Saanich heritage bus tour highlights literary locals

Annual bus tour and tea to visit homes of Nellie McClung, Bruce Hutchison and Helen Stewart, among others

Local author and historian Valerie Green likes to create a cohesive theme each time she hosts the annual Saanich Heritage Bus Tour and Tea.

This year, as the near sold-out bus is readied for another jaunt around Saanich, Green is proving she’s put together another appealing package for new and returning heritage buffs.

“I thought about how many authors in the past and present have lived in Saanich, so we created a literary theme and we’re going to include the homes of people like Bruce Hutchison, Nellie McClung and children’s author and illustrator Helen Stewart,” Green said.

Green couldn’t explain why Saanich continues to be a magnet for literary professionals, but the legacy left by the likes of McClung and others in their retirement years leaves plenty of inspiration for aspiring writers.

McClung’s most famous work is a 1936 collection of short stories, Leaves from Lantern Lane, based on her own home on Ferndale Road in Gordon Head, Green said.

“Nellie had a long lane leading to her house, which we will be walking down towards the house on our tour,” she said. “Nellie always used to hang a lantern at the end of that lane.”

Stewart’s 1912 home at Ten Mile Point includes a visit to her in-house printing press, which occupies an old ballroom built originally for the original occupant’s daughter to entertaining her guests.

“It’s just an enormous ballroom,” Green said. “The house has a fascinating history, but I don’t want to give away too much.”

Saanich archivist Caroline Duncan said the tour has remained popular since its inception 27 years ago. The afternoon tea also facilities a memorable social event, particularly for seniors.

“We do tend to get older adults but everybody is welcome,” Duncan said. “The tour is really great for people who no longer drive. We’re seeing Saanich neighbourhoods and heritage houses that people might not be able to get out and see on their own anymore, and it’s a very sociable event.”

Tickets to the event are $30. Bus tour participants will be picked up at Saanich Commonwealth Place at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday (Sept. 28). The coach returns to the same location at 4:30 p.m. following afternoon tea at St. Aiden’s United Church. For more information or tickets, call Saanich Archives at 250-475-1775 or go online to recreation.saanich.ca.