Footage of the Prince of Wales’ visit to Nelson and Balfour almost 93 years ago has turned up in a British film archive.
The silent images, among the earliest surviving motion pictures of this area, were produced by Pathé Newsreels, now known as British Pathé, whose digitized archive of 90,000 reels can be viewed online.
Prince Edward’s visit to Kootenay Lake on October 1, 1919 was part of a cross-Canada tour that saw him lay cornerstones, greet returned soldiers, and buy an Alberta ranch.
The Kootenay portion of the film lasts a little over three minutes and opens with the prince’s two-car motorcade leaving the Nelson train station, as men and women wave handkerchiefs and children run alongside. A banner reads: “Long live our future king.” (Edward would become king in 1936 but abdicate the throne to marry Wallis Simpson.)
The film cuts to the prince boarding the SS Nasookin, largest of the local sternwheelers and at the time only seven years old. They pass the SS Moyie, moored at the Nelson wharf, where hundreds try to glimpse the royal visitor. A flotilla of small boats follows behind.
The prince arrives at the CPR hotel at Balfour — or what the film’s title card calls a “civic re-establishment hospital,” for it was by then a sanatorium for convalescing soldiers. (It would be demolished in 1929.)
Beneath a banner that reads “Au revoir comrade and prince,” Edward climbs the steps to the hotel and walks around the veranda, shaking hands. There’s a brief shot of the hotel itself in all its glory.
In the next scene, some nurses sit on the hillside with the Nasookin moored below and Procter visible on the opposite side of the lake.
The film ends with shots of the royal train being barged along Kootenay Lake by a steam tug.
The footage is at britishpathe.com/video/canadian-tour and can be viewed as either still or moving images. The Kootenay portion begins at the 14:17 mark.
The film also depicts the prince’s visit to Vancouver and the Okanagan.
REMEMBERING A ROYAL VISITOR
In Kootenay Outlet Reflections, Colin Major, who was attending school in Procter at the time, said his class was given the day off so they could see the prince.
“We were all lined up, at stiff attention on the Balfour wharf so he had to pass us on his way up to tour the CPR hotel,” he recalled.
Rose Simpson Russell adds: “There was a cable car leading from the lake up the steep hillside to the level where the hospital stood. We were standing on top and HRH shook hands with us. What a thrill although I expect at the time it wasn’t …”
And according to Edna Fraser Irving, “One little girl offered the Prince her left hand. He promptly corrected her, directing her to offer her right.”
The prince also found time to play a round of golf on the hotel’s course. According to the Nelson Daily News, “The next two and a half hours of the afternoon were spent on the golf links, the prince playing 18 holes against Major-General Sir Henry Burnstall, a member of the Royal Party. That the golf course was ‘a very sporty one,’ was the opinion of the Prince after his game which he stated he thoroughly enjoyed.”
One other anecdote from historian Ted Affleck in Kootenay Lake Chronicles suggests the prince returned in 1927. Affleck writes that Edward’s handlers hoped to whisk the royal train through Procter and onto a barge, but when they arrived, there was no sign of the barge, forcing an unscheduled layover.
“Little Lois Hurst (much to the anguish of other little girls in Procter) made an appropriate if predictable presentation of a bouquet of home-grown flowers,” Affleck says. “Soon an arresting figure, garbed in gala attire of the 1880s issued from the home of Fred Cogle, swept down to the railway tracks, curtsied and engaged the Prince of Wales in animated conversation about Trondheim, Norway, the ancient coronation seat of Scandinavian kings.”
With another curtsy, Mrs. Cogle — “a decided eccentric” who had apparently worked in a Trondheim hotel that catered to royalty — departed, much to the astonishment of the assembled townsfolk, who rarely saw her or heard her speak.
A whistle from the approaching tug ended the awkward moment.