CBC radio played Stan Rogers sea shanty the other day about the “Northwest Passage to the Beaufort Sea.”
The song is about the Franklin expedition and the news story was the discovery of Sir Franklin’s ship on the sea bottom.
The expedition to discover the Northwest Passage left England in 1845. The hope was that the travel distance between Europe and China could be shortened. This was all part of a world trade network sparked by the west coast sea otter fur trade. The sea otter disappeared but British Columbia formed in 1858 and the call went out for pioneers.
Settlement followed and Comox became an opportunity, not for furs or gold but to build a better life. One successful family was that of James Robb. When offered a buyout on his farm by those planning to build a coal port, Robb stood firm on his price and the port was shifted to Royston. I expect there would be more industry now if he’d sold out.
As one thing leads to another, the lack of development kept Comox wild and attracted another settler, Mack Laing. When he passed away he left the town of Comox his property and a couple houses. There is one house left now and an opportunity to honour his legacy before the current level of mismanagement erases his ship, a house named Baybrook.
For many of us this is a new land and the reasons our forebears left the old were often a case of no opportunity, no room at the table.
If you haven’t stood on Mack Laing’s porch then there is no time like the present. His legacy and vision are one of opportunity, where there is and always will be room at the table in the land of plenty. Preserving the view from this porch preserves that vision and allows a glimpse of the possible. For this reason I support the Mack Laing Heritage Society and its plan to get a roof over the sound wood structure.