Shawnigan in 110 Objects

A Message from the Head of School

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  • A Message from the Head of School

    My wife Kathini and I recently bought a house on a bend in the Chemainus River and have found ourselves eager to learn the local history – from the first occupants in the late 19th century to a local landmark on the old highway, the Westholme Tree/“The Old Guardsman” (a giant Douglas fir that crashed down in a storm in 1913).

    The garden at our new house neighbours All Saints Cemetery, and, when exploring on Remembrance Day, the Lamonts discovered that Cedric J G Lonsdale is buried there – a former teacher at Shawnigan and the nephew of our Founder.
    Shawnigan Lake School was carved out of the Canadian wilderness in 1916 by CW Lonsdale, and modelled on his alma mater, Westminster School in London, England. It has gone from one class of eight students to 550 students and is now perhaps Canada’s pre-eminent boarding school.
    Character & Courage, a visual history of Shawnigan, was published in 2016 to mark the School’s centenary, and we are hugely fortunate to have the most wonderful museum on campus which captures the journey of the School.
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List of 20 news stories.

  • Main Building

    After the original campus was lost to fire on December 16, 1926, the Founder, C.W. Lonsdale, wasted no time in making plans to rebuild. Within a week he had hired Architect Douglas James to draw up plans for a new school building. This was Lonsdale's chance to build a beautiful new purpose-built School with everything under one roof. 
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  • Tinkle Time Bell

    The Tinkle Time Bell was inaugurated by Derek Hyde-Lay in September 1983 in his role as Acting Headmaster. Prior to this time, staff would come and go in the staff room during the morning break each day, checking their mailbox, grabbing a cup of coffee and catching up with colleagues. As all staff were in the same place at the same time, Derek saw this as the perfect opportunity to deliver announcements, and would “tinkle” the bell to gain their attention. Then he, and/or other staff, would impart information that was related to the School day, perhaps make introductions – or sometimes even share personal news, such as wedding engagements and birth announcements. 
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  • Soccer Ball

    In the School's early years, the only team sport played was football (soccer). Boys recall that Headmaster C. W. Lonsdale had played centre-half for a semi-professional team in England, The Corinthians. Geoffrey Osler (1918-1922) remembers that Lonsdale “was a terrific soccer player. He used to be very good about helping us to learn the game. He'd take one of us and fiddle around with the ball and let us try to get it away from him. He was very good about that." 
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  • Chapel

    Construction on a School Chapel was started in the fall of 1927. The first service in the new Chapel was June 4, 1928 and the Chapel was dedicated on July 1, 1928. It sits atop a hill and is the figurative and physical centre of the campus. C. W. Lonsdale wrote, "Its use is not with the idea of dividing idealism from the rest of the boys' life, but to lift it high above the common routine and give it a special dignity. We are looking to its help to build up true citizenship, both in the School, during School life, and in the Dominion afterwards. Never has Canada needed to demand higher thoughts of her citizens than she has today. . . . She will demand of her young citizens a high comprehension of the world's needs, and a determination to make their life conform to the truest and best laws of behaviour. We hope that these things will be breathed in the atmosphere of the Chapel." 
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  • Shaw Centre

    The Shaw Science and Technology Centre was made possible by the extraordinary generosity of the Shaw family of Calgary, a family renowned for its philanthropy in Canada. The building was opened at a ceremony in 1999 with speeches and unveiling of the plaque by Jim Shaw ’77 (Lonsdale’s) and his father, JR Shaw, founder of Shaw Communications.
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  • Copeman's House (1929)

    Following the fire of 1926, the new School was built to accommodate 150 students, 50 more than the enrolment at the time of the fire. However, Lonsdale had underestimated, and within two years, more dormitory space was needed. Construction on a new dormitory for 100 boys with its own kitchen and dining room began in early 1929 and opened in September. It was located on the hill east of the driveway and was named Copeman's House to honour J.Y. Copeman, the School's lawyer, a generous supporter, and Lonsdale's close friend.   
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  • The Drum Major's Baton

    The Drum Major's Baton, pictured above, was used from 1952 to 1967 and is engraved with the names of the Drum Majors. But first, a little history of cadets at Shawnigan...
    At the beginning of WWII, there was a sense that the School campus was and would remain far from the action; however, when Japan entered the war, perceptions changed. In the fall term of 1941, a Cadet Corps was formed, which the School Magazine described as "a Civilian Defence Corps for the purpose of giving the boys elementary training in signalling and first aid; so that they may be of use to the civilian authorities in case of a national emergency of any description." They became one of the widely organized Military Cadet Corps.
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  • The Original (1926) Gym

    In late 1926, a gymnasium was under construction just west of the other buildings on the growing campus. With only a few windows and siding left to finish, it was nearing completion. However, on December 16, fire swept through the campus, consuming every building – except the gym. The gym was spared partly due to the accumulation of snow on its roof which melted in the heat of the fire and formed a protective sheet of water between it and the fire. The sheathing was scorched, but the gym was saved, providing refuge for the boys on the night of the fire. 
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  • Wheelbarrow

    In the earlier days, the physical development of the School campus depended on the physical labour of its students. From 1916 to 1979, all students engaged in regular manual labour. For the first two decades, several afternoons a week were allocated to "Occupations.” By the 1940s, the name was changed to "Work Divisions" and was reduced to once a week. 
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  • 1926 Campus

