This scene shows one of the state rooms in the Spanish Embassy at The Hague, in the Netherlands, as Sooke’s Susan McLean presented the image of Sooke volunteers posed at Whiffin Spit’s Quimper Park, to Spanish Ambassador Antonio Jose Fournier. (Sooke Region Museum)

SOOKE HISTORY: A gift to Spain

Spanish ambassador Antonio Jose Fournier played key role in bicentennial celebrations

ELIDA PEERS | Contributed

When municipal doors open again in Sooke, and if one were to walk up the stairs to the council chamber, one could view the exact same piece of art shown here, as Sooke volunteer Susan McLean presented the artwork to Spanish ambassador Antonio Jose Fournier on a trip to Europe.

The framed photo was taken by Guy Sheilds, showing a group of bicentennial supporters posed in the park at the base of Whiffin Spit in 1991.

Two copies of this group photo were made, one to be kept for Sooke’s collection, while the other travelled to Europe for presentation to the Spanish ambassador, who was posted to The Hague in the Netherlands, after his posting to Canada, where he had been serving at the time of our bicentennial celebrations.

Ambassador Fournier played a key role in the international celebrations, which highlighted the voyage of discovery taken by Spain’s Sub-Lt. Manuel Quimper in June 1790.

During the bicentennial re-enactment of June 1990, the ambassador was hosted not only by then-chief of the T’Sou-ke, Larry Underwood, but by regional director Bob Clark, and the next year, when he arranged for the voyage to B.C. of the sailing vessel Juan Sebastian de Elcano, he was hosted by regional director Lorna Barry.

It was on his second Sooke visit that he and his cousin, Capt. Pedro LaPique, master of the Elcano, presented Sooke with the bust of Quimper, seen in the park today, as a gift from the king of Spain.

The bronze Quimper bust joined with the two monuments seen in this photo, one carved by T’Sou-ke artist Darlene George, and one by Sooke artist Anton Gsellmann.

Sooke’s volunteer spirit was in full swing, and literally many hundreds of volunteers were responsible for making all of the celebration events, organized by Sooke Festival Society, into successful, happy, and proud occasions.

Another of the special happenings was a competition organized by the Spanish Embassy, which offered a trip to Spain for a student writing the best essay on Spain’s presence in B.C. in the 1790s.

Edward Milne Community School student Theressa McWhirter’s entry was selected, and she chose to take her grandmother on her exciting trip.

Theressa was kind enough to bring a souvenir plate back as a gift for me, and I would love to know if Theressa is still in town as I’d like to return her gift back to her as a keepsake.


Elida Peers is the Sooke Region Museum historian.

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