It’s not the biggest or most impressive event on Vancouver Island, but the Haig-Brown Festival held each September in Campbell River resonates for the plain and simple fact that it is dedicated to paying tribute to a pair of local luminaries who contributed much to society.
Roderick Haig-Brown is best known for his contributions as one of Canada’s early conservationists in the 1930s. He was an avid fly fisherman, so the family’s 20-acre property and home along the banks of the Campbell River must have been the perfect venue. His beautiful study, which was open to the public during the festival, has walls lined with 4,000 books. It also contains the desk where he wrote (in longhand) 25 books and more than 200 papers. There are mementos from his fishing days, a fireplace and comfortable furniture that invites anyone entering to linger a while.
Although Roderick’s expertise in the wildlife conservation and fishing fields were the things that made his name familiar around the world, Haig-Brown was also a revered provincial court judge. His reputation in this discipline for fairness and common sense was legendary.
Ann Haig-Brown (nee Elmore), in addition to raising four children, typing her husband’s copious literary accomplishments, working at a local school and participating in the farming activities, was a great support for women and children who needed to leave abusive relationships. There was always sanctuary for victims of domestic violence at the Haig-Brown residence. As a result of her dedication to this cause (along with many others) the first transition house in the Campbell River area was named after her.
The Haig-Brown Festival has just celebrated its fourteenth year. It is a pretty low-key gathering on the grounds of the Haig-Brown residence, now an historic site operated by the Campbell River Museum.
We found a number of tents lined up along the lower lawn, offering information and demonstrations for all ages. One enterprising fly fisherman had taken some of Haig-Brown’s fly designs, constructed them and presented them matted and framed. They were true works of art that would, I am sure, be a welcome addition to the home of any fly fishing enthusiast.
Several other booths displayed unique artisan efforts, and one vendor had a marvelous display of some of the books penned by Haig-Brown.
Representatives of the Campbell River and North Island Transition Society were also on hand to elucidate on Ann’s many contributions to their efforts. Their booth included a rare photo of Ann, along with a framed note that was sent after the opening of Ann Elmore House to let the society know that her home was still open to those needing shelter if the transition house couldn’t accommodate them. There are stories galore about this remarkable woman, who inspired her own share of reverence in the community for her many contributions.
Overall, the Haig-Brown Festival says as much about the couple’s continuing contributions as it does about Roddy and Ann themselves. He died in 1976, and Ann passed away in 1990. To the end though, they created legacies internationally and in their own community that continue to impress and inspire. Two lives, truly well lived.
Further information on some of the Haig-Brown heritage and contributions can be found at the following websites:
Haig-Brown Heritage House is located at 2250 Campbell River Road
GPS co-ordinates are:
Lat. 50.0345967625092 Long. -125.27904594999336
N 50 02.076 W 125 16.743