We Found Ernest!
By Linda Baker, VHS 1969
Rob Lawson, DurWest labourer, found a 1915 Diary belonging to Ernest Fairey in the Vic High Auditorium ceiling during the big seismic upgrade 2020-2023. We posted the story and linked it from our March 2023 e-newsletter. Full story here.
Well it turns out our little newsletter travels a lot! Barb Wheatley-Voth, VHS 1961, forwarded it to her long-time friend Karen Farr, Oak Bay HS 1961, in Australia. (Thanks, Barb!) They were schoolmates at Lansdowne Junior High. Karen sent it on to her cousin Randall Fairey in Kelowna, grandson of Frank Fairey (after whom Fairey Tech is named) and great-nephew of Ernest Fairey, whose 1915 Diary was found recently in the Vic High Auditorium ceiling. (Did you get all that?) Randall sent us a photo and more info about Ernest, shared a bio of his grandfather for the Vic High Archives & Museum, and told us a bit about himself.
Ernest Fairey, Vic High Joiner/Carpenter
Ernest Fairey came to Canada in 1906 on the Empress of Britain with his brother William from their home near Liverpool, U.K. Their father, a Joiner/Carpenter had been killed on the job, leaving 12 children and a pregnant wife Elizabeth. She took her husband’s employer to Old Bailey, filing a lawsuit for non-payment of workers’ compensation benefits in place at the time, and she won! Nonetheless, many of her offpsring set off for a new life in North America, some to B.C. and some to California, and she eventually followed.
Ernest, a Joiner like his father, and brother William, a Bricklayer, came to Victoria in 1906 and began working for the Department of Education at various schools in the city. His 1915 Diary, the one Rob found in the Auditorium ceiling, records him working at Central School and South Park School. In fact, we believe it’s quite likely Ernest was on the crew that built the current Vic High. When their brother, 18 year old Frank arrived in Victoria in 1907, having earned a Teaching Certificate in England, Ernest took him to his boss and said, ‘You should hire him.” So they did.
Ernest married, had two children, worked at numerous schools in Victoria doing carpentry work, lost his 1915 Diary in the Auditorium ceiling at Vic High, and in 1922 emigrated to California. His last career was in San Francisco as Superintendent of the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company. He died in 1952, age 72.
Who Is Frank T. Fairey and Why is Fairey Tech Named After Him?
Meanwhile, in 1907 Frank was sent to teach in Quesnel, thus beginning a long career in education, primarily in Technical Education, with a break to fight in World War I. In 1917 he enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces and served overseas, continuing his military training at the war’s end as a Reservist. In 1933 he left the Irish Fusiliers, stepping down as Commanding Officer of the Regiment. He returned to teaching, particularly in Technical Education, and eventually left to become the Director of Technical Education for the Province of BC.
During World War II, not only did Francis Fairey lead Industrial and Technical Education, but he was named by the Federal Government to be the Regional Director of the Dominion-Provincial War Emergency Training Program (it became known as the Canadian Vocational Training Program). Technical education shops were first opened at Vic High in 1943 as part of the training effort for the Second World War. The facilities were built to the west of the playfield by trainee soldiers with assistance from Vic High students. Trades such as carpentry, bricklaying, and metalwork were taught.
Frank recalled: “We had classes going night and day for welders and electricians, men for the army, the navy and the air force in numerous trades. We trained 40,000 people in simple skills in British Columbia during those years to man industry. I had something I have never had before or since, unlimited authority. I could say, “I want that building.” I had authority from the Government to take it, and equip it, so that we could turn out young people with simple skills. That’s where you learn the tremendous potential there is in the young people. Girls as well as boys.”
In 1945, Col. Fairey succeeded Samuel J. Willis (Vic High Principal 1908 – 1916) as Deputy Minister of Education.
In September 1949 classes began in new Industrial Arts facilities which had been added onto the south end of the wartime building at Vic High, to provide shops for electrical, automotive, sheet metal, welding and woodwork plus classrooms and drafting rooms. The enlarged facility was named the F.T. Fairey Technical Unit and immediately became a focal point for technical education in Victoria and beyond, both for daytime and evening adult education classes. Additions were made to the facility In the 1950s, including a much larger auto-shop complex and an electronics shop and classroom. Later renamed the Fairey Technical Centre, in addition to previous disciplines it also housed classes for industrial design, art metal and jewelry, and even dance. The facility was closed in 2011 and replaced with Fairey Tech, a new 57,000 square foot addition to the north side of Vic High.
Frank Fairey had many passions in his life. He had a brief political career and was the Dean’s Warden of Christ Church Cathedral in Victoria. He also worked for UNESCO and spent a long time in Burma. But the main love of his life was Technical Education. While BCIT grounds include a Fairey Lane, particularly poignant as Frank Fairey’s great-granddaughter (Randall’s daughter) is a Professor of Nursing there, we at Vic High will always be proud to be the home of the inaugural and still leading Technical Education program in BC. We will ensure Frank Fairey’s dedication to technical education is honoured in perpetuity, the only facility to bear the name of such an extraordinary man.
The complete history of Fairey Tech and Frank Fairey appeared in the Spring 2011 Vic High Alumni News Bulletin
Randall Fairey, Grandson of Frank Fairey
Randall’s career has been a distinguished one, notably to start, he was the first Radiation Oncologist to graduate from UBC Medical School (1969). He thought he’d go into Plastic Surgery, however his training program included a rotation into the (then) BC Cancer Institute and he discovered he’d rather apply his skills to those whose need was greatest. 1994 – 1997 he worked at the Vancouver Cancer Centre, and in 1998 was sent to Kelowna to open the new Cancer Center of the Southern Interior as head of the Radiation Oncology Department. He’s an amateur historian and genealogist, and like his grandfather, served the Anglican Church, as Executive Officer to the Bishop of the Kootenay Diocese.
Thank you, Randall. We thank you for helping us expand our knowledge of your uncle Ern and his lost 1915 Diary, for your thorough biography of your grandfather, Frank T. Fairey, and for donating numerous of his certificates, documents and photos to the Vic High Archives and Museum.