    This week’s “object” is a collection of buildings and the story marks a pivotal time in the School’s history: the fire of 1926. In the fall of 1926, after 10 years of operation, enrolment in the School had grown from 6 boys to 92. The number of School buildings had multiplied, described by one boy as a "hodge podge of add-ons." The original School house (located where the current Head’s office sits) with dormitories, kitchen, dining room and Headmaster's office was still in use. To the west, a larger building contained the “Big School" (a large open room for gatherings) with dormitories above. A water tower can be seen in the background. A collection of other small buildings contained classrooms for different Forms (grades) and a furnace room (also known as the drying room). 
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  • Lonsdale's Oak Tree

    Lonsdale’s oak tree towers above campus atop the hill behind the Bruce-Lockhart Centre for Creativity (formerly known as the Hobbies Building). A plaque near its base reads, “The Founder of the School, Christopher Windley Londsdale, planted this oak tree in the early 1930s. It grew from an acorn that the Headmaster brought from Sherwood Forest, England.” 
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  • Stag Statue

    Representing majesty and strength, the image of the stag has been part of the School’s history for many years now, from its head proudly positioned atop the School crest, to its silhouette stitched on School swag, to its name attributed to the gold pin awarded each year to staff and students for outstanding service. Rainbow stag stickers, the Stag Cafe, a giant stag painted at the centre of the field hockey pitch, and the stag mascot named Samson – the stag is a well-established iconography of the School. 
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  • The Lake

    This photo was taken in 1917 from the School dock looking out at the bay with the diving tower (barely) visible in the background. The floating diving tower belonged to the King family, who lived on the point, and graciously allowed the students to use it. While this photo showcases sailing, the lake has hosted a variety of activities over the years, serving competitive, recreational, and social purposes.   
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  • Pancake

    “Pulling one’s leg” typically means teasing someone by telling a tall tale, but the tale behind this leg pulling is one steeped in tradition, featuring an annual event that spanned many years of the School’s history: the Pancake Greaze. 
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  • Chair Lift

    Headmaster Hugh Wilkinson (1972-75) first suggested Ski Week in 1972-73. It was a bold vision: to transplant the School – all students, most teachers, medical, transportation and kitchen staff – to a mountain for a week of skiing! That first year, they went to Green Mountain, approximately 2 hours north of Shawnigan. Since then, the location for Ski Week has been Manning Park Resort, often referred to as the School’s “winter campus.”  
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  • Rifle Range

    The Rifle Range was donated by Mrs. Percival A. Woodward in 1937 in memory of her son, W. Douglas Woodward, who was in Groves’ House 1929–34, and sadly passed away in 1935 from cancer when he was in Grade 12. Douglas was the grandson of Charles Woodward, founder of Woodward’s Stores Ltd. In the Prefects’ Log Book from April 6, 1938 the official opening of the Rifle Range is noted: “The shooting range was satisfactorily initiated today by the Head, Mr. Twite, and some of the prefects, each firing several shots.”
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  • The School Hymn

    One thing that has always set Shawnigan apart from other schools is our singing in Chapel. As a community, we have always taken such pride in singing. Not only is it an auditory wonder to behold, but also a visual one, where a cue from the organ has staff and students alike rising in quiet unison with hymnals in hand, standing a little taller than usual. And while this is true for most of the songs we sing, it is definitely the case when we sing the official School hymn, “A Voice in the Wilderness.”
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  • The Bell in Marion Hall

    All those who currently dine in Marion Hall have become accustomed to each meal beginning with the ringing of the beautiful bronze bell that has sat on the corner of the hearth of the grand fireplace since Marion Hall officially opened on June 15, 2002. So loud are its peals, that those sitting close by will cover their ears when the appointed ringer – usually one of the prefects – approaches the bell. 

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  • Metal Beds

    The original school building contained two dormitories in which there were metal beds, a long trestle table on which sat wash basins, and beside each bed was a little cubicle for small personals and toiletries. Each morning the dorm was inspected and each bed had to be made perfectly. The story goes that in the early days, the covers had to be pulled so tightly and smoothly that a coin would bounce off the surface when dropped from above. After inspection, the boys were not allowed in the dormitories during the day. Their sports clothes were kept in designated change rooms and they did their homework (prep) in the dining room where it was a bit warmer, returning to the dorms only to sleep.
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  • The Original School Building

    Located on H. T. Ravenhill’s property, this building was originally built in 1913 and run as The Dene School for Girls (Dene means Valley). In March or April of 1916, Christopher Windley Lonsdale, who was the manager of the Strathcona Lodge Hotel and tutoring in the area, took over the failing Dene School and reopened it under the name Shawnigan Lake Preparatory School on April 27, 1916. The building was a three-storey structure about 60 feet square, containing a kitchen, dining room, dormitories, classrooms and an office. There was no indoor plumbing or electricity. The original schoolhouse sat where the Head’s office sits today, at the east end of the Main Building, and the affiliated property comprised 2.5 heavily treed acres.
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We acknowledge with respect the Coast Salish Peoples on whose traditional lands and waterways we live, learn and play. We are grateful for the opportunity to share in this beautiful region, and we aspire to healthy and respectful relationships with those who have lived on and cared for these lands for millennia.