Lilian in Quatsino to Mr Mees – April 1930

January 17th, 2016


Quatsino, British Columbia
April 1930

Dear Mr Mees,
Judging from your publications you must be in touch, possibly have a personal wide aquaintance with young folk and so I am taking a shot at long range to see if you can help me to get ‘help’.

If I, as before, could personally select the right boy out of the many thousands, all would be well, but as this is impossible for us, I need someone with judgement to select for me, otherwise the ‘help’ is a failure both ways, to us and to himself. What we need is a boy who is physically fit and strong, good tempered and who is willing to learn to work and wants to work, and the only way a boy can get to know what he wants to do is to try it at home first, in the shape of simple work to see how he makes out. i.e. wheeling loads, using a shovel, digging etc., not playing at it but working with men who are working, this would be a test for muscle and endurance.

The next point is intelligence. Can the boy be taught to think, does he show any cooperation of mind and muscle in his work, does he study the best way to get results with least labour.

We have had two college boys here from England. One is still here but is going on to other work in the fall. With both boys we have found it utterly impossible to teach them to think for themselves. They have to be spoon-fed and looked after all the time.

Modern education is at the bottom of this because they are stuffed with facts that are of no use to them, in a dull way. They are not taught to reason things out for themselves. They are badly fed (overfed, with no regard to a balanced ration for physical and mental fitness) and they do not know the meaning or value of work. These unfortunate boys are turned out by the thousand every year to swell the ranks of the unemployed, knowing nothing worthwhile, not ever with a chance of knowing what they want to do, or are fitted for.

Let me suggest to you that you put over the idea to the public that every school or college should be self supporting, i.e., to have their own farm worked by the boys, their own workshops – mechanical, carpentry, electric, chemistry, technical, surgical – all the needs of modern civilization, and that every boy should work half a day in the job he most likes and was fitted for, with two to three hours of study. This education should consist of being taught to read, write and figures. After that he should educate himself by reading and practical work along any line he wished to take up.

The youth of the country has got to be taught just ordinary common sense – the use of reason. If the world as a whole could tip the balance scale on the side of commonsense, there would be no talk of peace, the nations would meet to decide to what best use the materials now used for destruction should be used for – construction, for industry and agriculture and science. Talk of peace is pure bunk. Peace can only come when the people acquire sufficient commonsense to refuse to settle their differences of opinion by violence, and further, when they get the right men to represent them in government.

A very slight change of public opinion would ensure peace, and a ringing of changes in the “type set” for the hero !

Let me give a local instance of what I mean. In the old days out West the gunman was the hero, gunmen increased, too many good men were murdered in cold blood, public opinion was fed up with guns and got after these men with ropes, the gunman was no longer a hero and he ceased to exist. Then men fought with fist and boot and got laughed at, now they reason a difference of opinion out, agree or disagree.

Apply this to world conditions. The people are fed up with wars. The men of wars are possibly still heroes with their flags and uniforms, but only a slight turn of the wheel is needed before these professions will be ridiculed and despised.


The women of the world could make peace possible in a day if they simply refused to have anything to do with a professional “killer”. The men could make peace tomorrow by refusing to fight – so simple that no one thinks of it ?

But to return to the possible ‘help’. What have we to offer ? Just this – a good home and an all round practical education in what we have had to learn ourselves. We have literally cut a home out of the forest, cleared land and turned it into fertile soil. We grow enough for our own food supply with a surplus to sell, mostly in small fruits and vegetables. Partly it is market garden work and is very similar to work of the same kind at home, except that there are no roads, except the inland Sound, and all traffic is by motor boats, all settlers being located along the waterfront. We cut our own wood supply and clear a little more land each year. This means the use of the big saws and axes and fits a boy if he wishes to move on later to earn good pay in the logging camps.

We have poultry and cows which means cutting hay with a  scythe.  We have the carpenters, plumbers and mechanics to keep things in repair and we provide our own meat and fish supply with troll and gun, never killing for ‘sport’ but only for the necessary food supply which is canned for Winter use.

(‘Troll’ –  to fish with a hook and line that you pull through the water)

Fishing, logging and mining are the main industries here and there is a pulp mill 16 miles (26km) away.

