SOOKE HISTORY: John Wilkinson first principal of Sooke high school

Wilkinson’s wife, Joyce, coached drama and collected local history

John and Joyce Wilkinson

John and Joyce Wilkinson

Elida Peers | Contributed

About the time they left Sooke, John and Joyce Wilkinson posed for this photo, commemorating their time at Milne’s Landing High School.

When the first high school west of Victoria opened in September 1946, John B. Wilkinson became the first principal. It was the 1946 Cameron Report on Education, which resulted in setting up the school districts of B.C.

Both John and his wife Joyce significantly impacted this district of then less than 2,000 population. In 1996, the school, now called Edward Milne Community School, celebrated its 50th anniversary together with the opening of the classy new building with a whale’s tail roof design.

This celebration event was attended by almost all of those who had been principal over the half-century.

At the time, John Wilkinson contributed, “After the war, I applied to the recently-formed School District #62 (Sooke) … As principal, I had charge of four classes of seven to nine at the Langford end and four courses at Milne’s Landing, grades seven to twelve. The district had taken over the buildings in two army camps. The site at Milne’s Landing was part of the army camp, but at the other end, the army huts had to be moved from a location in Victoria several miles to a site that had recently been farming land.

“It soon became apparent that no single location would satisfy both ends of the district. The Langford people could accept bus rides into Victoria, but not travelling out west, whereas Jordan River and Port Renfrew thought they had gone far enough when they reached Sooke.”

The postwar population expansion in the Colwood/Langford area meant the establishment of Belmont High School shortly after. While John Wilkinson was attending to math instruction and administration, his wife Joyce set about gathering Sooke’s history and coach drama at the school, which resulted in Sooke youngsters winning many drama awards. Names of actors included Ron Fedosenko, Marilyn Vowles, Lynda Shepherd and Eloise Nixon.

Principals during the 50 years also included Joseph Jupp, Eugene Maglio, Lewis Seens, Don Kerley, Terry Sankey, Jim Gauley, Carol Chandler and Del Clark.

In case anyone is interested in my secretarial/administrative history, when I was in Grade 10, I was hired by the district as the first secretary for the high school, typing exams, etc. on jellypads (photocopiers did not exist) for which I believe I was paid $15 a month.


Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.

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