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Arch Way – Lord and Lady Dufferin in B.C.

October 20, 2014

The New Westminster Museum has a new home in the Anvil Centre at Columbia Street & Begbie Street.  One of its prize exhibits is the Dufferin Coach, so called because in 1876 the first Governor-General of Canada to visit British Columbia rode in this carriage along the old Cariboo highway.

Lord Dufferin coach of 1876 - New Westminster Museum

Lord Dufferin preferred to ride up top with driver Steve Tingley, reigning six horses, while the indomitable Lady Dufferin  looked out over the Fraser Canyon, unfazed by the precipitous drop inches from the wheels and always the first out to walk uphill.

Originally owned by Barnard’s Express, the coach is of the no-springs variety, built for rough terrain, the cab suspended with leather straps, called thoroughbraces, that produce a smooth, swaying ride.




Lord Dufferin & Lady Dufferin

Lord and Lady Dufferin were the premier diplomatic team of their era, and the reasons were evident enough during their visit to British Columbia. 

Among  the highlights of the Governor-General’s tour of British Columbia were the confrontation with a “rebel” arch in Victoria,  receiving the dramatic presentation of Memoranda from Ebenezer Brown and company, and the nocturnal fishing expedition with Sam Herring on the Fraser River.

Victoria – The Arch Reply

1876 Victoria welcomes the Earl of Dufferin - Illus London NewsAt every city and town on their tour, the Vice-Regal couple were greeted with arches.

At Victoria the Governor-General had been warned of one arch erected by disgruntled islanders bannered with the slogan “Carnarvon Terms or Separation.”

Lord Dufferin suggested to the builders that if they should change the “S” to an “R,” he could pass through the arch,  but they refused.

The Vice-Regal procession deftly avoided the scene with a detour and Lord Dufferin afterward turned the situation to his advantage.

“Next day I took an opportunity when out on a shopping expedition with Lady Dufferin to drive under the obnoxious arch, and to bow to its beaming authors at their respective doors. This gracious act brought them in the evening to Government House with an assurance that they meant nothing disrespectful to myself personally nor disloyal to The Queen by anything they had done.”

“It was a very good-humored, and certainly not a disloyal, bit of ‘bounce’ which they had prepared for me.  I suppose they wished me to know they were the ‘arch’ enemies of Canada. Well, I have made them an arch reply.”

The shopping expedition with Lady Dufferin denoted a diplomatist of the first rank.

Reception at New Westminster 

1876 New Westminster welcomes  Lord Dufferin and Lady Dufferin - Columbia Street archThe Governor-General’s cavalcade arrived at the Royal City over the Douglas Road from Hastings on Burrard Inlet.  Proceeding up Columbia Street the Vice-Regal carriage drove through a series of elaborately decorated arches, ranging from the extravagant and sublime City Arch with its motto “The Royal City Welcomes Lord and Lady Dufferin,” to the quaint trellis- work of  chemist Captain Adolphus Peele, which featured a model train running back and forth on an arch bearing the motto “Bind Us With Iron,” before passing under a string of pails dangling from an arch erected by the  Hyacks. 

At the close of civic ceremonies and meetings with First Nations, and with a bit of time to take in the City of New Westminster, Lord and Lady Dufferin took a stroll down to the riverfront Fish & Game store of SW Herring, where they accepted an invitation to go fishing later.

The Ebenezer Brown delegation

Ebenezer BrownWhile observing a night-time pageant on the river, amid a flotilla of boats and canoes illuminated by torch-light, with a back-drop of the Royal City lit up with lanterns, the Governor-General received a delegation led by Ebenezer Brown and took in hand the Memoranda.

Referring to the addresses he received in British Columbia, Dufferin wrote to Lord Carnarvon:

“The one from New Westminster is very significant.”

The recommendation of Ebenezer Brown and company to delay a decision on the railway pending a survey of the Fraser Valley bought the government some time and proved the decisive factor in determining the route of the railway.

Lord Dufferin later acknowledged that the price of Brown’s courageous political stance was his resignation from cabinet.

A catch of salmon and sturgeon – Lord and Lady Dufferin fish Fraser River

Hannah and Samuel Weaver HerringBefore turning in for the day, Lord and Lady Dufferin, accompanied by Judge Begbie and Captain Chatfield of the Amethyst,  went fishing on the Fraser opposite New Westminster with Sam and Hannah Herring, drawing up a catch of  several salmon and a sturgeon.

With the success of this fishing expedition,  Sam Herring,  remarked the Mainland Guardian, had “added new lustre to his profession.”

(For more about this charmed evening see Bright lights, sounding gongs and salmon by the light of the moon—A night of drama on the Fraser River, featuring The Earl of Dufferin, Ebenezer Brown and Sam Herring in the first post on this blog.)

It was the accommodating nature of Lord Dufferin and Lady Dufferin in respecting both expressions of loyalty and dissension, and in socializing with people from all walks of life, that proved them such a formidable diplomatic team.

Foot Quote

”My four years experience has taught me that provided a Governor is perfectly unassuming in his personal bearing, he cannot discharge his purely representative functions with too much stateliness.” – Lord Dufferin

Lord Dufferin travels in BC 1876

Lord Dufferin Tour Map

Right,  map of the Governor General’s 1876 tour of British Columbia: arrival on HMS Amethyst from San Francisco to Victoria,  coastal voyage to Fort Simpson, sternwheeler on the Fraser River, stage and steamboat journey to Kamloops.


Scene Spirit

Workers demolishing a building on Begbie Street in 2011 left standing an entrance way, complete with glass door. Beyond the door lay the rubble of the past and a cacophony of destruction. Nevertheless, the ruin exuded something of that dauntless pioneer optimism,  the impetus of renewal and rebuilding. The former entrance is now the Stage Door to the Anvil Centre Performing Arts Theatre.   Entrance on Begbie Street - New Westminster - 2011 Stage Door - Anvil Centre - Begbie Street - New Westminster - 2014
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