The Trilogy is Complete!

Union Club member Henri van Bentum is proud to announce that the trilogy is complete – he has released his third children’s book!

Henri’s charming new children’s fable is titled “The Misadventures of Rexie the Damselfish”.  

Not all is calm within the coral reefs. In this third of a series, van Bentum’s whimsical story telling and Heyliger’s fanciful illustrations take a turn towards the dark side, plunging into fishy conspiracies and slimy espionage.

The aquatic misadventures of little Rexie, the damselfish, lead the reader through a quickly shifting kaleidoscope of wondrous shapes, spectacular colors and awesome life forms.

All the while, something fishy is going on, with a lesson to be learned from the sparkling depths of the sea.

For more information, or to order your copy, please click here.  Also, Henri will be pleased to autograph any copies purchased by fellow UC members.

Drinks and Danger Marked Early Victorian Bars

In 1851 (28 years before the founding of The Union Club of British Columbia), Victoria’s first saloon opened its doors, ushering in a heady era that saw hundreds of saloons and hotel bars dispensing alcohol to the city’s thirsty patrons 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In his new book, “Aqua Vitae”, Glen A. Mofford delves deep into the fascinating history of these establishments and transports the reader to the intoxicating — and often treacherous — atmosphere of our capital during the days of swinging doors, smoky bars and five-cent beers.


James Stuart Yates was born in Linlithgow, Scotland, on Jan. 21, 1819. He signed on with the Hudson’s Bay Company as a ship’s carpenter in 1848; that same year, Yates married Mary Powell of Montgomeryshire. Two weeks later, they began their journey to Fort Victoria on the ship Harpooner.

Yates grew to dislike the strict discipline and heavy-handedness of the Hudson’s Bay Company, and after 18 months he escaped to the goldfields of California. Upon his return, Yates was charged with breach of contract and sentenced to six months in the northeast bastion of Fort Victoria, which was used as a makeshift jail. Yates served 30 days of his sentence, and upon his release was discharged from the Hudson’s Bay Company. He was granted independent status on Jan. 29, 1851. This suited the stubborn Yates, and he wasted little time in pursuing his business goals.

On June 9, 1851, Yates paid 50 pounds for each of two undeveloped waterfront lots, 201 and 202, on Wharf Street, northwest of the fort. There he built his home and the first privately owned saloon in Victoria, the Ship Inn. Unfortunately, there are no known surviving photographs or illustrations of his saloon, but the location was most likely 1252 Wharf St. at the southwest corner with what eventually was named Yates Street.

The Ship Inn Saloon did a tremendous business, with the only competition coming from the Hudson’s Bay Company store. For a few months, Yates enjoyed a monopoly on the retail liquor business before two other saloons opened. His main customers were seafarers, such as sealers, sailors and fishers, who came in to enjoy a five-cent mug of beer or a 121Ú2-cent shot of liquor.

From 1851 until the summer of 1853, the saloon business was unregulated and a licence was not required to sell spirits or beer. Two more saloons opened before Sir James Douglas, the chief factor of the colony, introduced a revenue bill that called for a licensing system for the wholesale and retail sale of alcohol. The annual fee for a retail licence was set at £120, while wholesale licences cost £100. The bill passed into law in July 1853 and resulted in the closure of the two saloons competing with the Ship Inn. Yates enjoyed a monopoly once more.

Profits from his liquor business allowed Yates to buy up town lots on Langley, Wharf and Yates streets, the last ultimately bearing his name. By 1860, James Yates was one of the wealthiest men in Victoria. That same year, Yates closed his saloon and reopened it a few doors to the south, at 1218 Wharf St., a newly completed stone and brick building that still exists.

The lower level was a warehouse for merchandise, primarily cases of liquor that were brought in directly off ships moored in Victoria Harbour. The bar in the Ship Inn was on street level. The new Ship Inn would last about a year before Yates closed it and returned to his native Scotland to see to his son’s education. The saloon was converted into an auction house by the new owners.

At least four Ship Inn Saloons operated in Greater Victoria between 1851 and 1869. James Yates owned the first two, followed by a Ship Inn Saloon in Esquimalt and another Ship Inn on Wharf Street just across from where Yates’s second saloon had been located. They all did extremely well, attracting a loyal customer base that allowed these establishments to prosper for years.

