Clubman David Ker Mixed Business with Pleasure

Union Club History #4

This is the fourth in a series of historical bulletins which sketch the origins and history of the Union Club by members Douglas Franklin and Dr. Martin Segger.  They draw from the research for our nomination document seeking national heritage commemoration.

Clubman David Ker Mixed Business with Pleasure

Victoria’s gentlemen’s residential clubs emerged during the 1880s and 90s, aimed particularly at political, business and professional leaders, but providing not only for a mix of interests and activities including recreation and sport but also literary and political discussions.

Club memberships maintained family, business and professional networks but also reflected individual interests.  Union Club member David Ker typified these cross connections.  The Ker family was established in Victoria when Robert Ker arrived in 1858 to serve as Attorney General for the colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia.  Under son David, the family’s flour mill business and investment interests expanded throughout the Pacific Northwest as did his club memberships.  By the 1890s David Ker’s memberships included the Union Club, the British Columbia Board of Trade (of which he was president 1895-96), the Victoria Golf Club, the Royal Victoria Yacht Club; in Vancouver both the Granville and Vancouver Clubs.  Son Robert, who founded a real estate and insurance business, joined the Union Club in 1917.  His business partner and brother Bernard Russell joined in 1919.  Robert’s other memberships included the Victoria Pacific Club, the Washington Athletic Club, the Vancouver Club and the Calgary Stockmen’s Club.  In retirement he was given life memberships in the Union and Vancouver Clubs, and also the British Columbia Automobile Association.  Brother-in-law Fred Nation was a long-time Union Club member and lived at the club after the death of his wife, Helen Nation Ker.  In later life Robert was known for his generous local philanthropy, including a $20,000 gift that underpinned the major expansion to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria in 1959.

Next article: The Union Club founded in response to colonial political troubles.

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