The Grandview Database

May 15, 2019

I have not been writing here as much I would like, but I really have not been idle.  My recent (and continuing) heavy bout of researching for a new book has allowed me to collect a great deal of information that is of value to the Grandview Database project of the Grandview Heritage Group.

A new edition of the Database was published today.

If you have an interest in a Grandview address, or in a Commercial Drive business, say, take a look at the Database, search for the address you want, and see what historical data we have on it so far.


Happy Anniversary GHG!

May 5, 2019

Today is the 8th anniversary of the founding of the Grandview Heritage Group (GHG).

The GHG website has become the go-to place for anyone interested in the 100+year history of our wonderful neighbourhood, and the group has made enormous strides in its mission: to identify, preserve, and celebrate our local heritage.  The monthly meetings are always interesting, and it has been exciting to watch new people come into the group and keep it lively.

Well done everyone concerned and we look forward to more exciting work as we move into the future.

Back To Work!

April 20, 2019

Regular readers may have noticed that I have posted a lot less this week than usual.  That is because I suddenly find myself rather busy.

About eight years ago I published The Drive”, a history of Commercial Drive from 1935 to 1956. It was assumed by many, including me, that I would move swiftly onto the remainder of the history from the mid-1950s. But that proved difficult for a couple of major reasons:

First, recent local history is dependent for much of its documentation on newspapers and for many years the necessary papers (Sun, Province, Echo, etc.) of that period were hard to access without the time-consuming process of reading through the microfiches of each edition of every paper for every day. Before the writing of “The Drive“, for example, I spent a full year in the 7th floor of Central Library doing little else but reading through every edition of the Highland Echo from 1935 to 1960 — and that was just one weekly newspaper of about 8 to 10 pages an edition. Going through the morgues of three much larger daily newspapers for, say, 1955 to 1975, would literally take years. It was a daunting task.

Second, I became ever more interested in the first quarter century of Grandview’s life — from, say 1891 through the end of the First World War — and the work I put in started to concentrate on that period. This was assisted greatly by many of the early newspapers — Vancouver World, etc — being accessible on line with the context searching that that functionality makes available to the researcher. Most of my writing over the last decade has concentrated on this era.

Over that same stretch of time, I made a few attempts to pull together the history of Commercial Drive and Grandview, its hinterland.  That means I have dozens or scores of half-completed essays and research lists scattered throughout my computer. I pride myself on the tidiness of my research.  However, at times like these when a reassessment of what material I already have is required, that pride takes a bashing.

Which brings me to the purpose or reason for this reassessment.  I have decided that I will write a full scale history of the Drive from its beginnings to about 2000. The primary driver has been the very recent availability of both the Vancouver Sun and Province on line. This means that I can use the searching tools available through OCR to make my research searches far more specific and productive.  There is still a great deal of old-fashioned research to complete (including the page by page reading of the Echo‘s microfiche library from the 1960s through the 1990s that we bought some years ago for this very purpose) and, of course, grinding my way though the mountain of material I already have collected.

This is all going to take some time.  But at least you will know I am not just relaxing on the couch eating ice cream and watching game shows.

Remembering Radio Caroline

March 28, 2019

It is 55 years ago today since Radio Caroline, the first of the British pirate radio stations began broadcasting.  It was an event and a summer I remember well.

In the previous 18 months, the British music scene had exploded, first based on the incredible success of the Beatles but then quickly followed by dozens of groups from all over the country. Unfortunately, the staid old BBC held a monopoly of British radio and so many of us listened to this new music on Radio Luxemburg which broadcast in the evenings. However, the playlists of Radio Luxemburg and BBC TV’s weekly Top of the Pops were more or less controlled by the major record labels and didn’t cover the full spectrum of pop music then available.

Ronan O’Reilly, an Irish entrepreneur, decided to broaden the choice. He purchased an old ship, refitted it with high powered radio equipment, and parked it just outside British territorial waters. On 28th March 1964, Radio Caroline began broadcasting with a Rolling Stones song, and pirate radio — pirates because they were unlicensed — almost immediately changed the entire British cultural scene.

For the next few years, everyone I knew listened to the pirates (a number of other radio ships had joined in the fun) and no matter the laws the government tried to impose, their popularity continued to increase. By 1967, even the BBC had been completely revamped, with BBC Radio One becoming simply a copy of the pirates. That was, indeed, the Summer of Love.

The Standing Stones As National Arena

March 23, 2019

A month or so ago, I reported on some research that indicated that the stone ring at Stonehenge had originally been built in Wales and only later moved to Salisbury Plain, almost 5,000 years ago.


This most famous of henges was erected in an area that is replete with rings and ritual sites of various descriptions, the most well-known of which would be the Avebury circle, linked by pathways to Stonehenge.  New research has shown that these sites may well have had a national rather than local significance.

“A detailed scientific analysis of 131 pigs found at four key feasting sites in Wiltshire and Dorset … reveals that the vast majority of the pigs eaten at the feasts had been brought there from up to hundreds of miles away … The conclusion is that Stonehenge-era Britons had some sort of “national” intercommunal or pan-tribal identity, as well as presumably their local tribal or clan ones. In that sense, the megafeasts may well have represented the birth of Britain as a cultural or even geopolitical or ideological concept …

“These gatherings could be seen as the first united cultural events of our island, with people from all corners of Britain descending on the areas around Stonehenge to feast on food that had been specially reared and transported from their homes .. The emergence of some sort of country-wide identity now appears to have been part of a package of new cultural and political developments that occurred at around the time the great stone circles of Stonehenge and Avebury were built.”

Some 2,000 years later, in the Iron Age, there was a pan-tribal Druid elite extant throughout much of Britain. They may well have emerged from these earlier “national” gatherings.  What is certain is that our Neolithic ancestors were a lot more interesting and organised than we were taught at school.

The Political History of the UK

March 11, 2019

As some readers will recall, I am a great admirer of data visualizations and their educational use in history. I was very pleased, therefore, to come across this fascinating video by Ollie Bye and made available on You Tube.

In less than 8 minutes, this map shows the political divisions into which the United Kingdom and Ireland have been divided for every year from 54 BC to 2016.

It is particularly useful in those confusing years between when the Roman Empire collapsed in the 400s through to the Norman Conquest of 1066.

The small Scottish “kingdoms” of those years are represented by numbers rather than names and are equivalent to the following:  1. Caithness 2. Sutherland 3. Ross 4. Small Vassals 5. Buchan 6. Mar 7. Atholl 8. Angus 9. Stathearn 10. Fife 11. Dunbar 12./13. Galloway.

Visualising Workforce Changes

February 24, 2019

For an historian like me who chooses to specialise in social and retail topics, visualisations such as the following are a useful tool.

Select the image for a closer view.  The image is from a marvelous short article in Visual Capitalist that provides much of the detail.

The most obvious change is the precipitous decline in agricultural employment, falling from 60% of the workforce in 1850 to just 3% today; much of that decline occurring since the end of the Second World War.  Manufacturing jobs also seem to be disappearing at a rapid rate.  Conversely, the increases in “education” and “healthcare” sectors are noticeable.

In discussing the changes to employment that Artificial Intelligence software may bring, the article provides a cheering spin:

“In the timeframe of 1850 to 2015, it’s clear that new technologies came in and disrupted the prevailing industries. Many jobs were lost in key sectors like manufacturing and farming, but they’ve been replaced (so far) with new jobs in other sectors.”

That may be so, but personally I suspect that increased leisure time (or idleness to some) and a guaranteed income are more likely futures.