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1910::The Building of a Road by Ernest McGaffey

Updated: Apr 10, 2023

Poetry inspired by Vancouver Island's Malahat Highway.

1910::Poem about Vancouver Island's Malahat Highway by Ernest McGaffey

"1910::The Building of a Road"

Clip: Man to Man Magazine (1910) Vancouver, British Columbia

Poet: Ernest McGaffey (1876-1941)

Ernest McGaffey was a Scot and a lawyer who was drawn more to writing poetry than practicing law. Nonetheless, he partnered with Chicago's best, and together their firm took on some of the most notable cases in the city's history. In 1896, McGaffey began writing for the Chicago Chronicle, and his work was noticed by the city's mayor. Carter Harrison, a 5-term Chicago Mayor and cousin to two American Presidents, was so impressed by McGaffey's writing that he hired him as his personal assistant, paying the difference in McGaffey's salary out of his pocket. With new connections and success as a poet, McGaffey became Press Agent to President Theodore Roosevelt. Soon his fame as a writer reached far and wide. But when Chicago's harsh winters began to take their toll, a move to the West Coast became a matter of health.

1910::The Malahat Highway Workers

"1910::The Malahat Highway Workers"

Clip: Man to Man Magazine (1910) Vancouver, British Columbia

McGaffey spent his first year on the coast working for an Oregon newspaper. In 1909, while vacationing in Victoria, he connected with the Vancouver Island Development League and, within two weeks, became their new secretary. For the next several years, McGaffey travelled door-to-door, visiting cities and towns in the remotest areas of British Columbia. He worked on promotional campaigns with townspeople who wished to attract money-spending automobile tourists to their location.

1914::A Hundred Years From Now

Closer to home, Vancouver Island's most extensive promotional campaign was preparing to launch the new Malahat Highway.

"1914::A Hundred Years From Now"

Clip: Daily News Advertiser (1914)

Vancouver, British Columbia

Poet: Ernest McGaffey

Weeks before the completion of the new road between Goldstream and Mill Bay at the south end of the island, McGaffey, along with Victoria's soon-to-be mayor Albert Todd, walked the entire route on an inspection journey. They took photos of the road, the workers and the views from the summit, which inspired McGaffey to write poetry about the island's new connection.

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