Saturday, August 15, 2015

“Heart of the Raincoast” by Alexandra Morton and Billy Proctor

I’ve been reading books about British Columbia’s coast ever since we discovered Powell River. In the beginning, there were only a few to choose from. Lately, more and more people are writing memoirs and tales of the early fishing and logging days.

One person mentioned often is Billy Proctor. He grew up and still lives on the Mainland, the area and islands between Drury to Knight Inlets. Billy has been prominent in many books that I’ve read including Drawn to Sea by Yvonne Maximchuk, Becoming Wild by Nikki Van Schyndel, and now Heart of the Raincoast: A Life Story (Touchwood Editions, 1998) co-authored by Alexandra Morton and Billy himself.

Billy’s father was a logger and fisherman. After he was killed in a boating accident, his wife Jae surprisingly chose to stay on the remote BC coast to raise her son Billy, not an easy task. To make ends meet she continued to run her husband’s fish buying business.

As the title implies, the book follows Billy Proctor’s life from his parent’s arrival on the coast in the 1920s to the present. Interspersed are poems written by his mother Jae. Photographs from the early days add to the story.

Following in his father’s footsteps Billy became a logger and a fisherman. He resisted formal “schooling” via correspondence lessons, learning more from the school of life and nature around him. He was fearless and loved to explore by land and sea.

Heart of the Raincoast gives great insight into the region I now call home. Powell River isn’t remote like the Mainland, but the shores of Powell Lake look much like those of northern inlets. I guess I enjoy learning about the past of this inspiring location for two reasons: I want to know as much as I can about where I live, and as a history major in college it’s a special love I have.

Billy and his wife Yvonne (also a Mainland native) moved to Echo Bay on Gilford Island in 1959. They bought a boatshed and marine ways to increase the family income. They purchased land to build a home for their family, including daughters Patty and Joannie. Subdividing some of his land, Mainland newcomers like Nikki Van Schyndel, Yvonne Maximchuk, and Alexandra Morton have found permanent homes in the land they’ve come to love.

In recent years, Billy has become a strong proponent for wild salmon recovery. All of his fishing experience has given him special insight into the plight of fish he once depended on for a livelihood. Now he is a vocal proponent of conservation, serving on committees and supporting hatchery efforts to increase the stock of wild salmon.

Billy’s story brings the past alive. It’s through writings of Alexandra Morton and Yvonne Maximchuk and Billy himself that the story of the Mainland and coastal communities now long gone are preserved for those of us who want to feel a part of the past. Heart of the Raincoast is available online at Amazon in print and Kindle versions, and in many other bookstores up and down the coast. -- Margy


  1. You've been reading some interesting books on BC.

  2. Looks and sounds like an excellent book. I too like books about the history of where I live. I have acquired several of the books that you have recommended.