PONY SALOON, 1863-70

Of all the unsolved murder mysteries that occurred during these times, the most captivating and certainly the most disturbing occurred at the Pony Saloon some time between 1862 and 1870. The Pony Saloon, previously known as the Highland Mary Saloon (1862) was located at 1324 Government St. near Johnson Street, with Charles Hounslow as proprietor.

Pioneer Victoria was a rough place in the 1860s, and this was especially true along Johnson and Government streets, where most of the new saloons could be found. It proved to be especially rough at night. The saloons were full most evenings, especially when the sailors were in town on leave.

A good time was had by all — well, almost all — but it wasn’t long before the criminal element saw an opportunity to make some fast money. An unsuspecting sailor or gold miner, usually quite inebriated, provided an easy mark.

When alone in an alley, staggering to the next saloon, the innocent victim would be approached from behind and struck on the head with a heavy object, just hard enough to knock him out. He would wake with a sore head and find that his pockets had been picked and all his cash and usually his watch and other valuables stolen.

But one victim did not wake up the next day. His attackers accidentally applied too much force when cracking him over the head, and to their dismay, the victim died from the assault. The body was disposed of in a most unusual and undignified manner, and the incident was kept quiet for years.

The Pony Saloon saw a change in proprietors in 1865 when Hounslow sold to an American, Phillip Smith. Smith and his “red-headed woman friend” loved to entertain; she would sing and dance and Smith would host high-stakes poker games that would last well into the following day. The Pony Saloon fit in perfectly with the rowdy reputation of that area of town.

Smith ran the Pony Saloon for the next five years, selling to George Mason in December 1870. Mason changed the name of the saloon to the Omineca Saloon.

Meanwhile, Smith and his family moved to San Francisco in December 1870 aboard the Pelican. Smith was in very poor health, and once there he became violently insane. Was his condition brought on by tremendous guilt?

By the mid-1880s, most of the wooden buildings in town were being torn down and replaced with brick buildings. A bylaw was passed that banned building with wood over a certain height, so brick was the best alternative. The Omineca, the old Pony Saloon, was one of the establishments being renovated from wood to brick.

During the demolition, a worker was using a crowbar to pry up the floorboards in the back of the old saloon when he “let it fall with an exclamation of horror. His fellow workmen crowded about the spot as he raised a plank exposing to view a human skull with the upper jaw minus three teeth, and the lower jaw missing. The remainder of the planking was quickly torn up and more human remains were found.”

Work immediately came to a halt once the gruesome discovery was made. Doctor Trimble examined the remains and concluded that they were those of a “white man,” and he speculated that the jaw of this person had been split by violence. The victim was most likely murdered for his money.

This revelation didn’t come as a shock to some of the city’s older residents, who recalled that the saloon had a reputation for “horrible bacchanalian orgies in which dissolute men and women joined.” Many poor miners were robbed of their hard-earned cash and tumbled into the street penniless. But who had committed this ghastly murder? Was it Phil Smith? If he wasn’t the murderer, had he had a hand in hiding the body in the back room of his saloon?

Or was it one of the Pony Saloon’s regular patrons who had needed some quick money to remain at the gambling table? It was later revealed that a regular gambler at the saloon had left suddenly in 1863 accompanied by the red-haired lady, and the pair had never been seen again. Could they have had something to do with the murder?

An inquest into the death of the victim resulted in more questions than answers, and the case remains unsolved to this day, another cold-case mystery that took place on the rough edge of town.

Excerpted from: Aqua Vitae: A History of the Saloons and Hotel Bars of Victoria, 1851-1917, TouchWood Editions ©2016 Glen A. Mofford

Club Member Publishes Book About the End of Life Journey

Union Club member Jeanne Sedun has published “Someone I Love Is Dying”, a book that provides practical advice on what to think about and work through before and after the death of a loved one.

End of life journey

It can be overwhelming to find out that someone you love has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Someone I Love is Dying offers a roadmap for supporting a loved one through their end of life journey. Part I of the book focuses on the most important things in the time that remains after a loved one has been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. Part II of the book addresses what happens after a loved one dies.

