When Richard Rowberry ran for mayor in the fall of 2011 claiming to be possessed as the ghost of John Houston, his candidacy was dismiss by many as a prank.
The fact that in the end he received 20 per cent of the votes cast was taken to say more about Nelson than his own political merits.
“It was frustrating,” he recalls of the experience, “Nobody believed me. John himself advised me not to talk about it — which I thought was pretty ironic coming from the man who was known as John ‘Truth’ Houston.”
Now, a year and a half later, Rowberry has come forward to set the record straight.
“I’m tired of being considered a nutcase,” he explains. “I want everybody to know how I met John and how he persuaded me to run for mayor. It’s an interesting story and at the very least, provided some insight into the remarkable career of Nelson’s most important historical figure.”
Rowberry’s radio play, The Ghost of John Houston was broadcast April 11 on Kootenay Co-op Radio and is due for re-broadcast on Monday, April 28 at 6 p.m. Those who can’t wait until then can access a podcast here.
Houston is regarded as one of BC’s most prominent pioneer newspaper men who crusaded for workers’ rights (helping to bring the eight hour day to the Kootenay mining industry) and battling the CPR’s monopoly at every turn.
In Nelson he was responsible for developing its hydro electric capacity which is still the city’s most valuable resource, bringing in a third of its annual revenue. He was also a successful politician at the municipal level although his bid to become a cabinet minister was blocked by the province’s then Lt. Governor.
In his play, Rowberry reveals new information about Houston, his relationship with his wife, and some corrupt practices which had never been proven.
“I made him talk,” he revealed. “I managed to wring the truth out of him. Interestingly enough, that didn’t bother him. As a man who dedicated his life to progress, he was most upset, in fact, by our heritage preservation on Baker Street.”
The play features some of Nelson’s finest actors, including Pat Henman, Phil Sarsons, Geoff Burns, Brian Deon and Stephen Fowler. Rowberry and historian Greg Nesteroff play themselves.
The Houston Project was funded by a grant from the Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance.