 2012, Masjid Al-lman was built by the Victoria Branch of the BC Muslim Assoc. which adheres to the Quran and Sunnah. Meet at the mosque, 2218 Quadra St., opposite the Crystal Pool.
Nov. 24. St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. Tour the church (built in 1890) with its curved balcony, view the magnificent stained glass windows such as the tribute to Robert Dunsmuir, and learn about the church’s archives and burial records that date from 1868. Meet at the front doors, Douglas St. corner of Broughton.
Dec. 1. Old Burying Ground Christmas Tour. Christmas and holiday stories from Victoria of old will delight and amaze you. New Christmas tales and old favourites, combined with history of one of Victoria’s oldest cemeteries. Meet at the corner of Quadra Street and Rockland Avenue.
Dec. 8. Ross Bay Christmas Tour. John Adams continues the yuletide theme with more warm-hearted and humorous stories, including many about Emily Carr. A holly wreath will be placed on Emily Carr’s family plot, an annual tradition of the OCS. (Emily’s birthday is December 13.)
The tour schedule will resume on Sunday, February 16, 2014, at Ross Bay Cemetery. OCS members will receive a 2014 schedule in the mail.
Check here for our suggested topics - List of Guided Tours at Ross Bay Cemetery
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