1858 engraving of Victoria

Colonial History Vancouver Island

Maureen Duffus - Author and Historian


Reviews - Old Langford

Local histories are important and useful
Condensed from British Columbia History, the magazine of the BC Historical Federation, Vol. 38 No. 2
(Dave Parker, archivist, Township of Esquimalt)

Few would argue that local histories are important and useful, and that this is especially true where the author has a long and personal association with the subject. In that circumstance a local history can both impart information and create interest, but can also, and this is significant, leave the reader with a feeling that they both know and understand the subject in a way that is almost 'comfortable and familiar'; that is rarer than one might think. Maureen Duffus, an experienced researcher and writer/editor of three Victoria area histories, has accomplished this in Old Langford.

Stories of individual families provide a solid base for a community history and the obvious starting point in this case is that of the Edward Langford family which arrived in the colony a mere eight years after the building of Fort Victoria. ... The first section of the book includes an account of Langford's time at the farm he called "Colwood," and incorporates a description of what today would be termed 'life style' over the succeeding decade. Other families - including the author's who were early residents - are part of the record.

Important events are included, such as the only local gold discovery at a spot, optimistically termed Goldstream ... The story of the region's roads provides a thread that effectively connects Langford proper to other locations of the area: Happy Valley, Florence Lake and Langford Lake.

All too often the effect of two World Wars and the Great Depression on residents may not be included in a local history, in this case ... they are.

Maps, photos, material from interviews and well-chosen excerpts from primary sources ... give the narrative life and immediacy.

Goldstream bridge
Goldstream Bridge circa 1900

Langford's Colourful History sure to be a best seller
Condensed from Dr. G. E. Mortimore column, Think About It, Goldstream News Gazette, Dec. 17, 2003

Captain Edward Langford, an impoverished English gentleman farmer and hired farm manager in the service of the Hudson's Bay Company, stayed only two years in and near the place that now bears his name. Then he sailed back to England in disgrace.

Was his disgrace deserved? Was he a capable farm manager, clear-sighted political analyst and campaigner for good government, or was he a bumbling freeloader and spendthrift?

Historian Maureen Duffus cuts right down the middle with careful answers to such questions in her recently launched book. ... This ornamental paperback is flying off the shelf in best-seller numbers at Munro's book store.

Recalling the colonial time ... Maureen maintains an impartial viewpoint as she puzzles out Captain Langford's character, but an inference may be drawn from the political phase of her story. Langford was the victim of dirty tricks played by the dominant Hudson's Bay Company clique.

For most of Langford's stay on Vancouver Island, politics was his secondary pursuit. His day job as Hudson's Bay bailiff was the management of a 600-acre farm established by the Puget Sound Agricultural Company, an HBC subsidiary. Then politics became his obsession.

Maureen's amusing but solidly researched ramble through the local past has more in common with a television documentary ... set it to music, add some animated graphics and quotations from the personal letters in the style of Ken Burns's Civil War, and it could outshine the late Harvey Kirck's Sketches of Our Town, which is still running on the History Channel.

Moving fast forward to recent times, this book opens up so many intriguing thoughts that I want to take another tour through it.

Pioneer Names
Ron MacIsaac's review for Island News, Spring, 2004

Duffus has done a great job of fleshing out the pioneer names of this old gold rush town. All the old names are in the back of the book. It is amazing how many [of today's] community activists can trace their lineage to the pioneers written about in the book. It's a keeper.

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