A Colorful Personality of the Kootenays

The Gunner of Galway

Article from the Arrow Lakes Historical Society

Another real character but withal a very able man was a Scot from Galway who became known as The Gunner from Gal­way. The Gunner was a miner, not of the pick and shovel variety but a promoter and owner of mines. When he first arrived in the Kootenays at the turn of the century he drank considerably and when under the influence sang an unlimited number of verses of a song called the Gunner from Galway, hence his nickname.

 1918 Paddlewheeler S.S. Slocan docked on Slocan Lake, East of the Arrow Lakes 1918 - Photo Credit: CBT.org
Paddlewheeler in 1918 docked on Slocan Lake, East of the Arrow Lakes – Photo Credit: CBT.org

Shortly after his arrival in the Kootenays he began prospecting in the Slocan dis­trict for mineral claims. One weekend he became violently intoxicated and was arrested. The magistrate sentenced him to a term in the provincial jail, but since there was no lock-up in the Slocan district he was sent to Nelson. The trip involved a short train journey and the prisoner was put in charge of a rookie policeman. To everyone’s astonishment, when the pair reached Nelson the culprit had on the policeman’s uniform and delivered the policeman as the prisoner.

Sometime afterward the Gunner went on a bit of a spree in Toronto and was admitted to hospital for treatment. He recovered favorably and one Sunday morning was allowed up in his dressing gown to walk in the corridor. The visiting physicians in those days wore frock coats and silk hats, which they removed in the lobby and donned suitable garb for the ward visit. The Gunner spotted one of the doctor’s outfits. With his thirst still not under control he commandeered the frock coat and silk hat and slipped out the back stairs. Right before him was a horse-drawn milk delivery wagon with the driver absent. The Gunner, always a resourceful man, mounted the cab and drove into town, where he was later apprehended.

These and many other escapades are truly told of this remarkable man. Upon his return, however, he had changed mightily and I don’t think he ever went on a spree again but settled down as a regular mining operator. He was a close friend of the late John McMartin of cobalt fame and, in conjunction with other mining men, operated successfully more than one mining property in the Sheep Creek district of B.C.

The Gunner continued his mining operations for many years and then moved to Manitoba where he became interested in the Flin Flon district. He evidently still prospered, for he lived in a suite in the Fort Gary Hotel, where he died. Many friends and acquaintances mourned his passing, for despite his eccentricities the Gunner from Galway made an excellent contribu­tion to mining development in Canada.

Kootenays Local History Writing

3 Comments Leave a comment

  1. What a fabulous eccentric character. This has got to be a cue to write a penny whistle tune entitled “The Gunner from Galway” or sit round a fire with a wee dram of Laphroaig reciting his colourful adventures. Thank you Peter, this made me laugh, I shall share this one…and so very well written. You have a natural flair. A minor detail…Galway is in Ireland and I live not far from Galloway, Sputhern Scotland…? Perhaps he got so engrossed in the song he sang that he lost his original identity from Galloway and adopted the Galway one instead.Tis still a great story. Good opening for a story…flip a coin, Galway or Galloway… Enough ramblings, the day beckons. Regards to all. K.

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    • Thank you Krysia for your enthusiastic comment on the Gunner of Galway! I did not write the article. It was taken from the archives of the Arrow Lakes Historical Society. I also liked the story about this colorful character and so I republished it with their kind permission.

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  2. Aaaaaah all has become clear now. I read the Gunner story just as I was getting ready to go out this morning and it caught my attention, and now upon careful re reading, I see that it is an article from the Arrow Lakes Society. Always something to be learnt and in my case, do not multi task as you are getting ready to go out. Focus on one thing only. My sincere apologies…the story was still great!

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