Rich in examples and practical advice, Someone I Love is Dying provides:

  • Information on a wide range of topics such as dealing with healthcare professionals, identifying sources of financial assistance, clarifying your loved one’s final wishes and directives, and taking the time to preserve memories;
  • Examples, checklists and forms to walk you through the decisions and tasks that need to be addressed including caring for the body, planning a funeral, dealing with grief and executing a will; and,
  • Practical suggestions for taking care of yourself to help you support and care for your loved one.

For further information, please visit:

The Passing of Past President J. Alastair Cousland

It is with sadness that Club Management reports the passing of Past President J. Alastair Cousland.  Mr. Cousland was 85.



Alastair Cousland was born in Victoria and educated at Glenlyon School, Brentwood College, Victoria College and the University of British Columbia. He is a fourth generation Victorian, and third generation of the Union Club. After graduation he held several sales positions with major companies, ultimately being appointed Manager, Retail Market with a division of Westinghouse Canada in Montreal. He returned to British Columbia in 1974 as Manager of a wholesale gift and stationary company.

Returning to Victoria he formed a sales agency covering Vancouver Island until his retirement in 1991. His business and Community activities included Director of the Canadian Retail Grocers Association, Vice President of the Kerrisdale Community Centre and Chairman of the Kerrisdale Arena Committee. He became a Member of the Union Club in 1997 was elected to General Committee in 1999 and was responsible for Buildings and Grounds when the Fitness Centre, Roof Top Garden and ladies washroom were added during the Presidency of Walter Donald.

Progress but respect for tradition was the credo for Mr. Cousland resulting in new stained glass window and chandelier over the main stair case, opening up and refurbishing the lower north passage way, complete upgrade to the Club’s computer system and publication of the Club’s 125 Year History Book.

Alastair Cousland passed away April 12, 2017 at the age of 85.

How BC Startup SendtoNews is Closing in on ESPN Viewership

Union Club member Dave Davies is VP, Corporate Communications for SendtoNews.

SendtoNew scored 120 million views of sports clips earlier this year as TV audiences migrate to the Internet.

SendtoNews has licensing agreements with more than 70 leagues that deliver sports highlights to publishers’ websites.

Arguably Victoria’s biggest sports victory came nearly a century ago when the Victoria Cougars hoisted the Stanley Cup in 1925.

While B.C.’s capital city might lack a pro-sports team, it’s still in the hunt for another big win in the sports world as Victoria-based tech startup SendtoNews absorbs TV viewers migrating online for sports clips.

SendtoNews’ video distribution platform targets publishers lacking the in-house know-how and licensing for online sports highlights.

Instead of USA Today developing its own video distribution platform and landing the rights to show online visitors sports highlights from pro leagues, SendtoNews is providing those services to more than 1,500 publishers.

The latest comScore analytics revealed SendtoNews attracted 6.5 million unique viewers to watch 120 million clips in January 2017. Only ESPN, with 361 million video views, had more views, while Yahoo Sports, Fox Sports and the NFL attracted more unique viewers on their online video platforms.

“We’ve got this great tailwind behind us … this macro-migration of viewers and advertising dollars from print and broadcast into the digital realm,” SendtoNews CEO and executive chairman Matthew Watson told Business in Vancouver. “And the fastest-growing segment of digital is video.”

The company got its start during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, landing a contract allowing non-accredited journalists to distribute video stories using its distribution platform.

The business model began to shift around 2013. Instead of clients paying to use SendtoNews as a service, the company moved into an ad-driven model offering both the licensed content as well as the tech that would allow publications like the Los Angeles Times or the Chicago Tribune to showcase sports highlights on their websites.

“We’ve become the go-to guys for content providers who want to reach a larger audience. We have deals with MLB, NBA, NHL,” Watson said, adding SendtoNews has scored deals with another 70 sports leagues across the globe.

As of 2017, SendtoNews has deals with publishers that give them a presence in 94 out of the top 100 media market areas in the U.S., according to Watson.

