J. DUNCAN LORIMER, 1919 – 2005
A farm home upbringing in North Sooke, a one-room schoolhouse and
correspondence courses were the background that led to a happy family life,
successful career and international recognition for John Duncan Lorimer.
Born in Delacour, Alberta in 1919, Duncan was the third of five children of
Scottish parents Keith and Isabella Lorimer. Keith and Isabella had met in
1914 when they were passengers crossing the Atlantic to Canada on the liner
Hesperian. Isabella Lorimer was a graduate nurse, a credential that stood
her in good stead as she raised her children, at first on a prairie farm,
and later when the family moved to North Sooke, in a relatively isolated
community without medical facilities.
Arriving here in 1924, the family bought the two-storey frame farmhouse
built by Aaron Gent which stood at the corner of Sooke Road and Gillespie
Road. (Note: this was the building known later as Highway Corner Store,
which went up in flames in 1982.) The farm had twelve acres under
cultivation; they owned three horses, two for farm work and one to pull the
buggy when they made trips to the post office and store at Milnes Landing.
Basic living was not as easy as today, for instance bathing required
hand-pumping water, heating it on the woodstove and pouring into a
The children, brothers Malcolm, George, Duncan, sister Margaret and youngest
brother James, grew up creating their games and playthings from their own
Like many families growing up in the depression years, toys and
entertainment were mostly home-made. They owned their first radio in 1937.
The siblings even wrote and produced their own weekly newspaper, each of the
five with their own feature section. School classes were at the one-room
North Sooke School, grades one to eight, with anywhere from 10 to 16 pupils.
After 8th grade, the children took their schooling at home by
correspondence. An example of the grounding Duncan was given by his family
was demonstrated when he announced in grade nine that he was leaving school
to go to work. His mother‚s response „You will do no such thing. You will
finish high school first.‰ For his grade 11 year, Duncan decided to bicycle
the five miles to Sooke Superior School which had classes extending to grade
11, thus allowing the opportunity to participate in basketball games and
social life. For grade 12 it was back to the correspondence courses to
graduate. In 1937 he joined the Canadian Scottish Regiment.
Finding work was a challenge; Dunc got a job at Ragley, the Walker estate in
East Sooke, farm work at Gordon Head where he milked nine goats before
breakfast in the morning, and even went to Alberta looking for farm work.
When war was declared in September 1939 the three eldest Lorimer boys joined
immediately, followed later by Jimmie. In 1939 Duncan married a Sooke girl
who worked in the Milne‚s Landing telephone exchange, Betty Lock. Going
overseas to active service in 1941, Duncan was wounded in Normandy in 1944.
He was discharged in 1945, with the rank of Lieutenant.
– 2 – Lorimer
After attending Victoria College and UBC, Duncan joined the staff of
Victoria High School. Duncan and Betty made their home in Victoria and
raised three sons and a daughter. His teaching career included serving as
vice-principal both at Lansdowne Junior High and at Vic High, and then his
final fifteen-year stint as principal of Victoria High, where he retired in
His caring connection to his community kept him involved in retirement,
serving on the boards of the Victoria Community Chest and of the Royal
Jubilee Hospital. He also served many years as treasurer of the regimental
trustees for his battalion, the 1st Canadian Scottish. He was a supportive
member of the Sooke Region Historical Society and of the Sooke Branch of the
Royal Canadian Legion, where he was part of the Sooke Pipe Band during the
Eldest brother Malcolm became a mining engineer and youngest brother James,
who became a lawyer, served as an MLA and Cabinet Minister in the government
of Premier Dave Barrett. Sister Margaret married a Sooke farmer Wilf Strong,
and the couple now live in retirement at Logan Lake.
Of the four brothers, the one who did not return from the war was George.
Not long ago Duncan approached the provincial government to have an area
landmark named for his late brother, and today local walkers on the
Galloping Goose pass Lorimer Point as they head east towards Gillespie Road.
Longtime friend Audrey Wilson says „I have so many memories of Dunc Lorimer,
my earliest, he was one of the „big boys‰ when we both attended Sooke
Superior School, and my latest, as a good friend when he and Betty attended
activities at the Legion and the museum in Sooke.‰
Crowning his long career was the award ceremony in July of 2004, when Duncan
Lorimer’s distinguished war service was recognized as one of 30 Canadians
presented with Frances Legion of Honour.
The funeral for Duncan Lorimer was held December 30th at McCall Bros. in
Victoria, where the overflowing crowds showed their affection for this