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 7 news stories.

  • 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.