5)    JOHN TOD 3:55

 

"Had the mouth been small, the mighty brain would have burst; as it was, the stream of communication once set flowing, and every limb and fiber of the body talked, the blazing eyes, the electrified hair, and the well-poised tongue all dancing attendance. ...Tod could no more tell his story seated in a chair than he could fly to Jupiter while chained to the rock of Gibraltar; arms, legs, and vertebrae were all brought into requisition, while high-hued information, bombed with oaths, burst from his breast like lava from Etna." - Hubert Howe Bancroft, who interviewed an elderly John Tod shortly before his death in 1882.

 

John Tod led an extraordinary life. He was born a little over 200 years ago. When he was only 14 he left his home in Scotland bound for the wilds of Rupert’s Land (now Western Canada). Tod spent the next 40 years in the fur trade, exploring the vast wilderness from Hudson’s Bay to the Pacific Fur region then named “New Caledonia”

 

In his 87 years he’d seen it all. He’d witnessed firsthand the bloodshed between rival companies the Hudson’s Bay and North West Companies. In his time he had endured unspeakable hardships. He’d known 4 wives and raised ten children. Taught himself to play the fiddle and flute. Upon retiring from the fir trade John Tod was elected a member of British Columbia’s first legislature.

 

John Tod became Victoria’s very first retiree and the house he built at Oak Bay 150 years ago is the oldest residence in our province. 


 

Late last evening I had a dream
I met John Tod on the Oak Bay Road
The weathered old ghost of a Hudson’s Bay Trader
With lop-sided grin and old tattered cloths

 

He’d left his home on the Vale of Leven
Left Stornawa’ on the Edward & Ann
He crossed the great ocean in 1811
Through Hudson’s Bay and to Rupert’s Land

 

It’s hard imagine the span of a lifetime
As ­­­riddled with peril or moulded by change
Yet he would recall in fondest reflection
The youthful adventures of his former days

 

Where are ye now, my Hudson’s Bay brothers?
And where are ye now, my comrades of old?
W’ James Murray Yale or Edward Ermatinger
We lived with the Cayuse & Carriers bold

 

He told how they fought the valiant Nor’Westers
Along the Saskatchewan, long, long ago
And came to this place called “New Caledonia”
A land of promise and riches untold

 

And as the dream ends, I turned to look back
I see the procession advance down the road
Twenty-eight carriages draped in black crepe
As the world bids adieu to old John Tod

 

It’s hard imagine the span of a lifetime
As ­­­riddled with peril or moulded by change
Yet he would recall in fondest reflection
The youthful adventures of his former days

 

Music & lyrics by Bruce Coughlan (SOCAN)
From Tiller’s Folly: A Ripple In Time CD (2002)

Bruce Coughlan: lead vocals, woodflute, whistles
Laurence Knight: electric bass
Nolan Murray: fiddle, 5-string banjo & mandolin
Robbie Steininger: acoustic guitar
Phil Robertson: drums

Produced by Laurence Knight
Engineered by John Ellis & Eric Reed
Recorded at Magic Lab Studios, Surrey, BC and Red Stripe Studios, Burnaby, BC
Mixed at The Factory, Vancouver, BC, Sheldon Zaharko, assisting.
Mastered by Jamie Sitar, SoundSuite, Vancouver, BC.
Re-mastered by Joby Baker, Baker Studios, Victoria, BC.