A short story
the farm and manor
a little history of one of the heritage sites in Victoria, BC, in story form
She watched and waited, hoping to see the children walking home from the old school house just over the bridge. It was only a short distance away. She thought wistfully of the summer that would soon arrive and with it all the cotillions, ceilidhs, and socials that had sprung up since the days of the old fort. She felt pride that only Douglas Manor was a grander house than Craigflower, having been built for Sir James Douglas of the Hudson Bay Company. Douglas became Governor of the colony back in the 1850’s.
The family mingled with the best social circles of Victoria, among them the Dunsmuirs, the coal barons who built the rather pretentious Craigdarroch Castle over looking the bay and, the O’Reillys of Point Ellice House, whose gardens rivaled her own.
She remembered that horrifying day in 1896 when she could have sworn she heard the span of Point Ellice Bridge crack sending an overloaded trolley of 155 Queen Victoria Day celebrators plunging into the cold waters below. Fifty five people had lost their lives that day, including men,women and children. She was shocked and grieved with the rest of Victoria but was also relieved that her children lived on the other side of the waterway and, had gone to the Military Maneuvers at Macaulay Point by horse and buggy. Her family often spent Victoria Day by the waters of the Gorge, enjoying the Annual Picnic and Regatta. She always looked forward to the excitement of seeing the boats glide by into the inlet by small sail or rowing teams and hearing the cheers of the onlookers.
Sometimes it felt as though they hadn’t had company in ages but winter always put a damper on social events especially when you were far from the town center.
She wondered why she hadn’t seen many of the farm hands working the land lately. Apparently the overseer had rented some allotments on the west side of her property to a few citizens of the rapidly growing and encroaching community around the farm. She hoped there would be a good return on that. During her many summers here she saw farm workers come and go, flag wavers and rallies, people talking of war, even a few motorized vehicles, though at the farm they still preferred moving their produce by horse and cart. Now there were the community gardeners at work.
Along with some questionable goings on at the Four Mile House Inn up the road, she remembered not long ago, finding some squatters camping down by the shoreline of the property. The police had to be called to move them out with their guitars and back packs. She remembered thinking that they were an odd lot who looked like gypsies with their long hair and colourful clothing.
There had even been a terrible murder of a young girl one night down under Craigflower Bridge. She wondered how such a senseless crime could happen in a peaceful community as theirs had been. She became vigilant.
The children should be coming home soon she thought. She was getting a bit forgetful and sometimes mixed up her generations of children and grandchildren but she was always thrilled to see the young ones open the gate and run down the rose lined path to the front door chattering about their friends and studies. Sometimes the boys would play ball out in the back before coming in to eat dinner in the elegant dining room. She remembered Papa Mackenzie, who always came in from the parlour, where he had been reading The British Colonist newspaper. Everyone would talk about their day before retiring to the drawing room to read or listen to Agnes play the organ.
The children are late she thought, but at any moment now she would hear their footsteps and laughter. She often thought she heard a long sigh flowing by the farm. She didn’t recognize the exhale of time and so, the old house watched and waited as she always had.
Craigflower Manor has lain empty since the 1960’s, a long time after the MacKenzie family lived there. It belongs to the Province and is run by the Land Conservancy It is now open for short tours during the summer months and it has been a community garden allotment. More recently the Highland Games Organization leases it. The Victoria Heritage Society struggles to preserve houses like Craigflower and Point Ellice with minimal funding. Point Ellice House offers Victorian teas in costume during the warm weather and tours through the gardens.
As for the Point Ellice Bridge Disaster, some people claim that on certain dark nights screams can still be heard coming from the inlet. The blame for the accident was put on the shoulders of the Consolidated Electric Railway Company for overloading its rail car that holiday, including the allowing of adventurous teenagers to sit on the roof, and also on the City Council for not maintaining the bridge. The new bridge is visible from the old Point Ellice House on Pleasant Street.
Under the Bridge is the name of the book written about the brutal murder of Reena Virk, a young girl lured under the bridge next to the farm and beaten and drowned by her fellow classmates in 1997. The quiet town of Victoria thought they were immune to sensational crime, especially involving children and it left the island community reeling for years.
Paranormal societies have carried out investigations at most of these historical sites declaring many of these places haunted in grand old British tradition. John Adams conducts historic walking tours and Ghost tours through the year. He is a fantastic storyteller and yes, Victoria is haunted!!!