Curiate CEO Jennifer Chen said there is even more room for growth in the sports-content distribution market that SendtoNews specializes in.

Her Vancouver-based company analyzes TV viewing habits by examining multiple platforms, including traditional live TV, downloaded video and over-the-top services like Netflix (Nasdaq:NFLX) or Amazon Prime Video.

She said that while live sports viewing has not declined to the degree traditional TV viewing has in recent years, audiences are becoming more accustomed to watching shorter sports clips online.

“The problem with traditional broadcasters like an ESPN is that they just can’t play in that game. It cannibalizes their income.”

Chen added that sports leagues benefit from selling the rights to clips to non-traditional broadcasters instead of giving traditional broadcasters exclusive rights across all platforms.

SendtoNews falls into the basket of non-traditional distributors, along with giants like Amazon Prime, which announced a deal April 4 that will allow it to broadcast NFL games on its online platform. Twitter previously held those NFL rights.

“It’s becoming very fragmented, so franchise owners are trying all different kinds of ways to increase the number of eyeballs in the different ways people are watching,” said Jeff Harper, a producer at
Adrenaline Garage.

He said mobile devices are also changing the way fans consume sports. His company, which produces live webcasts for sporting events, observed that when highlight clips are made available in real time alongside a live product, the clips become the preferred way for viewers on mobile devices to consume the content.

“The problem with chopping up long-form content and making it available as clips is that it’s harder to monetize. In an ad-driven business model, overall engagement suffers as viewers pick and choose the best moments to consume,” Harper said. “Lower engagement means less impressions for advertisers and lower revenue for rights-holders. At best, rights-holders are getting less money for the same production costs. At worst, rights-holders may be eating their own lunch.”

But Watson said the business model is sound with diverse sources of revenue including ad dollars from the video clips, automated online auctions for content not already sold directly to sales partners and sub-licensing deals for content that may not appeal to North American audiences.

Watson said SendtoNews is pinning future expansion on acquiring more content while remaining “dogged in pursuit” of more publishers.

“In order for those great, iconic, real news outlets to continue to engage viewers and monetize those viewers, they need that digital presence, and that basically [means] video.”

From Vic High to Vimy

Victoria High School Cadet Battalion No. 112, 1914.   Photograph By Victoria High School Archives 

The nine-metre-high Banner of Honour and Sacrifice contains a hand-sewn maple leaf for each student and teacher who fought in the war. This is from a memorial service in 1920   Photograph By Victoria High School Archives

Victoria High School stands like an eternal memorial to its 497 alumni who enlisted for service in the First World War, including 97 who died, with nine of those deaths a result of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Vic High opened its doors to about 900 students in April 1914, and was immediately heralded as a source of pride, a fine place to educate the young people of an emerging, even special community.

“They don’t build schools like that anymore, not with all the beautiful terracotta, beaux-art designs and a gorgeous auditorium,” said Barry Gough, a Victoria historian, graduate of Vic High and author of From Classroom to Battlefield: Victoria High School and the First World War.

“It was an age of innocence, and the opening of the school was greeted with this Edwardian sense of civic achievement,” said Gough. “Then, all of a sudden, comes the war.”

He said Victoria and Vic High greeted the war immediately with enthusiasm. It was seen as a chance for adventure, but there was also a sense of civic duty to do one’s part.

Gough said he was surprised to find that the majority of the Vic High students who enlisted were not born in the United Kingdom. They were born in Victoria, in British Columbia or in other parts of Canada.

“So their loyalties were inculcated here, rather than transferred in directly from Britain,” said Gough.

And those loyalties at home or at war didn’t falter from the start of the war in August 1914 to the Armistice on Nov. 11, 1918. Instead, casualties just seemed to increase the determination in Victoria to help win the war.

The years 1914 through 1916 were slogged out with few decisive victories.

So by the time of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, April 9 to 12, 1917, Gough said, everybody welcomed the news of a victory. Also, newspapers all over the world, even in Germany, recognized it as a singular Canadian effort.

Vimy Ridge was also the beginning of a Canadian reputation for being able to get things done. The ridge was an important piece of high ground, but the French and the British had failed to capture and hold it.

