Brave Scotsmen fight and die in World War I

This week’s column is a continuation of last week’s, and focuses on life at Cowichan Lake, as stipulated in the 1911 census.

The beautiful St Peter’s Anglican Church at Quamichan-Duncan BC. Early Cowichan Lake area residents

The beautiful St Peter’s Anglican Church at Quamichan-Duncan BC. Early Cowichan Lake area residents

This week’s column is a continuation of last week’s, and focuses on life at Cowichan Lake, as stipulated in the 1911 census.

Among the 85 residents of Cowichan Lake listed on the 1911 census (exactly one hundred years ago) were three brothers: William, Bruce and Robert Archibald.

William, at age 32, was listed as head of his household, with brother Bruce, 25, living with him. The third brother, 34-year-old Robert, was listed as a lodger at the home of Honeymoon Bay’s first pioneer Henry March and family Edith, John, 14, and Charlie, 12.

The Archibald brothers – all born in Scotland – were the sons of well-to-do parents who made their fortune woolen manufacturing in Scotland and the British West Indies, where they were the owners of a  plantation.

By 1915, William and Robert had left Cowichan Lake and returned to Britain, while Bruce remained at Cowichan Lake.

Like most able-bodied men of their day, all three brothers promptly signed on for service at the outbreak of World War I, William and Robert joined up in England, and Bruce joined in Victoria in 1915.

All three were sent into active service, which would result in the deaths of two of the brothers; a terrible tragedy for the Scottish born Archibald family.

“Robert Archibald, Private, Royal Scots 16th Battalion along with his brother William Archibald, Lance Corporal, Royal Scots 16th Btn., were both killed in France on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916.” (Anstruther War Memorial – Democracy of War website).

Bruce Archibald was spared the fate of his brothers and returned to Cowichan Lake in 1918.

According to the writings of the late Trevor Green, Bruce, who Trevor called “Sandy,” lived in a “charming cottage” that he had built on the [Cowichan] lakeshore at Willow Bay” (not far from the entrance to Honeymoon Bay). Being isolated, the place well-suited the reclusive and “dour” man.

Seven years later, on December 17, 1925, Bruce surprised all who knew him by marrying Winifred Savage of Duncan (a sister of Hugh Savage, one-time mayor of Duncan.). Winifred apparently fit very well into her rural surroundings by keeping busy with her beautiful “gardens and orchards.”

Although they generally kept to themselves, the couple “made weekly contact with the village (Lake Cowichan) by boat, as they had no car.”

After Winifred’s death in 1943, “Sandy” sold the cottage to Western Forest Industries (for use as a company guest house) and moved to Duncan, settling in Maple Bay. Retaining a strong friendship with the March family, Bruce would occasionally ride his bicycle to Honeymoon Bay to spend a day or two with the March’s.

In 1968, fifty years after he and his brothers arrived at Cowichan Lake, Bruce Gordon Archibald died at Shawnigan Lake. He was 81.

Both he and his wife are buried in St Peter’s Anglican Church cemetery at Quamichan, Duncan, BC.

Correction – Column August 17, 2011. The photo of a boat (launch) owned and operated by the Vancouver Island Coach Lines was incorrectly identified in the Aug 17, 2011 column. The incorrect information and photo were provided to this author by a private source, not the Kaatza Station Museum.