Marge and Bevill Acland

When I was a kid, our family would decamp to Salt Spring Island every few months for a weekend at Acland’s Guest House. Mum in her black Hillman would scoop sister, brother and me at school on Friday. Dad would be doctoring and come later. We drove out Shelbourne Avenue, along East Saanich Road past the little Pat Bay Airport, along Macdonald Road and the Tsehum Harbour lagoon, into a little opening to a tiny ferry slip. There the adventure began.

Here is the MV Cy Peck docking at Swartz Bay:

BC Archives call no. I-20723. Photographer Frank Boucher, 1947. Courtesy Royal British Columbia Museum Corporation.

Here’s Captain Maud, lower R, taking fares:

BC Archives call no. I-20713. Photographer Frank Boucher, 1947. Courtesy Royal British Columbia Museum Corporation.

Looking back to Fulford Harbour from the little twisty seaside road on Salt Spring Island, you might see the Cy Peck chugging away on its return trip:

BC Archives call no. D-00005. Photographer unknown, 1940s. Courtesy Royal British Columbia Museum Corporation.

You would drive up the island, through the tiny hamlet of Ganges (lower R on the map) and, when you reached the golf course (“Ganges Golf Links”) where the greens were sand and sheep cropped the fairways, turn left on Baker Road and follow that roly-poly gravelly ride almost to its terminus:

Map of Salt Spring Island, Davenport, 1924, detail. Courtesy Salt Spring Island Archives.

Acland’s Guest House overlooked Booth Bay:

The 1913 lodge, with its extensive waterfront setting, was long the residence of the Crofton family and, beginning in 1945, the Aclands’.Took these in 1980, when staying over at Booth Bay Resort — Acland’s — on a bike trip. That shore, the other side of The Canal, we called Rainbow Road. It has been developed since this picture.

Beyond the big old maple tree was the board-and-batten cabin, and beyond that a wall of second growth. When little, I sometimes got to stay in  the cabin with brother John. I studied the poster of the diesel passenger train snaking through the mountains while snuggled in bed, mum reading to me — perfect happiness.

Inside cover of The Snow Owl’s Secret by Harriet Evatt (Bobbs-Merrill 1947), illustrated by the author. Loved that little epic of the Eastern Canadian woods — “Find the lost trail when the snow owl’s shadow falls under the tall trees.” I associate that book particularly with the little cabin at Acland’s. Now book read like racist clap-trap. Ugh!

The shingled lodge was surrounded by more than 100 acres of gardens, pasture and forest, with hundreds of feet of waterfront on the open bay and the mysterious Canal. (I’ve seen it styled Booth Inlet, which is more accurate, shapewise.) Westward across the channel were the mountains of Vancouver Island. For a child, it was paradise — water warm enough to swim in summer, a dock and log rafts and a rowboat, and meadows and forest to play in.

Fishing for perch on the Aclands’ endlessly entertaining year-round floating dock. In the shadow of the dock you could see everything in the shallow water. As bait you used whatever you could get your hands on — bits of bullhead, little crabs, clam meat. Photographer possibly Harry Keith, early 1950s, looking west to Vancouver Island; pulp-mill-less Crofton shore at R. More photos of Acland’s by Harry Keith.

Some sort of paradise for adults, too … (Not always, I hope, keeping an eye on us) …

It was the kind of place where the kitchen door was the front door. Where you felt like family.

Bevill Acland with my sister Virginia (then Dinny) and Tor, or Gusty, Norwegian elkhound (there were two), on the steps to the kitchen door.

Bevill, also known as J B and sometimes Jabe, was kindly and retiring, spoke little, muttered a bit; took me to Ganges to shop; always lent us nails and hammers and saws to build rafts.

Inscribed on back: “Taken by Nigel Duncan ‘Aclands’ — Quite good?! Happy birthday darling My bestest love — Marge.” Guthrie collection.