So for the job, four Canadian divisions, along with one British, were melded into a single Canadian Corps. It was an organizational first after years of Canadian units being inserted to augment British Army efforts. They trained and practised extensively for the assault, another first.

By the time the battle was over, a total of 170,000 men, mostly Canadians, had accomplished what their European allies could not, and national transformation began. Casualties were high, with 3,598 killed and 7,004 wounded.

But that didn’t shake the feeling of accomplishment.

“The stories that appeared in the newspapers and in soldiers’ letters written home were telling the story that this was a Canadian thing,” said Gough.

The Daily Colonist had headlines such as “Canadians take ridge of Vimy” and “Dominion’s men in great drive.” Other stories mentioned the brilliant feat of the Canadian troops, and “the glorious achievement of our forces.”

Jim Kempling of the University of Victoria, a specialist in Victoria and the First World War, agrees Vimy Ridge marks the start of a national change of attitude in Canada. It was a new attitude with a new identity and it began with the soldiers.

He notes it can even be seen in the wartime diaries of his Canadian grandfather. At the start, his grandfather writes with pride of the “British Bulldog” found in all Canadians.

“But by 1917, he’s Johnny Canuck and his language changes,” said Kempling. “That transformation is very real.”

Nevertheless, he also said it’s important to realize much of the triumph of Vimy Ridge was a result of post-battle, even post-war circumstances and myth-making.

For a start, the real Battle of Vimy Ridge was only one comparatively small piece of a larger British offensive known as the Battle of Arras. Also, that British plan was meant as a diversionary tactic to lure German troops away from a sector further south where the French attacked.

But the Germans were not diverted and the French assault, now known as the Second Battle of Aisne, was a near disaster. French troops, exhausted by three years of terrible fighting, mutinied and refused to leave or even enter their trenches. The commander was forced to resign. The offensive halted.

Under new French command, order was restored and offensives continued, but with small, less costly attacks to give French morale a chance to recover.

Despite the overall lack of success, however, Canadians never lost their sense of achievement over Vimy. They also continued to fight as a unit, increasing their sense of solidarity.

Sir Julian Byng, the British general who commanded the Canadians during Vimy Ridge, was promoted and moved. But Byng’s protégé at Vimy, Canadian-born Gen. Arthur Currie, was given command of the Canadian Corps. The Canadians’ reputation for solid competence continued.

By the time the war was over, the soldiers had taken on a new identity more Canadian than British, no longer colonial but confident and independent. When they came home they also arrived with a new energy and confidence.

“A lot of Canadian went through this transition,” said Kempling. “They came home and the impact was that suddenly we had a whole bunch of people who knew how to do things.”

“Bureaucracy and government organization in Canada before World War One was really quite small,” he said. “But the people who came back knew how to organize things on a large scale.”

“The nature of government in Canada changed because we had this pretty impressive skill set that had been developed during the war,” said Kempling.


Coming Soon: A Historic Evening

A Historic Evening

Saturday, May 20, 2017, 6 pm

The Union Club of British Columbia – 805 Gordon Street, Victoria

Celebrating the Union Club’s Designation as a National Historic Site
and the Inauguration of the newly renovated Centennial Ballroom.

Enjoy a delicious three-course dinner with wine and an exceptional evening full of song and dance!

Featuring performances from Pacific Opera Victoria and dancing to The Midnights.

Wine included with dinner.  Chit bar with dancing.

Tickets: $199
(with $75 tax receipt)

Patron Tickets: $1,500
(includes two tickets, special recognition at the event, a welcome cocktail with the President, and a substantial tax receipt)

Union Club members
Please reserve your space through the Union Club – 250.384.1151 (ext. 0)

Dress Code: Black Tie & Formal Attire

Proceeds will benefit Pacific Opera Victoria

Fashion Show Fundraiser

Sunday, April 23, 2017     Time: 2:00pm to 4:00pm


Featuring fashions presented by:

Bernstein & Gold

d.g. bremner & co.

