Irishman honoured at 150th anniversary in Canada

Dubliner Peter Leech had a town named after him after discovering gold

Dubliner Peter Leech had a river and mining town named after him for discovering gold during an official exploration of Vancouver Island in British Columbia during July 1864

Dubliner Peter Leech had a river and mining town named after him for discovering gold during an official exploration of Vancouver Island in British Columbia during July 1864

Mon, Jul 14, 2014, 05:30

An Irishman responsible for a gold rush in the 1860s was honoured yesterday at a Canadian ceremony marking the 150th anniversary of the discovery.

Dubliner Peter Leech had a river and mining town named after him for discovering gold during an official exploration of Vancouver Island in British Columbia during July 1864.

The commemoration took place at Ross Bay Cemetery on the island, where Leech is buried.

Born on Dublin’s Cork Street, Leech served in the Crimean War before emigrating to Canada and joining the Royal Engineers.

In 1864, he led an expedition along what was then called the Sooke River.

A small amount of gold was discovered the first day, but within two weeks Leech recognised the extent of the find.

He penned a letter predicting enough gold would be found in the river to employ 4,000 men.

In it, he said: “The whole value of the diggings cannot be over-estimated. The gold will speak for itself.”

This triggered a gold rush along the waterway, of which a portion was renamed the Leech River.

The makeshift mining town nearby, first a tent city, was named Leechtown.

As many as 4,000 miners would work at over 1,000 mining sites in the area.

But the mini-gold rush at Leechtown was short-lived. Starting in 1864, it had already passed its peak by 1865. Today, the site is a ghost town.

Leech’s words inspired the title of a book written by another Irish emigrant, Dr Patrick Lydon.

‘In The Gold Will Speak for Itself’, Dr Lydon wrote about the discovery of gold at Leechtown and Leech’s contribution to Canadian history.

It was published last year in anticipation of the 150th anniversary event.

Originally from Galway, Dr Lydon’s family used to own a woollen mills in the city.

He completed a degree in medicine at the National University of Ireland, Galway before emigrating to Canada almost 40 years ago.