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A Singular Coincidence: Glyde Twin Sisters Widowed Together

October 29, 2016

Twin sisters Mary and Martha Glyde began teaching in British Columbia schools in 1872 In 1874 they each married. In 1880, while Martha was visiting with Mary on Vancouver Island, Mary’s husband died, and the next day, Martha’s husband committed suicide in New Westminster.

Of English Origin

Mary and Martha Glyde were born at Whitchurch Canonicorum, Dorsetshire, England, on June 12, 1843.
The sisters emigrated to British Columbia in 1871.

Teaching in British Columbia

In 1872 Miss Mary Glyde was appointed head of the girls division in New Westminster Public School. (WH Burr had charge of the boys division.)  Glyde’s competence earned high praise from the Inspector of Schools.

“The girls’ department, for twelve months past, under the efficient supervision of Miss Glyde, is now second to no other school in the Province in thoroughness and proficiency.”

Mary Glyde resigned her position at New Westminster at the end of the school year, for reasons of “ill health.”. She had been extremely popular and, going away. received a bounty of gifts from pupils and their parents.

In August 1873 Mary’s sister, Martha Glyde, was appointed to replace her.

The same month, Mary Glyde accepted an appointment as teacher at North Cowichan school on Vancouver Island.


In 1874, the Glyde sisters both got married: Mary in April wed Ambrose Wesley Skinner, farmer, of Cowichan Bay, son of pioneer TJ Skinner; and in August Martha wed Valentine Blacklock Tait, Postmaster at New Westminster.

VB Tait had been in charge of the Post Office since 1871, but before that had been many years Clerk in the Registry and the Post Office. He was personally known to virtually every citizen of the Lower Mainland. Involved in numerous social organizations, he was also a militiaman with the New Westminster Rifles, a crack xhot who with his trusty Snider sharpshooter took home the Fleming Cup in 1878.

The Tait-Glyde wedding took place at Holy Trinity Cathedral, followed by a reception at the home of AT Bushby, Tait’s former boss.

Death of Husbands

It was on Octobet 2, 1880 that newspapers reported the near simultaneous deaths of Ambrose W Skinner and Valentine B Tait.

Mr Skinner is declared to have died on Thursday, September 30, 1880. No physician attended him.. His death certificate is dated October 7 and bears the notation:

“Alleged cause of death – diseased lungs and liver.”

At the time of Mr Skinner’s death, Mrs Martha Tait was a guest at the home, visiting her sister Mrs Mary Skinner.

The very next day, at New Westminster, in the absence of Mrs Tait, Valentine B Tait killed himself at the Post Office with his own Snider rifle.

The violent suicide of ”our popular and esteemed Post Master,” shocked residents of New Westminster.

In the columns of the Dominion Pacific Herald, edited by fellow marksman, John C Brown, the event was described in graphic detail, as was the general public mourning and news of his well-attended, highly-organized funeral.

However, no explanation as to the reason for his drastic act was forthcoming.

As the telegraph key was in an adjoining office there is open the possibility that Tait had heard news of the death of his brother in-law. However the following remark suggests he could not have known.

“Unhappily, the wife of the unfortunate gentleman is at present with her sister at Saanich and there is no means of communication with her by telegraph.”

The British Colonist newspaper, piecing together first reports of the deaths, stated:

“By a singular coincidence Mt Tait, postmaster of New Westminster,  whose death is announced in another paragraph, and Mr Skinner were married to sisters, and both gentlemen deceased on the same day.”

Mrs Tait’s insurance company reportedly expedited her claim, deemed to be a very generous consideration.

Martha and Valentine did not have any children.  Ambrose and Mary Skinner had one child, Mary Glyde Skinner, known as Minnie, born in 1876.

Widows’ Farm

Mrs Martha Tait, widow, went to live with her sister, Mrs Mary Skinner, widow, on her Vancouver Island farm.

Mary’s only child Minnie was then four years old. She was raised by her mother and aunt.

In the Census, Martha and Mary both identify themselves as  farmers.

D.R. Williams, in his history of St Peter’s Quamichan Anglican church, noted that “A Mrs Tait” labored for 20 rears as a fundraiser for that Anglican Church. Then, after 1901, in “puzzling silence” her name “disappears” from church records.

Passing Away


Cemetery – St Peter’s – Quamichan – illus. from Beautiful BC Magazine – BC Gov’t

Martha Tait died on February 17, 1913, at the age of 69.

Mary Skinner died December 24, 1929 at the age of 86.

AW Skinner and the Glyde sisters are interred in the graveyard of St Peter’s, Quamichan.

Mary Glyde Skinner never married and passed away 1947.

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