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Event type: In-person
Time and Date: 7 pm, Tuesday, November 21st
Location: Rotary Gallery of the Courtenay and District Museum
Speaker: Jeanette Taylor
Tickets: $5 for Historical Society members; $6 for the general public. Advance tickets are recommended. Tickets can be purchased over the phone by calling 250-334-0686 ext 2.

A treasure trove of intriguing photos and stories emerged when historian Jeanette Taylor set to work on her latest book, Sheltering in the Backrush, A History of Twin Islands. Some of the stories are so bizarre, says Taylor, they prove the old adage that truth is stranger than fiction.

Twin Islands, which lies to the south of Cortes, belonged to German royalty for several decades and visits by Queen Elizabeth II and family gave the islands cachet. But it’s Twin’s livewire cast of former owners and caretakers who generate the most interest among readers. They include unconventional lovers, the victim of an unsolved murder, WWII spies and espionage, newspaper moguls and an anonymous heiress who saved the islands from clear cut logging.

Twin’s unsolved murder involves an Irish aristocrat who bought property on the islands after leaving his wife and sons on Denman Island in 1912. A few years later he was shot through the jaw while lounging on his yacht. Nixon wrote a note, suggesting there must have been a blasting cap in his tobacco, which exploded when he lit his pipe. But when police investigation revealed he’d been shot through the porthole of his boat by a high calibre rifle, Nixon wondered if a ‘pit-lamper’ (someone hunting at night with a light to transfix a deer’s eyes) mistook the flare of his match for an animal. Nixon died a month later and as no more plausible theory emerged, the case was closed.

Dick and Ethel Andrews, Americans with a steel import business in Japan, bought the islands in 1936 as a refuge during World War II. They hired a local foreman and crew to build a massive log lodge. Their first task was to cut logs for a structure and furnishings that remain largely as built. “The Twin Islands Lodge,” says Taylor, “is a stunning example of north Vancouver Island’s architectural heritage.”

Twin Islands Lodge c.1939 courtesy John Harrison.

Taylor found the descendants of most of Twin’s former owners and caretakers. Telephone interviews, like one with a German prince, from his castle in the Black Forest, and meeting descendants of the Depression-era owners and their construction crew were highlights. Many had photographs to share, including a large collection of sepia-toned images of the crew and construction of the lodge. Among them, says Taylor, are images of the crew’s cook wagging a warning finger at a pig and another of the same woman in a daring pair of tailored slacks, posed in front of a stack of roof shakes.

Helge Rasmussen with roof shingles. From C. Rasmussen collection. Courtesy Rita Rasmussen.

Speaker/Author Jeanette Taylor. Photo by Gerry Cote.

Copies of Sheltering in the Backrush, A History of Twin Islands” will be available for purchase ($24.95 plus tax, Harbour Publishing) and signing after the talk.

Jeanette Taylor is the author of five nonfiction books about our region. She’s currently working on a biography of Courtenay settler Reginald Pidcock, historical fiction, and a history of the Broughtons/mainland inlets. Taylor also teaches fiction and nonfiction writing workshops for the McLoughlin Gardens Society.

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