Harry Jerome is about to get some company.
The statue of the famous Canadian runner, which stands at Brockton Point in Stanley Park, will soon be joined by a statue of a very different Canadian icon, a 19th-century whaler named Portuguese Joe Silvey.
Silvey, a little known but colourful figure from B.C.’s past, opened a saloon opposite Gassy Jack Deighton’s in the late 1800s in what is now Gastown. He earned a reputation as a cultural bridgemaker, marrying into the local Coast Salish First Nations community and having 11 children with two wives, according to a great article in the Vancouver Sun.
The new sculpture, which has just received park board approval and will be unveiled in late September, will rise at the site where Silvey once lived with his family in Stanley Park. In a fitting twist, the statue is being carved by Silvey’s great grandson, native artist Luke Marston. It stands 14-feet tall and features Portuguese Joe, along with his first and second wives and a host of symbols representing stages in his eventful life, from giant grey whales to grapevines imported from Portugal.
Silvey emigrated from Portugal’s Azores archipelago at age 12, determined to make his fortunes in whaling, according to the biography The Remarkable Adventures of Portuguese Joe Silvey by historian Jean Barman. Travels took him to the Lower Mainland, where he opened his saloon called Hole in the Wall.
Silvey later moved his family to Reid Island, one of the southern Gulf Islands, where he became a fisherman, hauling in mud sharks whose oil was used to light lanterns used by early miners.
The statue, which is being carved in cedar now and will ultimately be cast in bronze, is paid for by donations from the Portuguese community and provincial and federal grant programs. Marston, its creator, has already earned renown for his 14-foot-high Healing Pole outside of Government House In Victoria, and his Medicine Box, a bentwood box representing First Nations residential school survivors.
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