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Rosemary Darville recalls her life on the V Bar V ranch in Oyama

The Norman Davies’ niece, Rosemary Darville, fondly relates the story of her own family’s time in Oyama:

For their honeymoon the Davies set off on a long journey by ship around the world, search-ing for a place to settle. When they reached Oyama after having visited many countries, Norman and Jean found a ranch for sale high above the beautiful Kalamalka Lake, and the hills on both sides of Oyama covered with blossoming fruit trees. When they realized Oyama had a school, and BC had a good education system, they felt this was where they wanted to make their home. Norman bought the V Bar V ranch.

Norman was an only child and Jean was one of three very close sisters. It was sad for Norman and Jean when they learned they would not be able to have children of their own. This may have made them especially close to Rosemary and David, the children of Jean’s sister Margaret and Sidney “Sid” Darville. The children had enjoyed many visits to their uncle Norman’s sheep farm in Wales, where Rosemary and David found the sheep dips and sheep shearing fascinating.

Thomas, David and Sidney Darville, circa 1932

After the foreman and ranch hands had been hired and the sheep ranch at V Bar V was in full operation, Norman offered his brother-in-law a job on the ranch and the opportunity to bring his family to Canada. At the time Sid was playing first flute and piccolo and second violin in the BBC Symphony Orchestra in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Margaret, before marriage, had been a pre-school teacher for well over ten years and had established and managed the first kindergarten in Dartford, Kent. She was an accomplished pianist and accompanist and had taught music. In 1934 the two musicians, both romantics at heart, with their children, said goodbye to families and friends and set out with great excitement for a new life in Canada. They came by ship to Halifax and transferred to train to make the long and uncomfortable journey across Canada to B.C.

Margaret Harrison at Dartford

The foreman of the V Bar V collected the Darvilles in his model T Ford and drove them from Vernon along the road to Oyama. It was a frightening experience for the children to look down from the car hundreds of feet to beautiful Lake Kalamalka. There was a great welcome at the ranch and then an intense orientation to life there, including the warnings of  rattlesnakes and black widow spiders. The family quickly settled into the little house that had been built for them, above a creek. Very soon Sid had planted a large vegetable garden, raspberry bushes and a strawberry bed. A cow had been added to the livestock and Margaret was able to provide milk, cream, and butter to the ranch.

The parents became working members of the ranch and the children joined other children attending the Oyama School. Rosemary and David walked down the hill to the school, and in the winter David used skis to get there and back. The children loved the life on the ranch and spent many an evening in the bunkhouse with the foreman and ranch hands, listening to their stories and jokes. The children were given a gentle horse and, soon after, David was given a younger, more spirited, horse of his own. Before he left Oyama he had the great thrill of being included in a seasonal round up.

During his time on the ranch, Sid had half a finger on his left hand cut off, which was a severe loss for a musician. However, he managed to retrain himself in his playing. Both Sid and Margaret were for years the source of music for community dances and gatherings, and the annual school concert, a big event in the community. Students in the school also took part in the annual Okanagan Music Festival, with Margaret as a teacher and accompanist. One adjudicator, unable to give the little choir a prize because of its diminutive size, called the choir “a little artistic gem.” Margaret became very active in the community. Oyama became part of the B.C. “Keep Fit” program, with Jean and Margaret very involved, Jean demonstrating and Margaret accompanying on the piano. Later, Oyama was included in the travelling library project, with books provided by an automobile. Margaret acted as community librarian, opening the library after school every Friday. Margaret was also the Oyama correspondent for the Kelowna Courier.

In the late 1930s Sid rode his motorcycle to Vancouver in search of other paying work. As soon as Canada entered the Second World War, he joined the army. Sid was posted to the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii), and then to the permanent Garrison Band in Victoria. In 1941 the Darvilles left Oyama to join him in Victoria. Rosemary and David had to take their leave from the community in which they had been so intensely involved, but they were so glad to be reunited as a family.

Margaret Darville died in Sidney, BC, on 28 July 1958 and Sid died on 13 August 1972. Rosemary, who provided most of the information for this article, lived on Vancouver Island. She remained a life-long friend of her schoolmate, Gladys Trewhitt, of Oyama. Rosemary passed away on March 23, 2023, survived by her husband Harry Berbrayer.




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