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

 

luxury lake travel- vintage okanagan style

 

November 13. 2020

What would it have been like to take a trip from Penticton to the Okanagan Landing aboard a sternwheeler? Unfortunately, most of will never know, since the Okanagan’s last paddle wheeler, the S.S. Sicamous, was retired nearly 85 years ago. Luckily, records in the Vernon Archives allow us to recreate these epic journeys—on paper, at least.

The S.S. Sicamous, launched in May of 1914, was the third in a line of stately sternwheelers to ply the waters of Okanagan Lake. She had a reinforced steel hull, and four decks. With 37 staterooms, one smoking room, four saloons, and a dining room, the ship could accommodate more than 300 passengers at one time. 

 

 

S.S. Sicamous, 1921

The Sicamous was a craft of grace and beauty, and she rightly earned the name of “The Queen of Okanagan Lake.” She transported passengers and freight up and down the lake, making stops along the way at Ewing’s Landing, Fintry, Carr’s Landing, Okanagan Centre, Gellatly, and Naramata, until 1936.

It’s a crisp spring morning in 1921. You rub sleep from your eyes, before pulling your wool clothing tight against the cold air drifting off the calm waters of Okanagan Lake. You are standing at the Penticton Wharf, the imposing shadow of the luxurious Incola Hotel, where you passed a pleasant night, to your back. It is 5:15 am, and the sky is still dark. You listen to the gentle chatter of early morning birds, and the slow murmur of waves against the shore. The town of Penticton is still asleep.

Just when you are beginning to lose feeling in the tips of your toes, the S.S. Sicamous pulls up to the wharf, breaking the sleepy silence with a cheerful blast of its whistle. As you wait in line for your chance to board, you watch the ship’s Union Jack drifting lazily in the breeze.

You’re making the trip to Vernon. It’s only 65 miles down the lake, but with the crisscrossing path needed to call in at the 15 landings along the way, you will have traveled more than 90 miles by journey’s end. You expect to be in Vernon by about 9:30 am, just in time for a bite of breakfast.

Finally, you are on board. The richness of the ship’s wood fittings—made from British Columbian cedar, Australian mahogany, and Burmese teak—contrast with the pale morning light. You watch as women in wool travel suits pull half-asleep children towards one end of the ship, while the men, chatting and smoking, move to the other.

You, however, decide to take a seat at a comfortable writing desk, and reach over to switch on a nearby reading lamp. The ship is delightfully warm, thanks to the miracle of steam heating. As you flip slowly through that morning’s copy of the Vernon News, you periodically glance up to admire the Sicamous’s beautiful stained-glass skylights.

After a little over 3-and-a-half hours later—most of which you spent in the observation lounge, watching the small, white-capped waves churned up by the ship’s wheel—you arrive at the Okanagan Landing. As you disembark, waving at a group of excited children on the shore, you think to yourself that you have never experienced a more marvelous journey. 

Gwyn Evans

airstream formation

February , 2020

 

A perusal through the Vernon News reveals that the 1960s really was an exciting time in Vernon. Not only did the official Winter Carnival begin, but the city also got a new library, museum, fire hall, and city hall. Butcher Boys Meats, an A&W Drive-In, Scotty’s Pancake House, and Tastee Freeze all opened, and the Okanagan Symphony and the Powerhouse theatre performed their first shows. It was also during this decade that Vernon played host to Wally Byam’s travelling gang of Airstream aficionados.

Byam built the world’s first airstream trailer in 1929, following the crash of the stock market and the loss of his magazine company. He decided to reinvent his lifestyle, and build a travel trailer not unlike the donkey-towed wagon he had lived in as a boy. The base of his trailer was a Model T Chassis, to which he added a sleeping space, stove, and ice chest (to make his wife Marion a little more comfortable). 

 

 

This photo of the Caravan was taken in 1962, when they were parked in Vernon’s Commonage.

 

The couple took it on the road and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Byam published the directions for making his trailer in Popular Mechanics, under the name “Airstream” for the way it glided along, and the rest is history.

Although he passed away in 1962, the Wally Byam Caravan Club carried on Byam’s legacy by traveling in large convoys all around the World. The Caravan even passed through Vernon on several occasions during the 1960s. Photographs show rows and rows of silver airstreams—parked in intricate shapes that must have required a significant amount of planning—in ll-sm-12″>

The couple took it on the road and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Byam published the directions for making his trailer in Popular Mechanics, under the name “Airstream” for the way it glided along, and the rest is history.

Although he passed away in 1962, the Wally Byam Caravan Club carried on Byam’s legacy by traveling in large convoys all around the World. The Caravan even passed through Vernon on several occasions during the 1960s. Photographs show rows and rows of silver airstreams—parked in intricate shapes that must have required a significant amount of planning—in locations such as the Commonage, 23rd Street, MacDonald Park, and Polson Park. A number of Vernon Clubs stepped up to the task of entertaining their intrepid visitors, including the McIntosh Girls’ Pipe Band and the Vernon Girls’ Trumpet Band.

The Wally Byam Caravan Club is still going strong, although they have not passed through Vernon in many years. This year, they plan to travel across more than 750,000 miles of North America, from Alaska to Louisiana, New York to Mexico and along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

Gwyn Evans

ocations such as the Commonage, 23rd Street, MacDonald Park, and Polson Park. A number of Vernon Clubs stepped up to the task of entertaining their intrepid visitors, including the McIntosh Girls’ Pipe Band and the Vernon Girls’ Trumpet Band.

The Wally Byam Caravan Club is still going strong, although they have not passed through Vernon in many years. This year, they plan to travel across more than 750,000 miles of North America, from Alaska to Louisiana, New York to Mexico and along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

Gwyn Evans