A recent public meeting in East Sooke regarding the property now used by the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue as a training base brought back memories of Alexander Gillespie’s farming days.
After working further north in the Skeena River district as a land surveyor, Alexander Gillespie bought the acreage in 1910 as a home for his wife, Rose Ellen Todd and his growing family.
The builder of the Gillespie home in 1911 was a carpenter called Owens. When the family needed more space, the Richardson brothers made an extensive addition to the original farmhouse. Due to the Gillespie family’s connections to prominent business and political families, the home became somewhat of a social centre in the sparsely populated East Sooke area.
The photo shows Gillespie in 1918 at the waterfront property with his daughters Daphne, Sheila and Jean as they pose with a “stone boat,” used to gather and haul rocks off the farm fields.
Alexander Gillespie farmed until 1929, becoming known for his Jersey cattle and prize-winning seed potatoes, and then went into business in Victoria.
This image came to us from their daughter Sheila, who had grown up to marry a physician, Dr. Andy Anderson, whom she met on a boat trip to Hong Kong. Of Sheila’s three children, David Anderson, longtime federal politician and one-time minister of Fisheries and Oceans, is probably the best-known.
The Gillespies had originally bought the property from Aleured Walker. When the Gillespie family left for Victoria, it became a guest resort called Glenairley. It became a popular resort and, in 1950, was purchased by Ray and Grace Horgan, who had previously owned another guest house, Seagirt. The Horgans ran the place until 1960 and then decided to present the beautiful waterfront estate to the Roman Catholic Sisters of St. Anne as a retreat for nuns.
With changing times, the sisters let the fabled property go, and for most of the last decade, it has taken on a totally different role, becoming respected as a centre of marine safety.
While Sheila married Dr. Anderson, Daphne married George Barnes, Jean, also known as Jinky, married George Gaisford, and the youngest, Rosanna, married Herbert Hammond.
Vancouver Island is still home to the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Alexander and Rose Ellen Gillespie.
Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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