The place would be lonely to a boy who was not interested in his work or used to the country, but to a boy interested in natural history it would be ideal. The woods are full of deer, black bear, elk, some cougars and small animals – coon, mink and  marten.  For a boy fond of animals there is an opening here for fur farming.

We cannot afford to pay wages for the first year as we find that it takes at least a year to train a boy to become of any use. It depends on the boy himself, therefore his people should be able to afford to give him enough money to buy his clothes etc., and pay his passage out and back if found totally unsuitable for this life.

The first boy we had was given a year’s trial and then we got him a job at the mill. Number two boy is a slow steady worker and a good boy in many ways but utterly unable to think out any problem for himself, however simple. He was sent out to us as a “fool” from Wellington College, my husband’s old school. We thought perhaps if he could not learn from books, he might yet learn from life, and his father was very anxious for him to come and gave him an allowance of twenty dollars a month for the first year, which is more than is necessary for clothes, as clothes, with the exception of underwear and blankets are best bought out here.

Other work a boy has to learn is to keep himself and his room clean and tidy, mend and wash his clothes, learn simple cooking etc. In other words learn to be a jack-of-all trades and to be independent. All these things may seem an awful lot and naturally are learned by degrees and are quite simple when tackled the right way.

There are no “prospects” in farming, tho’ agriculture is the wealth of all nations. The farmers, until they are united the world over, will see the riches of the soil go to the men who do not work it. On the other hand there are compensations for hard work, in health, happiness and freedom. The average farmer of the States (U.S.) and Canada can make his own living. The average income is around three to five hundred dollars. In exceptional cases a few make a profit beyond their living expenses where they are on a tourist route or have some means of selling direct to the consumer. Hundreds of farms are owned really by the banks in mortgages

Farmers have made several attempts to organise, which are generally failures for them. It is their own fault for putting the wrong men in charge. Look at the ‘Wheat Pool’, the fatal business policy of trying to get a monopoly and raising the price. If they had succeeded in raising the price, wheat being the world’s “staff of life”, all other prices would have been raised in proportion and the wheat farmer would have been no better off. As it is, the Wheat Pool situation with Aaron Sapiro, the banker’s pawn, in charge – a man who has ruined every farmer’s organisation that he has “managed” – the farmers stand to lose their grain and pay heavy interest on the bank loans, and one can see what this means to the wheat farms of Canada; the wrong principle and the wrong leaders mean failure every time.

 Aaron Leland Sapiro  (1884-1959) was a San Francisco lawyer and spellbinding orator who employed a fine sense of drama in his public appearances

And now to end up. Who are we ? My husband is one of many sons of an old Irish family. His father was a general in the Royal Engineers so Charles had no choice and was trained for the army. He was posted to China but he didn’t care for the profession of legal slaughter so he resigned the first opportunity he got and came home to catch hell from his very military family. When he further told them that he wished to become an ordinary workman and follow out his own line of thought there was one howl of “Disgrace”, so he was shipped out West as the disgrace of the family, and after working in a gold mine and on a ranch as a carpenter’s help etc., he finally came with some other men who were looking for cheap land, to Quatsino.

This location then had a future as the finest inland harbour with rail connections to Victoria – (all squashed by the War). Having got a piece of land and built the usual bachelor’s shack, his thoughts turned to a companion for help. All these years he had been studying the conditions of the working world, the evils of the big cities and the problems humanity is up against today. I for my part was also studying life. My mother was a society woman, my father was an artist, and with these two opposite interests I saw both sides of life, the Bohemian and the Fashionable.

From the start I had a thirst for knowledge and a strong dislike for “society”, their empty lives, empty talk, fashions, gambling etc. Before I was twenty I had been to many of the cities of Europe, studied art in Paris, studied music in Rome, life everywhere, studied the various religious sects, ancient and modern, read the works of the philosophers of Germany, France and Italy and found no truth or satisfaction in them, and finally came back to Ireland where my father had settled down with his sister.

Here I started to ride and became a good rough rider, training horses, often riding in a man’s saddle as I found it easier, having ricked my back in a side-saddle when a horse bolted with me. Riding cross-legged was then considered a terrible thing for a lady to do. A fanatical priest in Tipperary told the people to stone me, but they cheered me on. Other work I took up was photography and my photos and copy were in many well known London papers, dealing chiefly with sport and natural history.