Marge was always kind, and spirited, although not in her eyes, which glittered opaquely. “Pete, darling,” she would say through clenched teeth (clenching a cigarette holder), “You’re in the Telephone Room.”

The kitchen was the heart of it. We were welcome to hang out when Marge was making dinner, usually at the wood stove. Mum and dad would drink the home-made berry wine, and Marge would lean against the sink, wipe her hands on her apron, smoke, take a sip and talk. Marge was intelligent, cultured, rhetorically honed.

Marge made the best Yorkshire puddings, round and puffy, to go with the Saturday roast beast. And the best bread. The buns she made in muffin molds with the bread dough, served late morning fresh from the oven, with a little honey — the best. I do believe mum learned bread-baking from Marge. And mum’s bread was damned good. But Marge’s bread crusts had an indescribably tactile surface — both smooth and rough, with tiny peaks — heavenly aroma, crunchy-chewy texture — well, you could start a religion there. Marge produced a stream of fine cookery. Warm fresh blackberry puddingcake with whipped cream, o my god.

I loved the side porch where the old-fashioned open-top washing machine sloshed away. There was a mesh cooler box where Marge put pies and leftovers. The railing overlooked a flower-lined path and the latched door of the basement where on Saturdays Bevill would load me and John up with gunny sacks full of cans and bottles and send  us off down the path and the steps to the dock and out in the rowboat to sink them in the bay. The cans glinted as they zig-zagged into the dark. You had to fill the bottles to get them to sink.

We went to Acland’s until the summer I was 14, in 1962. When the Aclands sold the place soon after, my father had a hand in the deal, or maybe a later one, which I believe started the career of Booth Bay Resort. Marge and Bevill built a modern wooden bungalow on the hill overlooking. There a group of us assembled in the summer of 1965, when my cousins Eddy and Diny were visiting from France.

From L: Marge Acland, Nonie Guthrie, Diny Beall, Eddy Beall, Dr Mac Edmison, me, mum, Bevill Acland. Grant collection.

To my recollection that was the last time I saw Marge and Bevill.

Marge and Bevill  Acland had two children. We knew their daughter Ione (Nonie) Guthrie and her sons Barnaby (Barns) and Nicholas (Nick) Guthrie. Later, I knew Barns in Victoria through a mutual friend. Photos over a desk in the Lounge at Acland’s showed Marge and Bevill’s son Ion, who lost his life in an aircraft accident during the Second World War.

In 2009 an invitation went out to people who had visited Acland’s over the years: Barns was compiling an album of reminiscences. That exercise got me interested in doing the family’s genealogy. Turns out Marge and Bevill’s origins and early fortunes are pretty well documented. Marge’s family was the Guernseys of London, England, while the Aclands are an ancient family of Devon and Dorset. Both families laid track to the Okanagan Valley. And Oak Bay looms large as Marge and Bevill’s place of residence for more than twenty years, the war years 1915-19 excepted. Barns allowed me to scan photos from the family album of the family’s Beach Drive home and Nonie’s life from schooling to marriage. Serendipitously a poet in Vancouver filled in some details of his Great Aunt Marjorie’s family of origin.

Bevill’s family and early life

John Bevill Acland (1890-1966) descended on his father’s side from a Devon family with inherited titles. His grandfather Arthur Henry Dyke Acland was the second son of Thomas Dyke, tenth baronet Acland of Columb-John, and Lydia Elizabeth Hoare, a prominent London banker’s daughter. The family lived on two enormous estates, Columbjohn and Killerton, near Exeter.

Courtesy lobstertermidor, Wikimedia

Marble bust of Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, 10th Baronet (1787-1871) by Edward Bowring Stephens; signed on base “E B Stephens Sculp London 1844”; Killerton House, Devon.

