by Esther Darlington MacDonald
In deference to B.C.’s annual Heritage Week (in February), this year with “water” as the theme, whether it be a lake or a river, Ashcroft’s Heritage Committee decided that no one could fill the bill better than Kumsheen River Rafting resort owner and author of Majestic Thompson River, Bernie Fandrich.
A resident of Lytton for many years, and president of the Lytton Rivers Society, which he describes as a “strong committee” working to develop Lytton’s annual River Fest event, Fandrich’s knowledge of the river he loves is vast, encompassing every landmark along the river from Savona to Ashcroft.
Fandrich pioneered white water rafting in B.C. starting in 1973. White water adventure is big business in B.C. today, but he points out that white water and progression of exploration on the Thompson began much earlier, in 1828, when Hudson Bay Company governor George Simpson was bent on ensuring that his company dominated the fur trade.
Simpson was looking for a navigable water route from Fort Alexandria on the Fraser River (south of Quesnel), to the Pacific Coast above the 49th parallel, free of American intrusion into this territory. The feisty governor decided that he himself would determine the best route, the Fraser or the Thompson Rivers. Simpson wanted to know the best time of the year to navigate the rivers, so he left Fort Kamloops with chief trader, Archibald McDonald in the late afternoon of Oct. 6. They had 12 paddlers. The rest of the adventure is described in Fandrich’s fascinating book.
He has a Master’s degree in Education from U.B.C., specializing in communication. Originally from Vernon, fate took Fandrich far afield. He taught at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, then went on to spend four years teaching at Langara College in Vancouver where he taught English and Communication.
Fandrich is an avid fly fisherman and has fished every “drift and stick” on the Thompson River, according to Gordon Milne, now a retired Superintendent of Schools (S.D. 91). His knowledge of the river in every aspect of its geological and historical significance, literally, at “every turn” has made the River his life’s work since his retirement from teaching.
Comedian, Rick Mercer declared Majestic Thompson River “rich in history and adventure,” saying “this is my kind of book.”
Fandrich will be guest speaker at Ashcroft Community Hall on Sunday, March 23 at 2 pm. Organizers expect a good turn out for this free event. Having met him, I expect this excellent articulator and charming Lytton resident will prove, once again, that our area possesses more than its full share of extraordinary talent.