Two young women out for a drive – how different this scene looks compared to what you see now! I’ll bet many young women of today would love having a spin in this automobile, though – could anyone identify it? Ainslie Helmcken, the onetime City of Victoria archivist, gave us this 1910-1912 photo years ago but could not name the vehicle.
This photo shows two young women, both daughters of Victoria physicians, in what must have been the smartest outfits of the day for young women from affluent families to go motoring in one of the new horseless carriages.
Eleanor Hannington is the driver’s seat, daughter of a Victoria doctor, while seated behind her is Cecilia Helmcken, a great-granddaughter of Sir James Douglas, the first governor of B.C., and his wife, Amelia Connolly.
The Douglasses had a large family. Their firstborn daughter was Cecilia; she grew up to marry Dr. John Sebastian Helmcken, the famous doctor who pioneered medicine in B.C. (think Helmcken House in Victoria).
Sadly, Cecilia Douglas Helmcken, who had given birth to four children, died of pneumonia in 1865. Her son James Douglas Helmcken was sent to Scotland for schooling and became a doctor before him. It was this second Dr. Helmcken who, as husband to Ethel Mouat, was father to the young girl in the rear seat in our photo, Cecilia Mary Helmcken, and who became a friend to Sooke.
Cecilia’s youngest brother Ainslie, whom we got to know and appreciate for his wealth of knowledge, provided us with several photos. The Sooke connection is demonstrated by the Helmcken family’s friendship with the Ted Gordon family of Gordon’s Beach. Our collections hold a picture of a four-year-old Cecilia Mary sitting in the parlour at the home of Ted and Kitty Gordon in Otter Point.
It was after Kitty Gordon, a London socialite, arrived in Sooke in 1889 as the new bride of Ted Gordon, and began having a family, and went to stay in Victoria for maternity care, that she met Dr. Helmcken and the two families became friends.
Another point of interest to readers might be that Cecilia Mary’s mother was a Mouat, and anyone who knows Saltspring Island history knows the significant role of the Mouat family – one of their connections is Sooke’s, Dr. Chris Bryant.
Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.