Intersections call history and future to our minds even as we sit just waiting for the light to change. The light always seems red at Carrall and Hastings, forcing a pause, asking you to notice. It demands an answer or a recognition. It’s a bear rustling in the bushes just out of your sight. It’s the possible animal shadow in the woods at night. It’s a familiar face disappearing in the crowd. It’s the history. It’s the past, it’s the future, it’s the poetry we ignore as we search for numbers and time, money and truth. Carrall and Hastings. The first of these to call. The strongest call, in many ways. The intersection isn’t just a place where traffic flows meet. Intersect is to pierce or divide at the point of crossing. A boulder in the river. Here. Carrall and Hastings.
The poetry here is Hastings, an evocative name, one of the few that actually does call something to mind. Or elicits a clever smile as those who remember their grade 9 history say ‘1066’ and all that… whatever that was. Well 1066 was a year of hardship for an elected king Harold and his soldiers, who first defeated another Harold, Hardraata by name, and at their celebration feast were called to a second war, marching across England to battle the Norman mercenaries and indentured serf-soldiers of William (the Bastard) of Normandy. And installed at the small fortress of Hastings after this time, to sit silently by as the Norman William (the Conquerer) burnt the fields and crushed the manhood of England, were those men whose surname was merely locative “de Hastings.” We don’t know, and I couldn’t make the link, but those Earls of Hastings and of Huntington generations later had a second son, a George Fowler Hastings, who would be called “Commander”.
Hastings saw action, a lot of it, once he got out of the coast guard. He commanded the Harlequin in the East Indies, Cyclops on the west coast of Africa, Curacoa in both the Mediterranean and Black Sea. After the Russian War he spent time on land (in Portsmouth) as Superintendent of the Haslar Hospital and Royal Clarence victualling yard, before queen and ocean asked him to captain the Hannibal and then finally, to come to the Pacific and home in Esquimalt. As Commander in Chief, flagship the Zealous, and later the Nore, he made his mark on our city. Stamp’s Mill was renamed Hastings Mill. And this street that cuts from downtown to Burnaby is called, after him, Hastings Street. There was even “Hastings Townsite,” which various folk hoped would become the real town. Thus we would all leave the rowdy unshaven men in Granville/Gastown. Those more civilized folk would inhabit the Vice Admiral’s town and not the town of vice.
There is a second stanza to this one, for our Admiral cuts and separates and breaks the flow of Carrall as it stretches from waterside to waterside. And here at the intersection of Hastings and Carrall, we see the history of war and famine, a scorched-earth of conquered man. And where Hastings may have brought it down, does Carrall lift them up? From waters edge, R.W.W. Carrall, a humble Ontarian doctor working in Ladysmith, BC, was one of three important men chosen to do the hard sell of Confederation between British Columbia and Ottawa. This Robert William Weir, a patriotic Canadian of epic proportions, spent a deal of time at war himself. He volunteered as a contract doctor for the Union side of the American Civil War, serving three years as a surgeon in military hospitals in Washington DC and New Orleans before requesting release from service. He returned to medical practice on Vancouver island. In his spare time, he engaged in local politics, organized a brass band and attended the Masonic Hall in Nanaimo. His street, and soon his greenway, unites waters, a tiny echo of his dream of a united Canada stretching coast to coast.