Sunday, September 19, 2010

Return to Scheduled Programming: Hatley Castle & doing the 'Naughty' with the Geese

Avast mateys! And fare thee well to ‘Talk Like a Pirate Day’. I been a-wenching, appraising the fair and buxom, which be staring a lot at me’ Pirate Queen Linda.

Being out of it from mid-Friday to late Saturday, I missed most of the weekend, but wanted to talk about my visit to Royal Roads a bit ago (meaning, I have no idea, but it is the last place I went).

Royal Roads is not only famous for the filming of MANY films, including being the Academy in X-men, but has a famous and slightly strange history of one of the great powers in the British Empire and coal for the ships.

Here in British Columbia the richest man and family was the Dunsmier’s, the coal Baron’s of the province and providers of the coal for ships for the entire west coast, one of the critical coal stops and an important position for the British Empire. We went to visit Hatley Castle, of Royal Roads, which was built by James Dunsmier the son of Robert Dunsmier (who built Craigdarroch Castle in Downtown Victoria but died a year before the 1890 completion).
When Robert died, James, one of the two brothers, got the coal company and railway to go with it (now the E&N railway, protested for being completely wheelchair inaccessable!). Due to tragic family dysfunction, Craigdarroch Castle, after 10 years of construction, with 39 rooms and 28 acres of gardens was occupied solely by Jame’s mother, Roberts’ widow. And at her death in 1908 James simply auctioned of the contents of the Castle (Which still has the largest and finest collection of in-situ stained glass in all of Canada). This included the commissioned nine muses lamps but thankfully not the exotic paneling (picture credit Robert Wong). Several decades have been spent trying to restore the castle, only one of the lamps have been found.

James decided to move across the water from town and build not just a castle but a manor, with full grounds and a wall surrounding it ($75,000 just for the wall). Even though he used a completely different architect, the whole, ‘I’ve got a bigger tower than you do!’ makes it seem more than a bit of ‘I’ll show you’ to the dead father Robert. The Hatley Castle was complete in 1908, the same year James sold his Parents castle (odd similarities regarding the two). Everything with Hatley castle had a ‘F-you!’ aspect to it. For example, the gardens, particularly the Conservatory, which cost as much as building the entire wall around the dozens of acres and 10 km of road, was filled with white orchids from India along with a Banana Tree (in a Pacific Northwest Rainforest?). No need for the Chinatown of Victoria, as The Hatley estate had its own on-estate Chinatown to house the 120 Chinese gardeners. The “Castle”, with teak floors and oak and rosewood paneling overlooked the dock and water where his yacht the “Dolaura” waited.
The ‘Dolaura’ was 210 feet long (some yacht) and cost $200,00, having mahogany paneled drawing rooms with a huge fireplace, a dining room to seat 24 and a private suite which had sitting room, plus three other rooms including a tiled bathroom with venetian marble and silver bath fittings. This all on a yacht near some of the roughest seas, and ship wrecked coasts.

The Castle was James’ “I’m taking my toys and going home” pout after he was elected not only to parliament but four years later became Premier of BC. That was short lived being forced to step down less than 2 years later due to charges of conflict of interest attack over railroad legislation (he owned one). He became the Lieutenant-Governor three years later, in 1906, but refused to sign Royal Consent over an Anti-Oriental Bill (the Lieutenant-Governor is the Queen’s Representative and because Canada is STILL a commonwealth, the representative can take power away from the parliament at will. So if the Queen’s representative says no, it does not become law – he did this.). Due to his massive hiring of Japanese labor for his mines caused another outcry and pushed him into stepping down as Lieutenant Governor in 1909. Forced to step down from the two highest offices in the province: Premier of the Province, and then as Lieutenant Governor within 10 years, he dealt with it as boys sometimes do. He sold his entire railway and coal holdings for $11,000,000 and retired to ‘The Castle’ to fish, hunt and play with ‘the boys’ (seriously, that’s what the bio’s say).
He died in 1920, his daughter and wife in 1937 leaving Hatley Castle in caretaking. The Government bought it for just $75,000 and turned it into a Military Academy, for junior officers (so it was a sort of X-men academy), which it remained until 1995, when it, under lease to the Federal Government became Royal Roads University. It is a low residency university and ‘The Castle’ as well as much of the Gardens and other parts are completely wheelchair inaccessible. Welcome to Canada!!! No Disability legislation here, or MBA’s for wheelies.

