Mudcat Café message #369887 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #29288   Message #369887
Posted By: Don Firth
06-Jan-01 - 04:38 PM
Thread Name: John Dwyer - Songs & Stories
Subject: RE: John Dwyer - Songs&Stories
Outrageous! Howdy, Mark. I remember, you and I rode up to San Juan Island together (in 1985 I think it was -- thanks for the lift, by the way) for the songfest at English Camp. And well do I remember Maggie in her park ranger's uniform and Smoky Bear hat, who, I think, set the whole thing up. Marvelous afternoon.

I know this is a bit of "thread creep" which I don't want to do, particularly on this thread, but I just have to stick this in: I have a family connection with the Pig War and all that. When the British were trying to establish a presence on the San Juan Islands (they claimed everything down to the Columbia River, while the Americans were yelling "Fifty-four-forty or fight!") they asked the Hudson's Bay Company in to see if they could use the islands somehow. In 1858, my great-grandfather, Robert Firth, who worked for the Hudson's Bay Company, was appointed by Governor Douglas in Fort Victoria to head the Belle-Vue Ranch at the south end of San Juan Island with the idea of running about 6000 head of sheep on the island. By the time the thing finally got settled by Kaiser Wilhelm and the San Juans stayed on the American side, my great-grandfather had settled in, was raising a family, and decided to stay. My grandfather (another Robert Firth) and my father (also Robert Firth) were both born in Friday Harbor (my great-grandfather came originally from the Orkney Isles, as did many Hudson's Bay Company employees, and I understand that, even now, every third male in the Orkneys is named "Robert Firth"). I learned some of this from Maggie, some from another park ranger on a later trip to the San Juans, and some from a couple of books on San Juan history.

John's song is factually right on! That's what happened -- names, events, everything! I'm amazed at the accuracy, but since it was written by John, I'm not at all surprised.

Incidentally, the Captain Pickett, who was in command of American Camp on the island, resigned his commission after a year at American Camp, went home, and joined the Confederate Army. This is the same George Pickett who led the heroic but ill-fated "Pickett's Charge" at the battle of Gettysburg.

By the way, Stewart, you wouldn't happen to have the tune for this, would you?

Don Firth