Claude Lionel Harrison
1886 - 1986
Claude Lionel Harrison was born in Victoria, British Columbia, in 1886, the forth child of Judge Eli Harrison and his wife Eunice. Judge Harrison was a well known lawyer and later Chief Justice and was the first County Court Judge on Vancouver Island.
Harrison's career began as an articulated clerk to Justice H. B. Robertson of the British Columbia Appeal Court and he worked his way up to City Prosecutor. This brought him into constant contact with the public and his actions often caused him to be described as harsh. This undoubtedly led to his strong desire for privacy once away from the spotlight of court and city matter.
However, after forty years as prosecuting attorney for the City of Victoria, Claude Harrison retired at the age of sixty-four but decided to run for Mayor in 1951. In a column for the Times Colonist newspaper it was predicted if elected, " he [Harrison] will be one of the most original, colourful and vigorous mayors Victoria has ever had." His platform was straight forward and simple: The Dominion, he said, had promised Vancouver Island a steamship service when they joined confederation, but this never materialized. Harrison pushed for the establishment of the Swartz Bay-Mainland Ferry which eventually became a reality in 1962. Harrison's campaign also promoted a better coastal road on Vancouver Island and he was all for opening council, committee and police commission meetings to the press and public. He wanted the public to have the opportunity to personally question the mayor on issues of the day.
After being voted in Harrison's inaugural address at his first council meeting on January 7, 1952, was the longest on record, covering a huge list of city concerns. Later that month the Times Colonist described the Mayor as " a noted conservationist, steeped in nature lore and Vancouver Island's history, [who] wants good, wide walks in the area and permanent tags on each plant and shrub." During his two terms as Mayor, from 1952 to 1955, Harrison wore a "brilliant blue cape casually flung around his shoulders revealing crimson lining [and] a police badge on his suspenders." This cape was merely a flamboyant appendage during his time as mayor and was used only for effect. A strange contradiction considering Harrison was a man who sought privacy and preferred to be away from the limelight.
Claude Harrison was a member of the Vancouver Island section of the Alpine Club of Canada and hiked and climbed on the Forbidden Plateau in the late 1920's and 1930's. In 1928 he made the first ascent of Castle (Castlecrag) Mountain with William Dougan, Ben Hughes, Sid Williams and a number of others. He also led a club trip out to Shields Lake near Sooke with Lindley Crease where Harrison donated land to the club and a cabin was built and used for many years by ACC members. He was Chairman of the section for eight years from 1934 to 1941.
Claude Harrison was considered
an eccentric and in his home on the Malahat he had a room equipped in
such a way that by pushing a few buttons, it could be transformed into
a replica of an old Yukon bar-room. Harrison passed away at Glenwarren
Lodge in Victoria on March 12, 1986, at the age of ninety-nine, a few
months before his one hundredth birthday. In keeping with his strong beliefs
about guarding his privacy, Harrison made provisions for all his personal
papers to be destroyed upon his death.
.. Times Colonist. [Victoria, B.C.] (January 8, 1952) p. 1.
.. Times Colonist. [Victoria, B.C.] (January 24, 1952) p. 11.
.. Times Colonist. [Victoria, B.C.] (March 13, 1986) p. A3.
"Scale Virgin Peak on Plateau." Comox Argus. [Courtenay, B.C.] (July 26, 1928) p. 1 & 8.
"Forbidden Plateau as Game Reserve." Comox Argus. [Courtenay, B.C.] (October 4, 1928) p. 2.
"Castle Mountain is Picturesque." Comox Argus. [Courtenay, B.C.] (August 2, 1928) p. 1 & 4.
"Forbidden Plateau at Victoria." Comox Argus. [Courtenay, B.C.] (November 1, 1928)
"Forbidden Plateau: Crowd Jammed Native Son's Hall to Hear Mr. C.L. Harrison." Comox Argus. [Courtenay, B.C.] (December 22, 1928)
Harrison, Claude "Forbidden Plateau." Comox Argus. [Courtenay, B.C.] ((July 13, 1933) p. 5.
Green, Valerie. No Ordinary
People: Victoria's Mayors Since 1862. Beach Holme Publishers. Victoria,
B.C. 1992. p. 207-209.