The Smith Family marker at Cumberland Cemetery. (P. Ferguson image, August 2017)

The Smith Family marker at Cumberland Cemetery. (P. Ferguson image, 5 August 2017)

Across the stone’s face, the letters have faded from view.

It is our second visit to Cumberland in recent times…but some 13 years ago I first walked this place to learn of those whose lives were coal. Walking, as I do, length upon length of upright and earth lain markers I read the few lines of tell – the chosen chiseled words – that some best remember and others might become inquisitive. Time has harvested many of these cut letters, taking as it can its share of stories leaving only notes and hints, the ashes of one once known, or perhaps, two or three or more.

I stand at the foot of a Smith family marker –  the only sound the heat of the day.

The Smith Family marker, when names were readable. (P. Ferguson image, June 2004)

The Smith Family marker, when names were better read. (P. Ferguson image, June 2004)

I have stood here before when the letters, though encroached upon by lichen – rain – wind – cold – heat – dust were better viewed. The letters were words then, not easily read but recorded Robert Smith killed at No. 4 Mine and John Smith killed overseas. I was struck at the time and still today by these two lives – a family’s dual tragedy, the dangers of mining, the dangers of warring – these chosen words here at SMITH. Today, Fergusons stand beside Smiths and all the while I am grateful for that one-week meander in 2004 of carved, leaded and cast letters from place to place on Vancouver Island. Headstones and memorials, study and student, teacher and taught.

Lettering of the Smith Family Memorial, Cumberland Cemetery. (P. Ferguson image, June 2004)

Lettering of the Smith Family Memorial, Cumberland Cemetery. Mines and the Great War. (P. Ferguson image, June 2004)

Whilst at Cumberland Cemetery I meet a new friend, Dave is his name, Dave Waugh, who comes for a visit curious of our interest in this stone record and so I tell him; how having been here before – before the words slipped away I had once read the words of the Smith family, one lost in the mines and one to the Great War. As the conversation continues I am grateful and respectful to hear of Dave’s interest and connection to this place and once again I appreciate, despite the sorrow, how people can be brought together, eternally attached to these places and stone records of memory. It is here at Cumberland where I feel beneath the ashes, the glowing embers of coal and memory, of good stories once spoken, of chosen chiseled words and faded letters, here amongst new friends and old.



It is coal that brought me first to Cumberland. There is something about this town, about the men and women – families whose lives were coal. In 2004 when I stumbled upon the Smith family headstone I found connecting interests – one to the other – and one to this wanderer of the trail. it is coal that has brought me here on the trail again 19 August 2017 to No. 4 Mine.

Industrial heritage in the forest. Near to No. 4 Mine, Cumberland, B.C. (P. Ferguson image, 19 August, 2017).

Industrial heritage in the forest. Near to No. 4 Mine, Cumberland, B.C. (P. Ferguson image, 19 August, 2017).

Robert Smith was killed in an explosion at Comox #4 Mine, 8 February 1923 – one of 33 miners lost that day. His relative, John Alexander Smith, a former painter, of the 25th Canadian Infantry Battalion (Nova Scotia), was killed 17 August 1917 during the Battle of Hill 70, Lens, France. One of 137 soldiers of the Canadian Expeditionary Force who would not come home because of this day.

Artist and poet Kahlil Gibran once wrote, “Perhaps time’s definition of coal is the diamond”. Yet here amongst the embers, diamonds are in the rough, blackened sparkles, shining beneath the soot and elements for wanderers to find.

About The Author

Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and in Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was further amazed by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Film captivated Paul and with time he became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was entranced when he learned Weir had visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. The film "Gallipoli" alone led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii and Gallipoli. It was, however, when Paul watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", that Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests would be a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, he believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.



  1. pferguson pferguson says:

    Private John Alexander Smith is commemorated at LOOS BRITISH CEMETERY, Pas de Calais, France, on special memorial – Lens Canadian Cem. No.2, Mem. 14.

  2. Dave Waugh says:

    Thanks Paul for another interesting article ! Close to my heart ! A real blessing meeting you & your lovely wife. Will have a bit more to add to this.

    Turn the pipes up !!
    Regards Bud !!

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