16)    GHOSTS OF READ ISLAND 3:44

 

Read Island is one of the Discovery Islands that lie between Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia.  Legend has it that the southern tip of Read Island had at one time been the stage of a grizzly massacre, and that an entire village had been wiped out by the fierce warriors of the marauding Kwakliuth tribe.


In the 1890's, these Islands were just opening up to emigrants from Western Europe as well as eastern Canada and the United States. The logging industry was in its infancy and frontier coastal life was very much a rough-and-tumble affair.  In 1893-94, Read Island and neighboring Savory Island played host to a number of gruesome murders. Including the one at Taylor's logging camp at Whitestone Bay.

Jack Myers was an outlaw. Small but wiry, he had a short temper and was tough as nails. He'd been a member of an outlaw gang in Wyoming and boasted of having killed four men. 1893 found Myers in jail in Port Blackely, Washington for stealing logs, then, while being held in an Everett, Washington jail on forgery charges, he escaped. With a $100 bounty on his head, Jack Myers made his way to Tumbo Island in the Canadian Gulf Islands where he bought an 18 ft. sloop. He set sail for Burrard Inlet and the town of Vancouver, British Columbia, where he aquired ten cases of stolen "Gaelic" whiskey. Using the alias "Ben Kennedy", he set about bootlegging up the inside passage towards the Discovery Islands.

 

Myers arrived at the Taylor Logging Camp on Read Island (between Quadra & Cortez Islands) with a boatload of stolen Gaelic whiskey. After a weekend of heavy drinking, Myers became irate over a lost bet. When one logger, a gentle giant named Jack O'Conner, tried to subdue him Myers pulled his pistol.

 

An investigation was made by Michael Manson and Frederick Hussey. Myers was tried at New Westminster in November of 1893. Found guilty of manslaughter, he was sentenced by Justice Norman Boles to life imprisonment at the Provincial Penitentiary.  The following fall Myers, while on a work gang, made a break for freedom and was fatally shot by a prison guard.


 

Oh here is a story of poor Jack O'Connor
And the tale that surrounds his untimely demise
Submitted in fact as just one like example
Of such gruesome history Read Island's comprised


The wind weathered rocks on the coast of Read Island
Guard over the mysteries of her own tragic lore
For it's said to this day that the ghosts of Read Island
Appear in the mist of her desolate shores


Jack Myers was a blaggart, a thief and a braggart
Who sold stolen whiskey from his sloop in the bay
When Tayor camp loggers bought up twenty-six bottles
Little they knew such a price would be paid


After a weekend of two fisted drinking
Jack Myers ran amok with an old forty-four
O'er a wager turned sour, on Monday's wee hours
Poor Jack O'Connor lay dead on the floor


The wind weathered rocks on the coast of Read Island
Guard over the mysteries of her own tragic lore
For it's said to this day that the ghosts of Read Island
Appear in the mist of her desolate shores


A magistrate came, Michael Manson by name
Who, along with Fred Hussey performed the inques
Those who witnessed the act testified to facts
And a warrant was issued for Jack Myers arrest


A posse was sworn in and with posted reward
They sailed from Nanaimo on the "Joan" and "Estelle"
When at last they found Myers hold up in Bute Inlet
They brought him for trial, his story to tell


The arm of the law is both strong and far-reaching
Though he swore self-defence, at the end of the day
Jack Myers was sentenced to a long life in prison
For killing O'Connor in a blind drunken rage


The wind weathered rocks on the coast of Read Island
Guard over the mysteries of her own tragic lore
For it's said to this day that the ghosts of Read Island
Appear in the mist of her desolate shores

The wind weathered rocks on the coast of Read Island
Guard over the mysteries of her own tragic lore
For it's said to this day that the ghosts of Read Island
Appear in the mist of her desolate shores

 


Music & lyrics by Bruce Coughlan (SOCAN)

From Tiller’s Folly: A Fine Kettle of Fish Live DVD/CD (2004)


Bruce Coughlan:
lead vocals, acoustic guitar

Laurence Knight: electric bass, vocals
Nolan Murray: fiddle
Eric Reed: mandolin, vocals


Produced by Laurence Knight
Recorded live in concert at the historic Gulf of Georgia Cannery, Steveston, BC Sept 11th, 2004


Recorded by Ron Cote, Roadrunner Mobile Studios.
Mixed by Ron Cote and Eric Reed at NAL Studios, North Vancouver, BC
Mastered by Jamie Sitar at Sound Suite, Vancouver, BC
Re-mastered by Joby Baker, Baker Studios, Victoria, BC