Arthur married Fanny Williams of London and Bridehead House, Littlebredy, Dorset; her father Robert was a banker; Bridehead is still in the Williams family. Arthur and Fanny had nine children, and they resided at Wollaston House, Dorchester, Dorset (1845), East Teignmouth, Devon (1851) and, beginning in 1852, Huntsham Court, Devon — whereon hangs a tale.  Rev. Dr. Edward Troyte, owner of the 10,000 acre Huntsham estate and its rambling mansion house, died owing the Acland family for a large loan outstanding. Instead he left the Huntsham estate to Arthur Henry Dyke Acland, but “it was a condition of his inheritance that Arthur Acland took the name of Troyte and resided there for six months of every year. By Royal Licence dated 13 August 1852 Arthur Acland assumed the surname and arms of Troyte” (from the informative internet PDF Huntsham – History of Troyte Family). Sure enough, in Alumni Oxonienses: The Members of the University of Oxford, 1715-1886, Arthur (MA 1836) appears in the Ts. Apparently the estate became  a wreck in Rev Troyte’s tenure, and the Aclands threw their best efforts into restoring the on-site church. Fanny and Arthur died within a year (1856 & 1857), when their eighth child, John Edward Acland — Bevill’s father — was just eight years old.

Font in All Saints Church, Huntsham Village. Thanks Among several memorials to Arthur and Fanny Troyte, the font was subscribed by parishioners “in token of the deep regard in which the memory of Fanny, wife of Arthur Troyte, is held … and in gratitude for her unwearied exertions in promoting the welfare of those about her, and her special love for little children ” (Huntsham – History of Troyte Family).

John Edward Acland earned an MA from Oxford, where like his two brothers he learned bell-ringing, a life-long discipline. (His brother Charles, who inherited Huntsham, even wrote a book of instruction, Change Ringing.) John became a Captain in the army, retiring in 1895, by which time he had divested the Troyte name.

On his mother’s side Bevill descended from the Right Honourable George Bankes, Member of Parliament for Corfe Castle, Dorset, 1816-23 and 1826-32, and for Dorset, 1841-1856. He married Georgina Nugent, daughter of Admiral Sir Charles Nugent; they had eight children who survived childhood. Bevill’s grandfather Henry was the third.

Henry Hyde Nugent Bankes, MA (Cambridge 1853) became a London-based lawyer who published a novel, Melchior Gorles: A Tale of Modern Mesmerism, under the pseudonym Henry Aitchenbie (get it?) in 1867. Henry married The Honourable Lalage Letitia Caroline Vivian,  daughter of Richard Hussey, 1st Baron Vivian. She was born in Dublin; they married in Dresden, at “the House of Her Majesty’s Minister Plenipotentiary at the Court of Saxony.”  In the 1875 Upper Ten Thousand it is the Hon. Lalage who is listed, giving as addresses Studland Manor, Dorset and Chantrey House, Eccleston Street, London S. W. Bevill’s mother, Norah Letitia Nugent Bankes, was the eldest of their seven children.

Bevill was born in Birmingham, where the 1891 census shows a family of four children, Bevill the youngest, plus Norah’s sister Dorothy Bankes and five servants. Bevill’s older brother Henry (Paddy) Acland offered a glimpse of family character in his reminiscences of life as a remittance man in the Okanagan Valley, recorded and preserved at the BC Archives: their father “held the purse-strings” and so called the shots. “I could sure get rid of money in a hurry,” Paddy confessed.

In 1901 Bevill was boarding at Cleveland House School in Dorset. At age 19 he joined his brother in the Okanagan Valley. In the 1911 census he turns up Tiverton, Devon, a farmer visiting from Canada, staying at Blundell’s School House with a pageful of teenage male boarders. Blundell’s, founded 1604, was Bevill’s alma mater — though that information comes from a genealogy website that also has a schoolboy photo purported to be of Bevill who factchecking shows to be some other youth. Where Bevill’s wartime attestation claimed three years’ prior military service with “Territorial Force, Devon,” one might assume it was his school cadet corps, but nothing comes to light.

By 1913 Bevill was living in Victoria; employed as a clerk in the BC government; a resident of James Bay. How he came here, I don’t know. Tired of the farming life? Job offer? Following someone?

