Lyall Sheilds was Sooke's blacksmith.

Lyall Sheilds was Sooke's blacksmith.

Sooke’s legendary blacksmith

Elida Peers provides a look at the history of the Sooke Community Hall

Climbing the steps to Sooke Community Hall’s foyer, you see the remarkable black wrought iron hinges that connect the heavy planked doors to the wall. They are the work of blacksmith Lyall Sheilds. This 1937 view shows the broad shouldered blacksmith with his youngest daughter Elaine at the entrance to his rustic blacksmith shop.

His shop stood at the roadway (now called Belvista) between the harbour and the slough that borders the museum. Until 1940 this was the main Sooke Road route leading west from the river. Later the swamp was dissected by a built up berm roadway that allows a good view of the brilliant yellow skunk cabbages that currently dot the many shades of green wetland vegetation.

The extensive property was held by the Charters family, and their nearby sawmill on the waterfront meant work for the blacksmith. Watching the blacksmith hammering white hot steel to shape it, marveling at the ringing of the hammer on the anvil, eyes alert for flying sparks, were experiences treasured by children walking home from school. Some days it would be a horse standing on three legs while being shod.

One of the inventions fabricated by Lyall was a hand-pedaled tricycle, used to patrol for leaks, which ran atop the 27-mile long flowline that carried water from Sooke Lake to Humpback Reservoir at Goldstream. He also built the salmon barbecuing racks for the first All Sooke Day in 1934.

Early maps show James Sheilds taking up Crown land way up Sooke River in the 1880s. Son William Sheilds who sailed on sealing schooners to the Bering Sea, was also a farmer, raising cattle and sheep in an attractive valley west of Sooke River (later farmed by Rex Kendrew). Hikers venturing up Phillips Road in early days brought back tales of being chased by the Sheilds’ roaming bull.

Another son Ed, also a sealer, married a neighbour girl, Louise Charters, and it was their youngest son Lyall who grew up to become the blacksmith. While good-natured Lyall, his wife Lizzie, son Will and daughters Helen and Elaine joined in the happy celebrations when the hall was opened in 1937, he had little time to enjoy it all. A level crossing accident in 1941 between a truck on Woodlands Road and a coal-fired steam locomotive on the CNR line cut his life short.

Organizers of the 75th anniversary event next Saturday, April 28th at Sooke Community Hall are hoping that Sheilds and Charters family connections will be among the crowds coming together to visit.

Elida Peers,

Historian

Sooke Region Museum

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The B.C. Supreme Court ruled Feb. 26 that the estate of deceased Sooke man and Hells Angels prospect Michael Widner is to be divided between his wife and his secret spouse. (Black Press Media file photo)
Estate of deceased Hells Angels prospect from Sooke to be divided between wife and secret spouse

Michael Widner’s 2017 death left a number of unanswered questions

Sooke resident Nathan Hanson popped both his driver’s side tires on a pothole near a construction site on Sooke Road. Hanson said he was following a line of traffic and was just before the 17 Mile Pub when he drove over the pothole. (Photo contributed/Nathan Hanson)
Driver blows two tires on pothole near construction site on Sooke Road

Ministry of Transportation says keeping highways in good condition a priority

On Feb. 27, a construction vehicle remained on the site of the former encampment between the Pat Bay Highway and McKenzie Avenue as part a clean-up effort. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Encampment between Pat Bay Highway, McKenzie Avenue cleared, all residents relocated

Efforts to disband encampment resumed after January fire

Environment Canada has issued a wind warning for Greater Victoria, with winds expected to get up to 70 km/h Friday morning. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Wind warning promises blustery Friday for Greater Victoria

Winds up to 70 km/h expected Friday morning

Crews deal with a rock slide on the Malahat section of Highway 1 in 2017. (Black Press Media file photo)
Rock work closes Highway 1 in Langford for spurts

Friday closures could delay drivers up to 20 minutes

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: How’s your butter?

Recent reports have some Canadians giving a second look to one of… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of March 2

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Comox Valley-raised Shay Sandiford has earned a spot on the Canada skateboard team. Facebook
Vancouver Islander selected to Canada’s first-ever national skateboard team

Courtenay’s Shay Sandiford has his eye on qualifying for this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo

This Dec. 2, 2020 photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of its Janssen subsidiary’s COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Johnson & Johnson via AP
Canada approves Johnson & Johnson’s 1-shot COVID-19 vaccine

It is the 4th vaccine approved in Canada and the 1st that requires just a single dose

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

The intersection of Melrose Street and Third Avenue. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Suspect in custody after two pedestrians struck in Port Alberni hit and run

RCMP asking for video footage, credit witnesses for quick arrest

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

Comox Valley RCMP had access to 20 Street blocked off between Cousins and Choquette avenues as they conducted a raid of a house on the block. Photo by Terry Farrell
Comox Valley RCMP raid Courtenay problem house, several arrests made

Comox Valley RCMP conducted a raid of a problem house on 20th… Continue reading

Most Read