Seriously, as attractions go, much less as a ‘university’ (err….), this is one of the worst inaccessible examples, particularly as it is regularly used for weddings, but the gardens, including the parts USED for weddings are also completely inaccessible, along with Hatley Castle itself.

The disabled parking used to be right next to the castle (but they were turned around and ‘staff parking’ was painted on the back of the signs). But now, it is at the bottom of the long hill, and out of about 400-500 parking spots there are a total of…….one parking spot. Luckily it is close to the ‘accessible toilet’ of Harley Toilet. Having to come in through the ‘servant entrance’ is bad, having to go to the loo in the middle of the parking lot, the ONLY toilet in the parking lot, is well, puts an emphasis that though the Federal Government might have disability equality in the Human Rights Act, that doesn’t mean they won’t treat you as a second class citizen…openly. (me, bitter about having to wheel into a porta-toilet in the middle of a parking lot to pee? Naw!)

But enough with that, on to the gardens (the Castle, being inaccessible, was not an attraction). While Linda and Cheryl walked up the three steps to the winding walkway up the castle, I had to follow the car traffic out and then up the hill to the service road. Thank God I was in Indy! After a bit of this I put indy into high speed tank mode an ‘broke through’ onto the grass.

It turns out that what appears to be flat is actually large clumps of grass, often in ridges and sometimes covering things, (septic tanks?), which mean that there was a lot of high speed weaving around and screaming, as Cheryl and Linda stopped and stared. Then of course, Linda starting taking pictures: after all, I might tip over! (THIS is my caregiver?)

Hatley Castle and grounds really go for the ‘we got lots of Ivy, and it’s really old’ that the Empress goes for as well. In this case, some trimming would help as the ivy was completely covering several windows but it does make for a pretty picture.

Here is the upper garden (white orchids) and a lower lawn, which was probably good for croquet (it is actually played quite a bit around here). Now it is used for weddings.

Here is the lower lily pond, which is as far as I can get to the Castle, so I am doing my ‘Tiger’ pose (actually I am more trim now, due to boxing plus being really ill and not eating! Vain much?).

While Linda and Cheryl climbed up, it was back to the road for me and up to meet them around the front of the Castle. I really don’t know why they don’t have a ramp at the corner of the three steps to get in, but they don’t. It does some nice front gardens and oozes, “I have oodles of money and I am going to just sit here in it, when I am not off shooting things.” James did have a daughter but she died the same year as her mother, so the money and effort poured into a property (which had its own CHINATOWN, sorry, I just couldn't get over that - they pulled it down in WWII) which was never given the love of a family home.

On a personal note, my grandfather, while in the military in WWII, used to have to clear and clean the acres of the wall surrounding the estate – my grandfather wasn’t officer material, so he cleaned for them, but he sure could scrounge: I grew up rowing the rowboat wear a giant bag in front and back label ‘material of the Canadian Naval Service’ which was supposed to be a ‘life-preserver’ but I was terrified would sink like cement. Seeing Royal Navy stamps on tools, supplies, lamps and everything else around his place was standard. In fact, he told me that he started his house painting business by stealing two extension ladders from the navy with a pal. At East Sooke he still had (and used) one of those ladders. Go Navy!

So here we are, arrived at Hatley Castle! Linda fussed around with the Camera and the 'Is the auto flashing' for so long we have a previous picture of us smiling and Linda hauling ASS, too late. This one is the picture she would prefer to have published though.

We were off to the gardens, while much of it was inaccessible (literally one step), it gave me opportunity to take pictures. The upper garden building used to be covered in 1910, and there was also a greenhouse, this upper garden building cost as much as building the km’s of wall around the dozens of acres of his estate. But it is very fetching. Much of it now is a rose garden but you can see how it is adjacent to the Castle where those flowers were placed daily in the Castle.

Here is Linda in one of the sitting and viewing areas within the upper garden. While Linda and Cheryl took off to the gardens, I was playing out with the super macro function of my camera on the flowers. Meanwhile Linda, out in the rose and other upper gards was taking pictures of the scores of bee pollinating and nectar gathering.
Now what is an over the top Castle and Garden structure without some peacocks to wander through them? This being Victoria, that is pretty much a ‘must’, a ‘Fashion Do!’ along with swans if you have a pond. The lower lawns were full of Canada geese. But lucky for us, it wasn’t just a Peacock, but a baby Peacock as well. Here is the smaller female (the male is the one with plumage) with her baby. I had never seen a baby peacock before. So that was nice. Also this ‘family picture’ (my fav) which I am giving to the family to send out for this years’ Christmas Card.

