The Secretary and Our President

“The coming to Gordon Head of Mrs. Peter McNaughton added much to the activities of the District. With a wide experience in public service in Vancouver behind her, she was soon busy in this country neighbourhood and encouraged the formation of the Gordon Head Athletic Club.” (Ursula Jupp, The Daily Colonist, May 29 1960)

“After my mother died and my father was in his forties, and at the same time the McNaughton family moved to Gordon Head and Mrs. McNaughton was a woman of wide vision. Had done a lot of public work in Vancouver and I think she recognized in my father someone who could have his time used up, who was very active athletically and so on. And consequently, from that, came the Gordon Head Athletic Club….” (Ursula Jupp interview August 19 1977)

Gordon Head Athletic Club Secretary Mrs. Peter McNaughton and President W.T. Edwards came from different worlds. She was a well-to-do former Vancouver School Trustee and “prominent woman”, he was a widower raising two daughters and struggling financially. But both shared an interest in making a better place for the young people of Gordon Head.

Mrs. Peter McNaughton

“Mrs. McNaughton was in the chair and succeeded in getting a large amount of business put through during the afternoon.”

B.C. Saturday Sunset, December 10 1910

The McNaughtons, in their fifties, arrived in Gordon Head in 1915, in what appears to be a “retirement” to the country after active city careers. Peter Fisher McNaughton had been busy in the world of business. Here is a description of McNaughton from his obituary: “Keenly interested in outdoor life, a man of retiring, studious and kindly temperament, he was greatly loved throughout the district, where he had a host of friends.” Marie Henrietta McNaughton (almost always referred to as ‘Mrs. Peter McNaughton’, as was the custom of the time) had been President of the Local Council of Women, a non-denominational, non-sectarian affiliation of women’s organizations across the city, which acted as a lobby group on governments.

Photo credit: Vancouver City School Board Annual, 1912

Mrs. McNaughton was efficient, but also artistic, as this description in B.C. Saturday Sunset shows: “Meeting of the Local Council of Women was held in the Board of Trade rooms on Monday afternoon of this week. Mrs. Peter McNaughton, who has entered upon her second year as president of the Local Council of Women, occupied the chair. Mrs. McNaughton has the charm of always securing an artistic environment about her. Large pots of yellow tulips, with dainty yellow chiffon scarfs tied about them, lent a dash of brilliance to the gathering.” Mrs. McNaughton’s “artistic” sensibilities often appear in her Gordon Head Athletic Club minutes. This account of a December 1916 event is a classic example: “The Hall was prettily decorated in Christmas Greens. The platform carpeted and finished artistically, lights all trimmed and brightly burning (thanks to Mrs. Cameron). The Hall was well heated and the program was all that could be desired.” Mrs. McNaughton’s nod to “Mrs. Cameron” is also testament to her ability to get the right people for the job. See this comment about her Local Council of Women meeting: “With her usual forethought, the President Mrs. McNaughton created a new committee whose watchword will be ‘beautiful Vancouver’. She has placed this work in the hands of Mrs. J.O. Perry, who will appoint a committee of public-spirited ladies to help her.”

“It is high time Vancouver had a woman on the School Board”.

B.C. Saturday Sunset December 9 1911

In Fall 1911, Mrs. McNaughton became the Local Council of Women’s candidate for Vancouver City School Trustee. This was a big deal — there had only been one other woman member of the School Board in the late 1890s, and Vancouver was not keeping up with cities like Toronto and Victoria, who had woman school trustees. Mrs. McNaughton had a supporter in the Liberal-leaning B.C. Saturday Sunset magazine, who wrote: “It is only foolish bigotry and bias that will deny Mrs. McNaughton a place on the Vancouver school board. At any rate no reasonable person will deny her suitability to serve as a trustee. She has shown that she has executive ability as well as the proper personal qualifications.” (B.C. Saturday Sunset, December 9 1911)

Photo credit: The Saturday Sunset

Mrs. McNaughton was elected to the Vancouver City School Board, and served three consecutive terms. At the end of her first term in 1912, the School Board Chairman had this to say:

Photo credit: Annual Report of the Vancouver City School Board, 1912

Mrs. McNaughton’s public roles as President of the Local Council of Woman and School Trustee focussed on health, children and education — all topics she would bring to the Gordon Head Athletic Club. In October 1913, Mrs. McNaughton attended the annual meeting of the British Columbia School Trustees Association, held in Victoria. The meeting was held as a joint convention with the Royal Sanitary Institute, whose focus was healthy minds and healthy bodies in children. “The importance in building up and preserving a sound body in the child as the only reliable basis on which his intelligence can be developed to good purpose is being more and more recognized by all who are responsible for bringing up of the young of this generation….” The Daily Colonist, October 22 1913 reported: “The afternoon session was brought to a close by the reading of an interesting paper by Mrs. Peter McNaughton on ‘Health as an Asset to the Students and Our Methods of Protecting It.’ Mrs. McNaughton brought forward in a very lucid manner the various points, dealing in a very able way with the various reasons why health is as contagious as disease.”

