While today Kirby Road is still a winding wooded lane leading to Sooke River Road, the surrounding housing is a far cry from what the scene looked like in the 1930s when this photo was taken.
Ralph Kirby and his wife Catherine lived on the upper side of Kirby Road, next to the Pebble Factory. At that time, home builders were typically faced with two options for roofing, split cedar shingles or milled cedar shingles, so the factory was busy with orders.
Kirby Road is notable for the recurring flow of cyclists leaving the Galloping Goose Trail to take this connecting road, descending Sooke River Road towards Highway 14 and downtown Sooke.
When Ed Macgregor, a British Columbia-born boy who earned degrees in metallurgical engineering, left Ontario’s steel industry to become British Columbia’s Deputy Minister of Lands and Parks and, in retirement , was elected the first mayor of Sooke, it was the Kirby house that he and his wife Linda bought.
The pebble factory had been operating in the 1940s but was long gone, and the grounds were occupied by beautiful shrubbery when purchased by the Macgregors.
The Pebble Factory had operated in the 1940s, but was long gone before the Macgregor era.
At the time of the Pebble Factory, on the lower side of Kirby Road, an indentation allowed nearby water to form a large shallow pond. It became a popular site for all ages in Sooke as a skating rink when we had a cold winter. And what a pleasure it was! I remember skating in big circles around the ice, hand in hand with Ralph Kirby, when I was very young. Typically, small bonfires were built on land for people to warm up with a cup of hot chocolate.
Ralph Kirby and his brothers Harry and Austin grew up with their farming parents, “Ma” and “Pa” Kirby, far away in the Shirley district, where they farmed along the creek (once called Coal Creek) that now bears their name . This farm is now the site of the Camp des Guides Jubilee.
Ralph Kirby had become an engineer, and in the days before the shingle factory started, he had operated a steam locomotive on the narrow gauge railway used to install the concrete flowline which began to hauling water from Lake Sooke to supply Victoria in 1914. Brother Austin was also an entrepreneur, operating a bus stop from Jordan River to Victoria twice a week in the 1920s.
Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum. Email [email protected]