After a last picture, we were off to the ground which had all sorts of exotic names like ‘Desert Garden’ and ‘Japanese Garden’ (which this picture is supposed to be, not very Japanese in my experience). There were lots of other signs but not a lot of upkeep, or accessibility, as here is just one example of the inclines, and those were often loose sand, gravel and had to be done in ‘tank gear’.

We did find another mother guarding her peacock peachick (I had to look up what a baby peacock was called), though in this photo with two moms and babies is ‘muster’ or ‘ostentation’ (group of peacocks) of peahens and peachicks. Cute, but the names do sound like something I got as take out recently, or was that chickpea?

By this time I was tired of the inaccessible nature of the place so I decided to take on the little ornamental bridge (since if other people can walk over it why not wheel over it?). After a few runs at it, I got up the steep incline. It was a nice stream, but I couldn’t get DOWN until I took up my foot plate and reclined the chair as much as I could in order to stay in it. With, “Oh God, oh, Oh, OH MY GOD!!!!!!!……ahhhhhh, that’s wasn’t so hard.” I descended. Linda and Cheryl were laughing, but since I could not fathom why, I merely ignored them and rolled on with grace and deportment.

Time to go, since I was getting slurry. Which is when Linda got ‘The IDEA’. See, it is not always me who instigates these things. Though I admit I wandered with INDY over to the Canada Geese with camera at the ready to see if they would take flight, perchance. But it was Linda who was urging me ‘put the speed up’, I stared at her. She pointed to the geese and made a shooing motion, ‘make a run at them!’

Well, as it happened, I had recently been wondering why adults give up the joys of running at flocks of birds they way kids will, so I started bouncing around the terrain (Which helped with the “AAAAAaaaaaaooooooaaaAA!” shouting) at high speed toward the large flocks of Canada Geese. However they just walked aside giving me the ‘look’ like I was the girl from the chess club which had barged into the ‘cool’ party and suggested we all play ‘Boggle’! (no, not Bong, Boggle – it’s a word game.)

So thus ended our Hatley Castle Adventure, with me almost caught molesting the local wildfowl. We took off while the getting was good.

So ‘Good Sailing and safe Port’ at the end of Speak like a Pirate day. I would like the point out that Victoria WAS a ‘Free Port’ much like Port Royal and Nassau, it is just we didn’t get a LOT of piracy since it was the GOVERNMENT importing the opium, gambling, setting up prostitution (still legal here!) in order to try to attract American ships. Victoria, BC even had its own brand of opium: Tai Shun. To see a period can of it and a history of Victoria/Vancouver Island Opium check here (miles are determined from Victoria, so 12 mile pub is 12 miles from Victoria). When you visit Victoria, make sure you go to Fan Tan Alley in our Chinatown (the oldest in Canada), one of the last ‘escape and small shop’ alleys that the Dens would have a back door onto in order for patrons to escape any busts. Now has great corset shops, alternative music shops and all other form of interesting places.

7 comments:

Bonnie said...

Most awesome post! Despite your declining health, you sure rock some research, woman.

I really truly enjoy your historical posts. You've got a knack for combining the historical facts with the fun stuff.

And I'm glad you had a fun day (even if you don't remember it).

Avast, ye salty wench!

FridaWrites said...

Beautiful photos, and you are looking wonderful despite so much illness. How wonderful to have such treasures near.

cheryl g said...

My favorite part of visiting Royal Roads was seeing the peachicks. The gardens are nice but were difficult to access. I did enjoy learning about the history of Hatley castle and the family. You give very interesting history lessons on Victoria BC.

I got the feeling the geese are very accustomed to being run at. They weren’t worried about you at all…

Raccoon said...

The palaces in Seoul had better accessibility, it sounds like.

I had to much "Talk like a Pirate" when I was working Renaissance Faires.

Linda McClung said...

Sorry it has taken so long to comment. I am really glad you were finally able to put this blog post up. You had made so many notes after we got home about your time there, and made notes on the research you did that week. I'm glad you were able to put it together and share the history and the photos.

And yes, I'm glad you used the photo of the three of us properly posed rather than the one of my butt as I run away from the camera once I set the timer.

I really liked the Italian gardens, but I just couldn't figure out why they didn't put in short ramps so you could explore the gardens more. The steps were only about 4 inches which would mean a ramp about a foot long. It wouldn't disturb the historical-ness of it at all.

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