Lecture: Riding the Continent

Hamilton Mack Laing’s Riding the Continent

Join Trevor Marc Hughes for an illustrated presentation of Hamilton Mack Laing’s previously unpublished memoir, Riding the Continent, at 7pm on Tuesday, June 11 at the Courtenay & District Museum.

Laing, who built two houses in Comox and lived here for many decades, was an illustrious early British Columbia writer and naturalist. But few know him as how he described himself in his mid-thirties: a motorcycle-naturalist. For several years beginning in 1914, Laing used the motorcycle to access the natural world, believing it gave him a distinct advantage over other forms of transportation. During this period in his life, he would take on a transcontinental journey, riding across the United States from Brooklyn to Oakland in 1915.

BC Archives photo. J-01413

Riding the Continent tells the story of a pioneering motorcyclist and independently thinking naturalist as well as an unusual road trip. As Laing put it, “the lure of the unending road is a call that will not be denied.” Laing’s tale explores the beauty of North America’s bird life, describes the sights, scenery and people he encountered, and takes us along for the ride on a 1915 Harley-Davidson he named Barking Betsy. Laing’s legacy lives on in his gifting of his house and property to the Town of Comox as a nature preserve.

Copies of Riding the Continent will be available for purchase ($19.95, Ronsdale Press) and signing after the talk.

Admission to the evening is $5 per Historical Society member; $6 non-members (plus GST). Advance tickets recommended. Tickets go on sale Friday, May 17, 2019.

The Courtenay and District Museum is located at 207 Fourth Street in downtown Courtenay. FMI or to purchase tickets over the phone: 250-334-0686 ext.2.

Hamilton Mack Laing biography:
Hamilton Mack Laing, the renowned writer and naturalist, was born in Hensall, Ontario, in 1883. He had a distinguished career, with many books and articles in newspapers and outdoor magazines about the natural world to his credit. As a naturalist, Laing would travel far and wide on many expeditions, including the Smithsonian Institution’s Lake Athabasca expedition of 1920 and the Canadian Alpine Club’s Mount Logan expedition of 1927. He died in Comox, in 1982.

Trevor Marc Hughes biography:
Trevor Marc Hughes has been riding a motorcycle across British Columbia, writing about his adventures and telling tales from its history for six years now. He is the author of dozens of magazine articles and two books: Zero Avenue to Peace Park: Confidence and Collapse on the 49th Parallel and Nearly 40 on the 37: Triumph and Trepidation on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway. In discovering Laing’s manuscript of his cross-country motorcycle journey, and then transcribing and making it ready for publication, Hughes has found something of a companion: a pioneering motorcyclist who would write about his discoveries on his own journeys. He lives in Vancouver with his wife, Laura, and his two sons, Michael and Marc. Visit him online at www.trevormarchughes.ca.