Hughes Clothing

Outlooks Menswear

* Light Refreshments * Chit Bar * Door Prizes *

$35 per person
($10 charitable receipt available upon request)

Tel: 250-384-1151 (ext. 0)

UC Presence at Pacific Opera/Victoria Symphony Fundraiser

Union Club members were present as Tania Miller feted at fundraiser for Pacific Opera Victoria and Victoria Symphony…

The following article originally appeared in the April 2, 2017 Times Colonist.

Union Club member & Brian Butler joins Trish Lortie, Grania Litwin and Robert Milne during the Tania Miller farewell gala at the Victoria Conference Centre.   Photograph By DARREN STONE, Times Colonist

Union Club members Stephen Ison and Rebekah Hutchison join Valerie Raymond and Tom de Faye during the Tania Miller farewell gala at the Victoria Conference Centre.   Photograph By DARREN STONE, Times Colonist 

Friday night’s posh black-tie gala at Victoria Conference Centre wasn’t just another joint fundraiser for Pacific Opera Victoria and Victoria Symphony.

The swanky event doubled as a high-class love-in, with Victoria Symphony’s outgoing music director Tania Miller as the large, well-heeled crowd’s object of affection.

Tribute to Tania, which attracted nearly 300 guests who paid $300-a-ticket, was part of a long goodbye to the beloved maestra whose 14-year tenure ends in May.

If Miller were to shed a tear by night’s end, she said it would be mostly because she’d miss the camaraderie with her creative collaborators.

“I might cry just because I love everybody, not because it’s a sad thing,” she said before dinner. “It’s a happy thing to have had 14 years here and shared so many musical memories with the orchestra and this community.”

While the lithe, articulate maestra will return as guest conductor, she said the timing felt right for her to move on — first as a “freelancer,” and then with another music directorship somewhere down the road.

“It’s been a long tenure for a music director,” she acknowledged. “But with every orchestra you want to hit that golden time where there’s still growth, enthusiasm and things we’re sharing anew together.”

She said her enthusiasm over being able to pursue other opportunities was matched by excitement that the symphony can also evolve and move in new directions.

“You need new ideas and [with incoming music director Christian Kluxen] they have this new European experience coming to them, with such a fresh perspective.”

Gala co-chair Trish Lortie described the event honouring Miller’s imminent departure as a “bittersweet” celebration.

“She has made such a contribution to the arts in the city, and we have to be grateful for the 14 years we’ve had her,” she said. “We also have to understand that all good things come to an end.”

The guest of honour could barely make her way through a crowd of well-wishers during a cocktail reception.

“Tania has been outstanding and we’re delighted to be here to bid her farewell,” said Valerie Raymond, auction committee co-chair and former ambassador to the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Raymond and her husband, retired Maj.-Gen.Tom de Faye, have been ardent supporters of POV and the symphony since the couple moved here from Prague over four years ago.

“We knew Victoria was a beautiful city, but we were pleasantly surprised to find the rich cultural fabric that spreads all over it,” said de Faye. “There is so much here for a city this size.”

While both the symphony and opera company hold separate fundraisers, their annual gala fundraiser affords them a unique opportunity to creatively combine their resources, said POV board president Bob Milne.

“If there’s an occasion to celebrate together, we’re always happy to do that because the symphony is the opera’s ‘house band,’ of course,” quipped Milne.

Teaming up for a fundraiser of this magnitude helps reduce each organization’s workload and potentially enlarges their respective audiences, added symphony board president Brian Butler.

“There is obviously crossover between symphony and opera audiences, but there are also distinct differences,” Butler said. “By joining together, we draw from a much bigger pool of potential clients.”

Gala highlights included philanthropist Eric Charman’s flair during a live auction of items, including a luxury European river cruise and a Montreal VIP opera weekend; veteran POV artistic director Timothy Vernon’s tongue-in-cheek remarks about Miller getting a tribute after only 14 years on the job; and guests dressed to the nines dancing to Strauss waltzes with maestro Giuseppe Pietraroia holding the baton.

Also noticeable was the presence of a new generation of opera and symphony lovers like Ainslee Jessiman, 29, the POV box-office manager who assisted guests using digital tablets to place silent auction bids.

“I work for the opera because of its connection to community,” she said. “I believe the arts have a positive impact on the community and I want to help the next generation connect, engage and explore this timeless art form.”