B.C. town purchases castle with peculiar past

B.C. town purchases castle with peculiar past

Peachland is currently the proud owner of a castle with an unusual chapter of local history

Peachland is currently the proud owner of a castle that’s central to an unusual chapter of local history.

The castle that Eddy Haymour built at 6239 Renfrew Road went up for a sale last week, due to back taxes owing.

For the cool price of $15,792.08 — a figure that represents three years of taxes and administration fees— the property could have been purchased by anyone, but nobody made a bid so the District of Peachland picked it up.

The current owner has one year to pay the bill and redeem title, explained the district’s director of finance Doug Pryde.

“If they don’t, then its transferred to the district,” Pryde said, adding that it’s unlikely that will happen. “There’s only one instance when the property was transferred to the district.”

If it does, it will mean that Peachland will be the keeper of a building that was once tied to the larger-than-life dreams of Haymour.

In 1970, Haymour bought Rattlesnake Island — a five-acre parcel of land that is now part of Okanagan Mountain Park — with the intention of building a theme park.

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He told everyone that he was going to build Moroccan Shadou Theme Park, which would have a mini Taj Mahal, a three- storey camel that would have ice cream served from its belly, rides and a whole host of tourism-centric fun that was, in part, a reflection of his Lebanese heritage.

“He was going to have a castle with a bridge across the highway and a big dock so people could go park and (boat) across Rattlesnake Island,” said Don Wilson, with the Peachland Museum.

“He had a barbershop in Peachland, and he went back and forth with his barge to the island every day. It was exciting to watch. But his dreams were always bigger than his finances, and he had a lot of problems building it.”

Among other things, the provincial government passed building regulations that stopped Haymour from completing the project. Sewage system plans were rejected and the ministry also blocked access to the dock serving the island.

In July 1973, Haymour was in dire financial need and suffering from mental stress from both government and local efforts working against him. He offered to sell the property to a neighbour who was suing him for $146,000. This offer was refused and things got worse for Haymour.

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He was charged in late 1973 with threatening to send a letter bomb to former B.C. premier W.A.C. Bennett, although proof was never found. And after being held for extensive psychiatric examination, Haymour wanted to plead guilty to the lingering charges, but the Crown urged the provincial court to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.

In July 1974 — when he had been in custody for seven months and had just learned his wife was divorcing him, his children were on welfare, his home had burned down with its insurance expired and the island property was being foreclosed on — the government had Haymour sign the deed for the island for $40,000 and he was transferred to Riverview mental hospital. He was later released and left the country.

After his release, he continued to plead his case through unusual methods. He went to Lebanon and with five cousins held about 20 hostages at the Canadian Embassy in Beirut for a week. Nobody was injured.

“He was fighting the government and everyone,” said Wilson, who saw Haymour this summer and said he always enjoys the colourful conversations they share.

“He’s pretty old and frail now. He’s been living in Edmonton since 2003 and his daughter lives here. Every time I see him we have a good chat, he’s an interesting man to talk to and he was a fantastic barber.”

Don Knox, president of the Central Okanagan Heritage Society, said that Haymour really did get screwed over.

“There was a whole court case about it because his point was, if I was crazy then I shouldn’t have been able to enter into this negotiation and if I wasn’t crazy then I shouldn’t have been incarcerated,” he said.

In 1985, Haymour won $105,000 for ”wrongful and deliberate acts by the government.” The British Columbia Supreme Court awarded him $150,000 the year before.

The courts ruled that Haymour ”suffered great harm as a result of wrongful and deliberate acts by the government.’’

He used that money to build the castle that is there today.

“At the time, it was an amazing story,” said Knox. “It still is. It’s movie worthy.”

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