Marge’s family of origin

Marjorie Guernsey (1896-1977) was born in Paradise, Humboldt County, Nevada to Harriet Mary Browning and Herbert Guernsey. The family’s peregrinations were outlined in a  2008 article in the Vancouver Sun by Robin Garland, who descends from Marge’s sister Nora. Garland’s account was based in part on Marge and Nora’s brother Hugh Guernsey’s memoir A Naval Career. Herbert’s father, James Herbert Guernsey, an underwriter and insurance broker, was a Londoner, from Southwerk. He married Louisa Smith in 1864, and they settled in Woodford, on the east side of London, where Herbert was born. “Born in 1866,” Garland writes, “my great-grandfather Herbert Guernsey immigrated to the United States in the 1880s, where he managed a ranch for the Nevada Land and Cattle Company. He was followed by his childhood sweetheart and they were married in Denver. Their first three children, one of them my grandmother (March 1894) were born on the ranch.” (On his death record, Herbert’s second wife Ruth Blair put down as his birthdate June 12, 1867.) Nothing further is known about Herbert’s childhood. Similarly, what took him to Nevada? — the record is silent.

The sweetheart who became the mother of Marge was Harriett Browning of “Auchnagie, Tullymet, Parish of Logierait, Perth” — so it appears on her birth registration — in Scotland.

Auchnagie and Tullymet on 1867 Ordnance Survey mapsheet XL, Perthshire. Thanks to the awesome National Library of Scotland website.

Harriett Browning was the daughter of an officer of Inland Revenue, English born, who died in 1874 and a mother, also English, who subsequently disappears from the record, leaving Harriett (in the 1881 census) a resident of the Slough British Orphan Asylum at Upton cum Chalvey, Buckinghamshire, at age 15, place of birth Pitlochry, Perthshire. Pitlochry is about a mile up the road from Auchnagie.

Whatever Harriett’s pathway to Nevada, she married Herbert on March 31, 1891 in Arapahoe County, Colorado. (Denver was part of Arapahoe Co until 1902.) In 1892 Herbert was appointed postmaster of Fairlawn, Elko County, Nevada. Fairlawn was the company town, and the post office was in the general store; Herbert was postmaster there until August 1898. The spread Herbert managed may have been called the Squaw Valley Ranch. The “Paradise” where Marge was born on February 15, 1896 may have been Paradise Valley, a couple of mountain ranges northwest of Fairlawn on this 1896 map:

The linkage of the two places in the family history is not clear.

“In 1898,” Robin Garland’s narrative continues, “Herbert considered it his duty to return to Britain and go and fight in the Boer War, and also it was time for the three children to begin their education.” (Yikes, Marge was two at the time — maybe a little young for boarding school? When did Marge’s parents pack her off? And where to?) Their brother Hugh was born in Cornwall in 1900. Of Herbert’s contribution to the Boer War nothing comes to light, but he did make a trip between England and America in 1899. The Guernsey family’s many appearances on passenger lists over decades weave a pattern of trans-Atlantic travel.

“On his return from the war in South Africa,” the Garland narrative continues, “Herbert came to Canada to go big-game hunting and also to pan for gold in the Klondike.

“In 1904, he bought a ranch in Grande Prairie (now Westwold) and sent for his wife and two youngest children, leaving the three oldest to be educated in England … [He also owned] the Eldorado Ranch near Kelowna and White Lake Ranch near Penticton.” In 1910 Herbert ran the general store in Grande Prairie and was the postmaster.