Once in Gordon Head, Mrs. McNaughton kept busy with her secretaryship of the Gordon Head Athletic Club, a job which was much more than just taking the minutes. Mrs. McNaughton was a spokesperson for the Club to outside businessmen, politicians, and the media. (She likely wrote all the promotional pieces that appeared in The Daily Colonist such as ‘Gordon Head is an Active Community’). She appears to have been instrumental in using her connections to get various prominent people to come up to Gordon Head to speak to the Club. Mrs. McNaughton hosted Club executive meetings at her home and was usually on hand making tea for Club volunteer events like building their tennis court or improving their school grounds. But the Club was only a part of her public life. She was a member of the Gordon Head Women’s Institute and a member of Women’s Canadian Club in Victoria. Also, each summer Mrs. McNaughton and family hosted “city girls” from High Schools and U.B.C. who came to Gordon Head to be war-time strawberry pickers: “The meals will be supervised as last year, by Mrs. Peter McNaughton, and will be served in the nice, airy pavilion which was the scene of many merry gatherings last year at breakfast and tea time.” (The Daily Colonist June 14 1918)

The McNaughton’s adult children also came to Gordon Head and became active in the Gordon Head Athletic Club. The eldest, Harold (“H.A”) McNaughton, was Manager of the Gordon Head Fruit-grower’s Association. This description of McNaughton appeared in a feature on fruit-growing in Gordon Head: “He is a keen, clean-cut young McGill graduate who gives the impression that he has sized up all the sides of a question before he will say anything about it, and that he does not exaggerate just to please. He will take you into his sitting room, surrounded with cases full of heavily bound volumes of the classics and an Indian paper edition of the Britannica in its own case in the place of prominence.” (The Daily Colonist July 15 1917) Harold McNaughton was head of the 1917-18 Gordon Head Athletic Club dance committee.

Helen “Babs” McNaughton trained as a teacher at the Provincial Normal School in Vancouver. Starting in September 1915, Miss McNaughton taught at Gordon Head School for three school years and got their school garden going. She was also Captain of the Gordon Head Girl Guides and a strong swimmer who won prizes in the Club’s summer swimming galas.

Our President

After a year spent in wheat-growing in Alberta had proved that Prairie air was too dry for an island-born farmer, he moved on to Vancouver Island…

Ursula Jupp, Golden Harvest of Gordon Head, The Daily Colonist, July 3 1960
W.T. Edwards, grower, Sea Scout leader and Gordon Head Athletic Club president. Photo credit: Saanich Archives

William Trevellick Edwards, his wife Eliza (who preferred to be called Elise) and his young daughters Ursula and Pomona came from the Scilly Isles, off Cornwall. In 1911, they had emigrated to Alberta but found one winter was enough. They arrived in Gordon Head in February 1912, and, like most of his neighbours, Edwards began strawberry growing. He had moderate success (but was soon to encounter the dreaded strawberry weevil that plagued the Gordon Head fruit-growers for years). “Though he first engaged in fruit-growing, a nostalgic wish to see once again even a small replica of golden fields which had surrounded him for the first forty years of his life, prompted him to send to his brother for a shipment of bulbs from their home farm.” (Ursula Jupp, Golden Harvest of Gordon Head, The Daily Colonist, July 3 1960). The daffodil crop was first sold by a Victoria florist. Then Edwards decided to try selling in Calgary, with successful results. Edward’s daughter Ursula recalled the day a $50 cheque arrived in their home.

In 1915, W.T. Edwards was just starting his daffodil growing venture, and Ursula Edwards was finding academic success at High School. But all was not well at home. In 1915, Elise Edwards had fallen ill. On March 13 1916, Mrs. Edwards, aged 45 years, died at Jubilee Hospital. Ursula was 13 and Pomona was 9. W.T. Edwards thus became a ‘single dad’.

In a 1977 interview, Ursula (Edwards) Jupp shared some insights into her family life. She continually referred to money being “tight”. Her mother’s sister in England used to send out “hand-me-down” dresses and a neighbour lent her shoes for a dance. As a way to save money, but keep informed about the war news, the Edwards also “borrowed” their neighbours’ newspaper after the Houlihans had finished reading it — this practice had an added bonus of building a strong friendship between the families.

W.T. Edwards was also Master of the Gordon Head Sea Scouts, who he met every Friday evening. Ursula Jupp recalled: “They learned to handle boats…learned to row and respect the sea. This was one thing my father was very keen on….” The Sea Scouts were formed in Victoria in early 1917 by “ex-naval” men. (It’s possible that Edwards had a background in navy or merchant marine, though this is not specifically mentioned by Ursula Jupp). Other land-based training included rope climbing — in the Edwards barn! “There is a big old barn there on the corner of Ferndale Road where you can see the chalk marks…at any rate, my father was very athletic and there was this big rope hanging down from the beams. And this is one of the things the boys had to do, climb up this rope and so on.”

W.T. Edwards’ barn, where the Sea Scouts climbed ropes. Photo credit: Saanich Archives

At a May 1917 Red Cross fundraiser, the Sea Scouts showed off their skills for the first time. “The performance of the Gordon Head Sea Scouts was heartily applauded, their manipulations of rope-knotting and splicing being particularly clever.” (The Daily Colonist, May 26 1917). Ursula Jupp recalled that much of the Sea Scout training was in the Edwards’ kitchen: “they learned the Morse code and knots, and on our kitchen wall for a long time was a drawing of a diagram of a full-rigged ship with the full names of the sails.”

Referring to this group of young boys who used to hang out in their home, Ursula observed “it was rather strange with no mother there really. What I mean to say, I’m wonder really how tidy the kitchen actually was.” Unlike many girls of that era who lost mothers, Ursula was not expected to leave school and run the household. A neighbour’s daughter (probably Dolly Beales) came to help out at the Edwards’ house during day. Ursula continued to attend Victoria High School and had a highly successful academic career. Back home in the evenings, the Edwards’ family life was cozy. Ursula recalled fondly: “at bedtime we always had hot cocoa and Ormonds hard tack biscuits and so on, homemade butter you know, that sort of thing. My father played the tin whistle you know, listening to that and having cocoa…..”

Next – “forming some sort of association…for recreation centres for Gordon Head”