What's in a Name?

Posted by Daniel on May 30, 2009

Vancouver historian Chuck Davis writes:

I was working today on some 1933 material for my history of Vancouver and came across a reference to the funeral of BC premier Simon Tolmie’s wife. She died in January of that year. The Vancouver Sun had a short item about her funeral, and referred to the lady as “Premier Tolmie’s wife.” That was it. It didn’t name her. That was common—in fact, usual—in newspapers of the day. Wives were referred to as Mrs. John Jones, Mrs. Frank Smith, Mrs. Harry Brown and the like.

The lady deserves better. So I went onto the Net. No luck. Lots of items about Tolmie, even a few which referred to his wife. But still none with her name. So I called the History Division of the Vancouver Public Library, and a very helpful librarian named Sue—after a great deal of digging—was able to winkle out the information. The premier’s wife's name was Mary Anne. Her maiden name was Harrap.

Armed with that nugget (thanks, Sue!) I went back on the Net and googled “Tolmie Harrap.” That led me to, among other things, an online copy of the Victoria Daily Colonist for Wednesday, February 7, 1894 which included this item on Page 1: “A very quiet wedding was yesterday afternoon solemnized at Victoria West by Rev. W.D. Barber, the contracting parties being Mr. Simon Tolmie, V.S., and Miss Harrap. Mr. John Lamberton was best man, and Miss Harrap, sister of the bride, was maid of honor for the occasion . . . Mr. and Mrs. Tolmie will reside at Cloverdale, where Mr. Tolmie has built a new residence, close to the old homestead.”

So even for her wedding the newspaper didn’t give her first name, or her sister’s: “Miss Harrap” refers to both the bride and her sister.

Then I had to find out what “V.S.” stands for, which I did thanks to some help from a friend at the library. It means that Tolmie was a veterinary surgeon in Victoria.