They’re ba-ack! — the “new” online Cowichan Chronicles, that is.
After 23 years as the author of this popular feature in the Cowichan Valley Citizen (and the VI Free Daily since its launch in 2016), Vancouver Island historian T.W. Paterson has launched a new website, www.CowichanChronicles.com.
“It’s the fulfillment of a career-long dream, to publish an historical magazine,” he says, “so the new Chronicles will have far greater scope than was possible in the confines of a newspaper where every inch of space is critical.
“I’m not just the author and editor of the online Chronicles, I’m God! I can do anything within the bounds of respectful and accurate reporting short of libel.”
That said, he acknowledges the wide latitude and sounding stage that the Citizen provided for those 23 years and more than 2,000 columns.
“I was blessed with a succession of editors who understood the value of history to the contemporary world, who allowed me almost free reign, particularly when I ranted about the impending demolition of the Kinsol Trestle.
“And the Citizen also allowed me another pet passion, to write the annual Remembrance Day edition which, to me, is the most important occasion of the year.”
Based upon the input from readers Paterson has enjoyed over the years, he knows that history appeals to a wide cross-section of the community.
“I originally feared I’d be a ‘man’s column,’ but I’ve come to know for a fact that many of my readers are women.”
In particular, he takes satisfaction from knowing he has young readers, too.
“That’s when I know I’ve ‘scored,’ when a young person tells me they read my column regularly. How can we build a future as a society if we don’t know our past? It’s all about passing on the torch.”
He points out that all of us are making history right now because of the COVID-19 crisis.
“One hundred years ago we had the Spanish flu that killed millions world-wide. What a difference in the responses taken by the governments of today to both the virus and to the resulting economic downturn by the governments of that time and those of the 1930s Great Depression.
“We’re not talking day and night, we’re talking different planets!”
Paterson notes that the current continent-wide protests sparked by the death of an African American man while in police custody isn’t a contemporary phenomenon but the tip of an iceberg that, sadly, goes all the way back to the arrival of the first Europeans. It’s a reflection of systemic racism that has only been formally recognized and addressed in Canada in recent years.
These events all go to prove, he believes, that history is not just a living, breathing organism, but one that’s vital to our sense of community and nation.
A previous Citizen editor once summed T.W. up in a single word: Legacy. All these years later, all those columns and now www.CowichanChronicles.com, he firmly agrees with her.
And, after almost two million words about Cowichan and provincial history in the Citizen alone, the author of 30 historical books says he hasn’t even begun to run out of material or steam.