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Measure of the Year

A Look Back at the History of the Campbell River Area – Museum at Campbell River
View of the Haig-Brown House, before the addition of the study, in a winter snow, circa late 1930’s. Haig-Brown House Collection, Courtesy Museum at Campbell River

Our expected cold is in January and February. December is wet for the most part, alternations of frost and heavy, rain-filled gales from the southeast. But this year the steady cold has come early; there has been snow on the ground since the first of the month, night after night has been silent and gleaming with frost and there has been little thawing through the days. – Roderick Haig-Brown, Measure of the Year, 1950

Written more than 70 years ago by Campbell River’s notable preeminent author, Roderick Haig-Brown this description of the month of December could easily be mistaken as a description of our current weather conditions. This holds true for this passage and many others featured in Haig-Brown’s book Measure of the Year, Reflections on Home, Family and Life Fully Lived.

Roderick was a prolific author of more than 30 works who made his home, with his wife Ann on the banks of the Campbell River. Their home, which they called Above Tide is preserved as a heritage site and serves as a tangible link to this remarkable couple who lead exemplary lives of community service.

In addition to his writing and environmental work, Roderick served as a magistrate and provincial court judge in Campbell River for over 30 years. He and Ann actively participated in many community groups and discussions and hosted many gatherings at their home.

In later years, Ann worked as a high school librarian and is remembered for the positive influence she had on the students. She shared Roderick’s concerns regarding the environment and was a champion for several of the community’s social service organizations. Ann frequently provided shelter for women in need until a transition house opened in Campbell River and named in her honour.

Measure of the Year offers a timeless glimpse into life at Above Tide. Roderick took life seriously and had a keen reflective eye which he honed to consider the world around him. The pages of this book are brimming with Roderick’s reflections and common-sense approach on a wide range of topics. It provides a lasting portrait of his family, the environment and community.

Published in 1950, Measure of the Year presents a chapter for each month in the lives of the farm, the Haig-Brown family, the community, and nature that surrounds them. It is a record of a different time and could be easy to dismiss as a quaint reflection of times past. This is not the case, from Roderick’s reflections on Canada’s treatment of Indigenous and Japanese-Canadian peoples to his concerns about our impact on the environment, the pages of this book are full of passages that are relevant to our lives today.

If the Haig-Brown Heritage property is a tangible reminder of Roderick and Ann, then Measure of the Year serves to bring them to life. In 2021 the Museum wrapped up a podcast project which explored this classic work. Taking Measure, hosted by well-respected Campbell Riverite Dan MacLennan, is a 12-part series which mirrors the book. From family and community members to long time admirers of the Haig-Browns, the podcast series adds another layer to our understanding of life at Above Tide.

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