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SOOKE HISTORY: Sooke home to an Irish renegade

Capt. Bowen-Colthurst’s biggest claim to fame was in 1916 in Ireland, when he took part in quelling the Easter Uprising
Captain John Bowen-Colthurst is seen here in 1943

“Yes, I remember Capt. Bowen-Colthurst,” said our longtime friend Pat Forrest. “I was just a kid back then, and we’d seehim strutting about in the fields, this tall figure with his little toddler in the crook of one arm and his shotgun in the other.He was out gunning for snipes, so his wife could make a pot pie.”

This scene took place in the early 1940s in downtown Sooke; the open field is pretty much still there, today, between thepost office and Eustace Road.

His stay in Sooke was one chapter in the life of a soldier from a distinguished family who grew up in County Cork, Ireland,was educated at Sandhurst Military College and commissioned in the Royal Irish Rifles.

A veteran of the Boer War and the First World War, Capt. John Bowen-Colthurst’s biggest claim to fame was in 1916 inIreland, when he took part in quelling the Easter Uprising, a bloody period when an Irish group rose up against their Britishoverlords.

While there was talk that battle stress at the Battle of Mons had led to his instability, records show Bowen-Colthurstexecuted several prisoners, an event which led to his court martial in Dublin, and a murder conviction.

Through a process which we understand was not unusual for the times, the captain was committed to an asylum asopposed to jail, and ultimately was helped to find his way to Canada. We have heard it said that throughout his life he kepta watchful eye out for retaliation from the IRA.

Before that dramatic period, in 1910 the captain had married Rosalinda Butler, daughter of a Baron. When the family arrivedin Canada in 1919, it was in Terrace that they established themselves at first. The captain enjoyed the life of hunting andfishing in the remote Skeena Valley.

By the late 1920s the family had taken up home on Phillips Road, near DeMamiel Stream, in a house built by Percy Rayment.This house has seen a series of owners and a series of renovations, and nowadays is home to Rasmus and Joy Rabien. Inthis house the family raised daughter Dorinda and three sons: Theo, St. John and David.

In 1940, Mrs. Bowen-Colthurst died, and we understand that the captain lost no time in marrying again, this time to PriscillaBekman, 25 years his junior.

The captain and his young wife settled into a two-storey home that was built west of the Sooke Community Hall (on today’sEustace Road) and the captain’s second family, daughter Georgiana and son Greer, spent their early childhood there.

Later in the 1940s the family moved to the Okanagan. Their spacious house, though, remains standing today; among theseveral families who have lived there since, are the Bill and Hazel Greenhough family, whose home it was from the 1960s tothe 1990s.