Eventually the three eldest girls’ schooling in England wound up. Marge, according to the 1921 census, immigrated to Canada in 1911. At some point, the family reunited in England. Their return to Canada in April 1912 involved a brush with Fate. The story is rendered from Ms Garland’s mother’s memoirs: “’Herbert promised them that they should all travel on the Titanic … which was soon to make its maiden voyage. As he was walking down Cockspur Street going to make the necessary reservations, he had a premonition of impending disaster, and much to the disappointment of his family, they sailed on … the Victorian of the Allan Line.’” Six children Florence (20), Nora (19), Marjorie (16), Gladys (11), Hugh (10) and Mollie (4) — appear on the passenger list of the Victorian arriving at Halifax on April 20, 1912 with their parents, from Liverpool.

Marge and Bevill in Oak Bay (1)

The Guernsey family resettled in Victoria. Robin Garland relates that “Herbert Guernsey had taken his daughters to Victoria to bring them into society.” The plan seems to have worked wonders — the three eldest daughters were married within sixteen months, running the meter from the “fancy dress ball” at Christmas 1912 when Nora met Colin Mackenzie. He and his brother had come down to Victoria from Strathyre, Colin’s quarter-section south of Kamloops. The brothers Mackenzie attended the ball in kilted finery and met the Misses Guernsey, but especially Colin met Miss Nora. By mid-January 1913, “Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Guernsey of Rockland Avenue announce the engagement of their second daughter Nora Constance …” By the time the couple was married in Christ Church Cathedral on August 27, 1913, it was “Mr. Herbert Guernsey, J.P., F.R.G.S.,* and Mrs. Guernsey, Beach Drive, Oak Bay.” Nora’s attendants were her sisters, Florence, Marjorie, Gladys and Mollie who was the train-bearer. And who should be in Nora and Colin’s wedding party as an usher? — Mr. J. B. Acland. The nature of Bevill’s association with the bridegroom is not known. Perhaps it was a friendship with the Guernsey family that got Bevill into the wedding party. Or did Marge and Bevill actually meet at the time of the wedding? History is silent.

* I believe letters are suggestive of character and social standing: “J.P.” = Justice of the Peace, therefore a person of probity; “F.R.G.S.” = Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society, so likely a gentleman of means, possibly an amateur scientist or (more romantic) an explorer or (less romantic) a trophy hunter.

In mid-October, another wedding: Florence, the eldest, at St Mary’s Church, Oak Bay. The first wedding got a big write-up in the Colonist newspaper; the second got a smaller write-up. When, less than five months later, a third wedding transpired, the write-up was even shorter, but it packed quite a punch.

Marge and Bevill were married on March 7, 1914, and the Daily Colonist was  there:

A quiet but very pretty wedding was solemnized yesterday at St. Mary’s Church, Oak Bay, when Miss Marjorie Guernsey, the third daughter of Mr. Herbert Guernsey, J.P., F.R.G.S., and Mrs. Guernsey, of 1070 Joan Crescent, Victoria, and St. John, was married to Mr. John Bevill Acland, third son of Captain and Mrs. Acland, Wollaston House, Dorset, England, before a few of their intimate friends. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. G. H. Andrews, M.A. Owing to the unavoidable absence of Mr. Guernsey, the bride was given away by her mother. She was attired in a tailored suit of navy blue cloth with hat en suite, and carried a shower bouquet of bridal roses and lilies of the valley. Little Miss Mollie Guernsey, who made a sweetly pretty flower girl, wore a charming little frock of white satin and Dutch lace cap, trimmed with pearls, with streamers of pink ribbon finished with carnations, and carrying an exquisite basket of carnations and friesias. The groom was supported by Mr. H. Browning of Victoria, and Mr. Hugh Guernsey acted as usher. The happy couple left by the 3:30 boat for the Mainland, where they will take up their residence. Miss Guernsey has a large circle of friends in this city, and Mr. Acland is a promising player in the Wanderers Rugby Club, and a sergeant in the 88th Regiment.

A couple of details skew the pretty picture. “Quiet” … The navy outfit … Her dad’s absence. I ponder the scene. Marge had just, on February 15, turned 18. Herbert returned from England about the same time — his ship landed at St. John’s on January 31 — so it’s likely he was at home when, I presume, an announcement was made, a wedding negotiated and the date set. For it is likely, although not 100 percent certain, that Marge had just discovered, or was about to discover, that she was pregnant. Ion was born on October 17, which suggests conception in mid-January. About the many possible circumstances surrounding the Aclands’ marriage and Herbert’s absence, the record is — no surprise — mute.

