September 28 – Gastown and The Vancouver Art Gallery

Steam Clock

Steam Clock

No trip to Vancouver is complete without a visit to Gastown.  This area was very run down for many years, but then it was recognized as an important part of Vancouver’s heritage, and when it was “cleaned up” (more or less), it became more tourist oriented.  There are many interesting and fashionable stores, as well as the usual shops selling souvenirs and postcards.  The steam clock sounds the quarter hours on whistles, and just up the street is the statue of Gassy Jack.   Thereby hangs a tale!

The local folk say that Captain John Deighton was a ship’s captain, who started a tavern in Burrard Inlet, which grew to become the fair city of Vancouver.   Indeed he was a sailor, born in Hull, Yorkshire in 1830.   The official history tells of how he weathered the Horn, and, via San Francisco, made his way to the Fraser River where he worked as a pilot.  Later he assumed the title of “Captain”.   This may be true.

Gassy Jack - John Deighton

Gassy Jack - John Deighton

Our family history, when we spelled our name in various ways, shows a “John Deighton” born in Hull, and “sent to the colonies”.  (This was the usual punishment for miscreants in those days),   His establishment in San Francisco included the mandatory feminine entertainment of the time, and his contacts there helped him establish a similar facility in New Westminster, and later, on Burrard Inlet.

 He also acquired the name of Gassy Jack … allegedly for talking a lot, and spinning tall tales.  However family rumour has it that he was a prolific producer of natural gas.  Either, or both, of these could be true.

 So … we have respectable Elaine, with a reasonably well documented descent from Captain Cook … and myself, with a tall tale of a much less respectable ancestor, Gassy Jack.  Whatever the truth of these stories, there is no doubt that both of these folk played a large part in the history of this area.  I was disappointed that the City of Vancouver had not taken better care of Uncle Jack’s statue, but, after all, decoration by pigeons and some corrosion would seem to fit his character.

 Later, we went to the Vancouver Art Gallery … but I dodged the event and visited some old haunts in the area.  Elaine made the following comments about the Gallery:

 I was hoping to see a good collection of paintings by Emily Carr, and possibly other significant BC artists.   There was indeed an Emily Carr exhibit, with a dialog between her and other artists.  But there were only about twelve Emily Carr paintings, and none of her later iconic totem pole pictures.

 The whole first floor of the gallery was taken up with several hundred small monochrome photographs from the sixties and seventies by an American photographer.  There were also twenty photographs of clear cutting, twenty of tree stumps, twenty of the Plains, etc.  You get the picture perhaps!   It was all a bit thin, and rather repetitive.

 BC artists seemed under-represented.


Gathering in Robson Square

Gathering in Robson Square

Meanwhile, outside in the square, a goodly crowd gathered.  It could have been a workers’ protest, except that there were too many black suits.  Perhaps a political rally, a funeral for the death of capitalism, or a protest about the HST?   Hard to tell, so I diffidently asked one of the participants.   It turned out to be a fire drill in the TD Bank building … far less exciting, but nice to know that all the calls that are important to them would be answered … eventually.


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