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Phillips, Daisy.

Vancouver, University of British Columbia Press, c1984. 243pp, cloth, $28.95, ISBN 0-7748-0214-6. (Recollections of the Pioneers of British Columbia #5) CIP

Grade 12 and up
Reviewed by Mary Fallis

Volume 13 Number 4
1985 July

The letters now printed in this volume were kept by the daughter of the two letter writers until 1966 when they were sent to the British Columbia Provincial Archives. There ten years later Professor R. Cole Harris encountered them and felt that they should be edited and published. The volume makes the fifth in a series Recollections of the Pioneers of British Columbia, editions of important documents of the colonial and early history of the province, published by the University of British Columbia Press.

Anyone who has belonged to a family that has kept in touch through personal correspondance, or is a descendant of settlers who came to Canada to establish a new life for themselves, will enjoy reading these letters.

Jack Phillips at thirty-seven resigned from the British Army after service as a captain in South Africa and Gibraltar. In London, he read glowing accounts of land for sale in the Windermere Valley, and glowing descriptions of its potential for fruit growing. Daisy Oxley, thirty-five when she married Jack, was one of two daughters of the owner of the Windsor and Eton Express. She had had a comfortable middle-class upbringing. When these two set out in April 1912, Daisy understood that if there were ever a war Jack would be called back to army service.

Like so many immigrants, they would arrive in an isolated community to find that the claims of the Land Company had been misleading. The railway would not be open until 1917, and the irrigation canals had not been built. They bought one thousand acres of raw land.

They lived in a tent under camping conditions while a barn was built, Daisy preparing meals on a camp stove. They lived in the barn while a five room bungalow was built. Land had to be cleared and a first vegetable garden put in. During the time of their stay, the house had neither a water supply nor electricity. Both husband and wife worked long days at farm and household tasks, rewarded by the conviction that they were making a home, and that the home was English.

The details of this pioneering life are kept vibrantly alive in the letters that Daisy, and occasionally Jack, wrote home to Daisy's sister Freda and her mother. These letters going back and forth weekly, and a streak of parcels, kept the writers close to each other. The reader senses the very warm, sympathetic bonds holding this family unit together and finds that the marriage is a warm; strong partnership.

A narrative thread keeps the reader's interest alive as the farm project progresses, a baby's care is added to all the routines, and ultimately Jack's call to report to the Army comes in December 1914.

Physically, the book has been beautifully produced, with pleasing print, paper, binding, and paper cover. There are eight pages of black-and-white pictures, a small map, and an index. Recommended for general reading.

Mary Fallis, Prince George, B.C.
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