By that time Bevill was living in Oak Bay — at 2147 Oak Bay Avenue — and working as a clerk in the Department of Agriculture; doubtless playing not so much rugby but drilling more. Then world-historical events came crashing in.

Deadly trench warfare started after the German army invaded Belgium in August 1914 and was met by the Allied forces of France, Britain, Canada, Australia and other members of the British and French empires. Bevill was already militarized when war broke out, and he was promoted from sergeant to lieutenant in the 88th Victoria Fusiliers on September 1, 1914. Bevill appears in the 1915 city  directory: the family was living at 1454 Begbie Street in Fernwood. By that time the 88th was supplying huge numbers of volunteers to the war in Belgium. In March 1915, the Canadian Expeditionary Force began drafting men from the regiment into the newly-formed 48th Battalion (British Columbia). Bevill was Taken on Strength with the 48th on March 19. His brother Paddy was also a lieutenant in the battalion. Training for overseas action notched up at Willows Camp.

You would see the 88th practice trench-digging at Clover Point:

BC Archives call no. J-00121. Courtesy Royal British Columbia Museum Corporation.

Or you’d see the 48th marching around town, no doubt fresh from a circuit of Cordova Bay and Elk Lake, as in this famous photo:

BC Archives call no. I-60880. Courtesy Royal British Columbia Museum Corporation.

Bevill is in the portrait of the 48th officers published in the Colonist on May 26. (The microfilm capture of the image is, unfortunately, totally black.) On June 25, W. A. Pomeroy, “leaving shortly for the front with the 48th battalion,” was reported to have received “a pocket Kodak from the staff of the post office inspector’s office.” The departure likely involved marching to the CPR Steamship dock to board a boat to Vancouver, whence onto eastbound trains. It escaped the notice of the Colonist or Times and was not memorialized in any form I could uncover. What is known is t hat the battalion shipped out of Montreal on July 1, 1915.

The Aclands in the Great War

Bevill participated in the terrible Battle of the Somme in 1916. He was mentioned in General Haig’s Despatches, which listed those “whose distinguished and gallant services and devotion to duty I consider deserving of special mention.” Bevill was wounded in action. I never heard any of that. Did anyone? Bevill’s army career, and the family’s relocations, can be reconstructed from his personnel files. Library and Archives Canada has scanned and made them accessible, along with the war diaries of the commanding officer of Bevill’s battalion.

Record of promotions, reductions, transfers, casulties, etc., during active service. The authority to be quoted in each case.” For Lieutenant John Bevill Acland, 48th Battalion, pp 88-89 (of 120) in “Canada, WWI CEF Personnel Files, 1914-1918,” at

Bevill signed his attestation paper for the C.E.F. on August 8, 1915, at Lydd, Kent. Curiously, a Separation Allowance form has Mrs Marjorie Acland at the Salt Head Hotel, Salcombe, Devon beginning March 19, 1915; with notations (but not denotations) for April (42) and May (30). By August 8, Marge had taken up residence at her Acland father-in-law’s family manse, Wollaston House, in Dorchester.

2 thoughts on “Marge and Bevill Acland”

  1. Thanks so much for all this wonderful information about the Acland family! My Mom and Dad took us there each summer in the early 1950’s from our home of White Rock. We have some wonderful memories of our holidays at Ackland’s!
    Kathie (Carmody) Warning

  2. Hello Peter
    Looking for information on Ion Acland for the Oak Bay High School Archives. For many years, silver cup was presented annually in his honour, to a student who excelled in sports, academics and citizenship-the qualities exemplified by Ion Acland. Do you have any biographical details that would help us document this trophy presented in his honour.

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