By Beth Boyce,
Museum at Campbell River
Bob Evans (April 9, 1930 to July 27, 2020) was a carpenter, a lover of rivers, a Haig-Brown enthusiast and a book collector.
His collection, meticulously documented, contains nearly every edition of every book and article ever written by Roderick Haig-Brown, and several more written about Roderick Haig-Brown. It all started in the early 1960s when his wife Pat purchased A River Never Sleeps for him as a Christmas gift.
When Alison’s Fishing Birds, originally written in 1939-1940, was published by Colophon Books as a collector’s limited edition in 1980, Bob made sure to include each variation of the publication in his growing collection. Although not published during Haig-Brown’s lifetime, it has the distinction of being the only published story he wrote specifically for young children. The Colophon Books edition was carefully typeset and beautifully illustrated by artist Jim Rimmer with both sketches and linocut prints.
Bob, whose hobby, in addition to book collecting, was carving wooden hunting decoys and other birds, was inspired by these illustrations. He spent several months in late 2000 and early 2001 lovingly carving each one. He described his desire to carve each of Alison’s birds as “my tribute to Roderick Haig-Brown who has given me many years of pleasure as a reader and a Book Collector.”
My favourite room at the Haig-Brown Heritage House is the Study; the room where Roderick wrote, and where the family’s library is housed. It has a warm atmosphere and is a space that invites you to sit down on the couch, spend some time and soak it all in. Similarly, Bob had his own study in his home where his Haig-Brown Collection was kept. Although smaller in scale, his study had the same inviting atmosphere, and a really comfortable rocking chair, from which you could take it all in. Bob’s study was decorated not only by his books, but also by the many carvings of birds he had made over the years. The decoys lined the tops of the custom-built bookshelves, and Alison’s birds could be seen throughout the room.
Scholars and researchers interested in the writings of Haig-Brown would often get in touch with Bob to view his collection, and read some of the harder to find pieces contained within.
Before he passed away, Bob donated his entire Haig-Brown Collection, which thankfully included these beautiful carvings, to the Museum at Campbell River. Bob wanted to ensure his collection would be cared for and accessible for future researchers to use. The Museum plans for the books to be displayed together in a specially made enclosed bookcase next to the Archives Research Room and will be made available to researchers by appointment, much as it would have been through Bob himself.
Bob’s carvings of Alison’s birds will soon be on display in the Museum’s Recent Acquisitions case next to the Westmin Theatre as a tribute to Bob Evans. He will be greatly missed by the staff here at the Museum.
On a related note, if you have not yet read Alison’s Fishing Birds you are in luck, as it was recently re-published in a trade edition by Caitlin Press and beautifully illustrated by Sheryl McDougald. It begins: “It is rather well worth writing about all Alison’s birds, for at least two reasons. First, because Alison’s house beside the river, the brown house with the pale blue trim on the windows, is in just the right place for Alison to see a lot of birds. And secondly because Alison is a quick little girl who likes to watch birds as well as almost anything, so that she generally sees what the birds are really like and what they really do.”
I was thoroughly charmed by this delightful story, and if that is not endorsement enough, it has recently received my son’s stamp of approval (age 4). His favourite bird is Alison’s Dipper.