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Benjamin John Cornish, 1862-1946

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Published Historical Articles


Benjamin John Cornish was an early pioneer, who migrated to Canada from England in 1887 and played a pivotal role in the settlement of the north shore of Vancouver's Burrard Inlet. Cornish was a skilled craftsman and builder, responsible for making the grand spiral staircase in Vancouver's Carnegie Library (1903), and building Fernie's court house, which was completed in the spring of 1908, but unfortunately burnt down in the great fire of August of that year. Cornish, together with his friend William Keene, were two of the earliest settlers on the upper slopes of what is now North Vancouver, and Cornish House, built in 1911 in a Tudor revival style remains as a testament to his legacy.

My articles on Cornish are published in the North Shore News and the North Shore Heritage Blog.

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Vancouver's Carnegie Library, which opened in 1903. Opposite is a recent photograph of the spiral staircase.

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Cornish's family were from Taunton, Somerset, England and can be traced back to the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685, an attempt by James Scott, First Duke of Monmouth (the illegitimate son of protestant king, Charles II), to overthrown the newly crowned James II, a catholic – a campaign that failed at the Battle of Sedgemoor. This family tree, compiled by Benjamin Cornish, remains in the possession of his granddaughter, Penelope.

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Benjamin Cornish and his wife, Daisy Clara Rischmann, who married in 1899.

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An early photograph of Lonsdale Avenue, North Vancouver, taken in 1910. Passage from the waterfront up the hill had been enhanced by the construction of a dirt road replacing the original skid track used for logging, together with, in 1906, the installation of an electric tram service. 

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Benjamin John Cornish and Daisy Clara Rischmann's marriage certificate dated 29th April 1899

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Present day photographs of Cornish House

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Donald Hings, 1907-2004

Inventor of the "Walkie Talkie"

Donald Hings is famous for inventing the "Walkie Talkie", a two way portable radio used by the Allies to communicate during World War 2.


Born in Leicester, England, Donald was only three when his mother migrated to Canada. Separated from her husband after a short-lived marriage, Winifred Mary Hings was tasked with bringing up a young boy on her own. 


Initially, she and Donald settled in Lethbridge, Alberta before relocating when Donald was about nine years old to Vancouver. Winifred found work as a bookkeeper with the British Columbia Electric Railway, whilst lodging at 646 West 10th Street. Donald attended Chesterfield School in North Vancouver, likely as a boarder. Crucially, given the direction his career was to take, he was introduced to wireless communications. By the age of 14 he had built his own crystal radio set. It was to be a lifelong interest that - coupled with his instinct for tinkering - would lead to amazing discoveries.

My article on Hings is published in the North Shore News.

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Donald, aged around 9 at Lethbridge, Alberta

North Vancouver’s Coles Brothers were War Time Flyers

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Art Coles flew Spitfires with 412 Squadron

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George Coles (third from right) flew Lancaster Bombers with 617 (Dambusters) Squadron

It’s eighty years since news arrived in 1943 that Arthur and George Coles were missing in action. Flying Spitfires and Lancaster Bombers, respectively, each of the brothers from North Vancouver was doing his bit for the Allies in the fight against the Nazi war machine. One brother was to survive the Second World War, the other tragically did not.

My article on the Coles Brothers is published in the North Shore News.

Other recent articles published in the North Shore Heritage Blog (click on link to view):

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