It’s estimated that 30 per cent of the residents of Greater Victoria have some Scottish blood running through their veins. Now, thanks to devoted volunteers from the Victoria Highland Games Association, the Scots in this region have a home of their own.
Jim Maxwell, the president of the association, said they have been around for 150 years.
“And as we’ve grown [we’re now running one of the biggest cultural events in North America], we started looking around…is there a place we could get together at? Maybe call our own? And the Craigflower property came up from the Heritage Branch,” Maxwell said.
A National Historic Site of Canada, the three-acre Craigflower Manor is owned by the province.
“Up until then, most of the groups running it had been relying on the government to give them management funding, and we put a proposal in that we would take over the property, maintain it at our own cost, but we’d like permission to build a community centre on the old Craigflower Motel footprint,” Maxwell said.
The Victoria Highland Games Association’s proposal was accepted. That was two years ago and volunteers have been hard at work ever since.
One is those volunteers is Angus MacPherson, who said, “it’s taken many many hours of volunteer work to bring it back and refurbish this crown jewel of View Royal.”
“Blackberries had basically taken over the property,” Maxwell said.
“You couldn’t see the water. It was ‘a little run down.”
In fact, ‘a lot run down’ might be a better description.
“The manor itself was having some water problems,” Maxwell said, thinking back to when the Association acquired the property.
“The gutters weren’t in good shape. It needed paint, etc, the side building was run down, the floors were deteriorated, so with the support of the federal government, the provincial government and our own Association, we’ve redone the whole side building, the whole manor has been painted, and it’s perfectly water tight.”
And while volunteers worked tirelessly renovating the manor, the grounds surrounding the building have been used for practicing many of the events that take place at the Victoria Highland Games and Celtic Festival.
“We’ve actually been practicing here now for a couple of years,” Ray Siochowicz, athletic director for the games said. Which created an unanticipated benefit to the renovation.
This created an unanticipated benefit to the renovation.
“That’s been great too, because a lot of the throwers will give back in volunteer hours, and clearing blackberry bushes, and helping landscaping the property and giving back that way as well,” Siochowicz said.
And as Craigflower Manor returns to its former glory, the volunteers know the building of the Victoria Scottish Community Centre is next.
“I don’t think there’s anyone among us that hasn’t worked on the property that don’t get a sense of excitement to see the potential,” MacPherson said. “and look forward to the next phase of the project, which is building the new Centre.”
“And look forward to the next phase of the project, which is building the new centre.”
Volunteers hope to break ground on the new centre in 2019 and there’s always room for more hands in the clan.
“Basically, it’s like one big family,” Siochowicz said.
“To see the progress, and to see things open up and clear, it’s been really rewarding.”