PHOTOGRAPHER / ARTIST / WRITER
Compiled and written by Ron Candy, former Director/Curator, Vernon Museum
Charles William Holliday was born in 1870 in London, England. His first trip to North America took place in the summer of 1887 when he was a mere 17 years old. He signed on his uncle’s boat, a four-masted sailing ship named the Eleanor Margaret, as a deckhand. Holliday crossed the Atlantic, rounded Cape Horn and landed in San Francisco early in the fall. His stay was brief and lasted only as long as it took the ship to unload its cargo. Soon, he was headed back to Britain.
The Eleanor Margaret landed in Hull, England and Holliday took a train back home to London. Years later, he wrote, “I was glad to be going to see my people again; but as I sped southward in the train, through the towns and fields of England, I felt that I didn’t belong there. England was a lovely country, but already I began to feel cramped…I had absorbed too much of the freedom of the West.”
It wasn’t long before Holliday was aboard another ship heading to San Francisco. This time, his ultimate destination was Victoria, British Columbia.
In the spring of 1889, Holliday had found his way to the Okanagan by securing a job on a survey crew with the Canadian Pacific Railway. The job was to last a year, after which time Holliday planned on returning to Victoria. It would be 48 years before he would return.
Holliday worked at a number of jobs including ranching and piling lumber for ten hours a day at the Armstrong sawmill. However, photography proved to be his true bread and butter profession. He later wrote, “In England I had been an amateur photographer and had brought my camera with me, and I soon found that my services were so much in demand that I turned professional and every now and then would travel about the valley-a sort of itinerant photographer, making pictures of anything and everything, from race horses to babies.” Indeed, many photographs taken by Holliday now reside in the archives of the Vernon Museum.
Holliday married Elizabeth Harding in 1906. They had three children. When World War I broke out, Holliday enlisted but did not travel overseas. He and his wife retired in 1934 and the family moved to Victoria in 1937. Holliday’s artistic spirit as a photographer also led him to painting and writing. Holliday began painting as a hobby well before his retirement years. However, by 1930 he was painting on a professional level. His works were even exhibited at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1932, 1933 and 1934. His book, Valley of Youth, which was published in 1948, records his memoirs of coming to the Okanagan and his 48 years living there. C.W. Holliday passed away on July 18th, 1955 at the age of 84.