1934 - 2021
A respected fisherman and community member
Billy Griffith was a well-known and respected fisherman on the west coast and in our community. His seine boat the Tzoonie River and Bill were both quite recognizable and it was always a welcome sight to pass them as we headed out to the fishing grounds. The fishing industry has truly lost one of its real characters. Billy knowledge of the coast was great and vast. We hope he has his anchor down in a calm harbour.
Ian Mackay, President, PH Living Heritage Society
Memories of Billy Griffith
Elaine Park, Past President, Pender Harbour Living Heritage Society
Billy Griffith was a true son of Jervis Inlet. He lived all his life near the Skookumchuk, learning the water and woods like his own bones; it could be said that Egmont made Billy, and Billy, in turn, helped make Egmont.
From his childhood at Egmont school through his adulthood as an independent fisherman setting nets from Jervis Inlet to the Dixon Entrance, Billy had a consistent record of working hard then making it home safe. From home, he contributed hugely to the well-being of his community, sometimes defining the boundaries of that community generously. He worked from the centre outward, and the centre was his heart.
I had the privilege of getting to know him when we served together on the board of the Sunshine Coast Museum and Archives, he representing the Skookumchuk Heritage Centre and I, the Pender Harbour Living Heritage Society. We would drive down to Gibsons together for the board meetings , comparing notes about our historical projects and eventually sharing personal stories and political observations. It was wonderful to hear Billy, when reminiscing about his youth, always speak respectfully of “Mother” and his late beloved wife, Iris.
He and Iris were early activists in defense of the natural forest environment. Billy recalled a dinner-time conversation with Iris about the terrible effects likely to occur from a large corporate project planned in the woods. He said they discussed which of them should go to the protest barricades and which should stay home in Egmont to care for their family, both realizing their commitment could result in arrest and possible incarceration. He wanted to go, but in the end it was Iris, with his support, who headed for the woods--and court.
Billy’s humble habit of doing the right thing often stretched into trying to make the right thing happen. Over half a century, he helped establish the Pender Harbour Health Centre, the Egmont Lions Club, the Pender Harbour Wildlife Society and the Skookumchuk Heritage Centre. He was a moving force in setting up the Nature Centre at Ruby Lake now named in honour of Iris Griffith.
He was all in favour of co-operative associations, and for years he and his boats--most recently, the Tzoonie River-- were at the service of the coast’s fishing co-ops, especially the Native Fishing Cooperative out of Bella Bella and the Coast Tsimshian Fish Plant near Prince Rupert. At our meetings of the Sunshine Coast Museum board, we all loved it when he spoke up on some aspect of heritage preservation--always quietly, always wisely, usually with a wry joke buried in his comments. In the big and the little things, Billy had an instinct for gentle justice.