Then  Louis Bleriot  flew the Channel and I studied aeroplanes – the few that had been made – and I lay for hours on the cliffs watching the gulls soaring. Then I said I would make a machine that would fly. Hoots and derision – which did not worry me at all. I made a glider and turned the R.I.C.  (Royal Irish Constabulary)  out to help me to control it and test it and bought the garden boy off my Aunt to start him in his career as mechanic. I then got a twenty horse power engine from  A.V. Roe.  He tested the engine in his small shop and the propeller flew into a hundred splinters with a great scattering of the spectators.

Finally I was ready to fly and flew only short distances it is true, but it was the first machine in Ireland to fly and I had made it all myself. (Flight magazine Vol II December 17, 1910)

My dad was horrified with my success when the machine flew and as I was //// to him I agreed to quit. My dad had also bribed me with a motor car so my next step was to become agent for the Ford motor car, the first in the North of Ireland. I demonstrated what the car could do for fun. No one would look at a Ford car then, they thought it would fall to pieces.

As an agent I was another family disgrace, ‘blacksheep’, ‘crazy’, etc .

It was then that the other family “disgrace”, Charles, came back unannounced from Canada and asked me to marry him, telling me about his work. “What will we live on ?” I asked, being practical. “On hope” was the answer. “All right, you go back and build a house and when you are safely out of the way I will tell them we are married.” And so it was, and so it is.

When I first saw my prospective home, my heart sank for a moment at the unexpected sight of the ground around the log house which looked like a battlefield of dead giants, as the forest around the house had been laid low. “We’ll make a ranch out of it” I said. The man laughed. “That would be impossible” and the woman said “I will never stay here” But that is an old story and the impossible is conquered.

We live in hope of finishing the work we started twenty-five years ago by the boy and girl, each in their own way searching for truth, justice and freedom, and god. And the boy thinking on where other minds stopped, found the truth, worked out the abstract truths of nature and god, linked up the so far separate facts, to a continuous whole, and the two got the work written out in the rough. Now it is a matter of time only to get this into shape. And time, when one has to work for a mere existence is hard to make, hence the need for help.

I have gone into the story of our lives to show you the kind of help we need. A boy can be one of the family, for given the right idea the “idle” classes can turn to honest work and find in it only genuine pleasure. We are really farmers by necessity, for originally we just made this place for a home where we would be free from interference and could work. And as my husband’s small pension is not sufficient to keep us now (my dad used to help us and took the greatest interest in our work) we have to make enough to get by with.

My only daughter died last year. She would have been seventeen this month, a child of the woods, a born naturalist and artist, she was yet my right hand in all practical work, with the skill and energy of an old-timer, utterly unselfish, calm and brave in the face of danger. Death in connection with one so full of life seemed impossible – unreal. She died as bravely as she had lived, without the help that science and civilization might have given to dull the agony – conscious to the end she murmured “Its a hard world”. She had been sheltered from it but she knew the life of work here was hard for a child. The world is too hard for god’s children, no fit place for them to live in as it is now. A beautiful world made evil by inhumanity, by the misuse of god’s gift to men – reason. My beautiful child, a gallant fighter of life’s battle has been promoted to the freedom of the world and the sorrow and loneliness to us must be the /// /// /// towards the good for all.

The whole world is crying for truth and love and the right to be happy, and amongst the babel of many tongues, religious sects and scientists, the truth is hidden in an artificial smoke screen of hypocrisy and lies. The youth of the world commit suicide in despair, with no moral principle, no light of truth to guide them. How often do we see our young people of both sexes, in their loss of the sense of the values of life, committing every kind of suicide.

The Russians will have no artificial god and run with the images and the priests. Wrong method of violence undoubtedly, but founded on an underlying truth. The world itself can no longer hold the religion of the priests and churches, it wants reality: The one true god, the mastermind and artist of all life and the universe.

R.N.Bland, one of my husbands brothers, sent Patricia the C.N. and once in a while we saw a copy of my magazine, and it is the general content of these publications that made me think of writing to you, tho’ I did not intend to write a synopsis of our lives, it just wrote itself once started.

This to introduce to you, a stranger, two lonely pioneers who have given up their lives for the world, and who are getting on in years and need a little help from youth. If you can do anything you will be helping the cause which I suppose you have at heart – to make the world a better place for the children, the men and women of the future.


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