For July and August, the Vernon Museum will share a series of articles that explore some of the many heritage sites around the North Okanagan. To plan a visit to any of the sites featured, please visit https://vernonmuseum.ca/explore/heritage-field-trips/.

 

An Award Winning Product

In March of 2020, Vernon’s Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery received a gold medal for their Laird of Fintry Single-Malt Whisky at the World Spirit Awards in Austria. The celebrated distillery releases this product only once a year through a lottery process.

Although the whisky itself is obviously in high demand, the story behind its unique name is less well-known: who was the Laird of Fintry?

Captain Dun-Waters

He was James Cameron Dun-Waters.

Dun-Waters was raised in Scotland, and at the age of 22, inherited a significant amount of money. This fortune brought him to Canada to pursue his interest in hunting.

In 1909, he was exploring a delta along the west side of Okanagan Lake known as Shorts’ Point when he decided this was where he wanted to settle.

A year later, he had purchased the land and renamed it “Fintry” after his hometown in Scotland. Here he remained for 31 years.

A Renaissance Man

James had a great love of the outdoors, and was an avid hunter and athlete.

His particular passion was for curling, and rinks in all parts of the province came to know the Laird’s gusty voice and buoyant personality. Even up until the day of his passing, Dun-Waters served as the President of the curling club in Fintry, Scotland.

He also had a great interest in Ayrshire cattle, and cultivated his own award-winning herd. 

James Dun-Waters and his second wife Margaret circa 1938.

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The Fintry Manor House circa 1935.

James was also an active community member, and was involved with the CPR, the BC Fruit Growers Association, and the Armstrong Interior Provincial Exhibition organization. He was married twice, first to Alice Orde, who died in 1924, and then to Margaret Menzies. He also served overseas during World War One.

Dun-Waters’ Legacy

When Dun-Waters’ health began to fail, and with no heir to inherit his property, he sold his estate at Fintry to the Fairbridge Farm School system for one dollar. James Cameron Dun-Waters died on October 16, 1939.

But what is his connection to whisky? Dun-Waters was a lover of the drink, and around 1910, had a special batch of scotch sent to him in Canada all the way from his native Scotland. The Okanagan Spirit’s creation uses a replica of the label that adorned these earlier bottles, and Dun-Waters’ story lives on.

To learn more about Dun-Waters, and to explore his unique Manor House, sign up for a Heritage Field Trip to the Fintry Estate on Friday, August 6, 2021.

UPDATE: Heritage Field Trip Cancelled due to WIldfire risk

The Friday, August 6, 2021, Heritage Field Trip to the Fintry Estate & Manor has been cancelled due to wildfire risk and closures. Westside Road to Fintry is closed in both directions and communities and homes on the west side of Okanagan Lake are under evacuation alerts and orders. 

If you’d like to take a trip to Fintry Manor and Fintry Delta in 1965 click here for a virtual tour using vintage footage courtesy of Reel Life Productions.

Our thoughts are with all the people, homes, businesses, and communities affected by the wildfires in the Okanagan and across BC and Western Canada this summer. 

 

 

Gwyn Evans

 

okanagan crafts brew  

March 3, 2020

A horse-drawn beer wagon destined for the local bar or saloon was a common sight in turn-of-the-century North American cities, and Vernon was no exception. In 1895, these wagons trundled off with barrels of lager from Vernon’s first—and only—brewery, the Vernon Spring Brewery (not to be confused with the Okanagan Spring Brewery).

Four years before the above photo was taken, in the winter of 1891, any exciting announcement reached Vernon’s citizens: Mr. Robert Ochsner was erecting a brewery on Okanagan Avenue. The Vernon Spring Brewery opened a year later, in 1892, becoming the first lager beer brewery in active operation in the province. Oshner used water from the Vernon Creek to run his operation, which suggests that the brewery would have been south of what is now the Tiki Villiage Motor Inn on 25th Avenue. 

 

 

Vernon Spring Brewery, photo date unknown

 

While today craft and micro-breweries are often considered a trendy location to socialize with friends, the Vernon Spring Brewery was built right in the height of the temperance movement, and not everyone was pleased by its presence in Vernon. In a tongue-in-cheek excerpt in the Vernon News of March 1892, it was even noted that one Vernon horse (yes, you read that right) had joined the movement against alcohol and refused to stay anywhere near the brewery. In fact, he was so offended by the institution that he marched himself straight back to town after being parked nearby it, much to the dismay of two gentlemen who came back from fishing to find their ride home had left without them.

Ochsner was undeterred by this opposition, and spent many days driving around town distributing samples of his first batch of lager. Allegedly, the universal verdict of all who tasted this “sparkling nectar” was that they would never drink anything else again. However, well-known photographer and author C.W. Holliday had a different memory of Ochsner’s first brew. Whether it was because Ochsner was an amateur beer maker or because the brew was affect by the climate, anytime a bottle of the first batch was opened, it would violently erupt in a cascade of foam until only about an inch of flat beer was left. Holliday notes that people would often order a bottle just for the fun of it, and seeing the bar and bartender submerged in a sea of beery foam was well-worth the asking price.

Robert Oschner left the brewery in 1896, and it remained idle for a year before John Haverty, formerly of Winnipeg, took over its management.

Unfourtunately, records at the Vernon Museum are limited as to what happened to the Vernon Spring Brewery, but our city’s experience with brewing continues under the successful—and refreshing—Okanagan Spring Brewery.

Gwyn Evans