Herbert Anscomb (1902-1972) was an accountant who served as Mayor of Victoria and Reeve of Oak Bay. His client list included Robert and Jennie Butchart of Butchart Gardens. He was a member of St. Andrew’s Lodge No. 49 in Victoria, B.C.
Here are links to some photographs of Herbert Anscomb:
Here are some local newspaper reports of Herbert Anscomb’s death and funeral:
“ANSCOMB — On Nov. 12, 1972. at the Royal Jubilee Hospital. Herbert Anscomb, 356 Newport Avenue [note: see below for a map]. in his 81st year. Born in Maidstone, England, and resident of Victoria for many years. Survived by his brother Bute in Vancouver, and by nephews and nieces in Victoria, and Vancouver and a great-nephew in England.
Funeral service will be held on Thursday, Nov. 16, at 1:15 p.m. from St. Mary’s Anglican Church, 1701 Elgin Rd., Oak Bay, entombment in the family vault in Ross Bay cemetery. HAYWARDS FUNERAL CHAPEL directors.”
(Source: Daily Colonist, 15 November 1972, page 26)
“Tory Anscomb Dies In Victoria
The unreconstructed, right wing curmudgeon is dead. That’s what Herbert Anscomb, 80. who died Sunday in Royal Jubilee Hospital, called himself just two years ago.
“And I don’t give a damn who knows it,” he said at the time.
Anscomb was many things in his time. He was leader of the provincial Conservative party. He was a minister in several cabinet posts. And he was co-premier in the province’s Coalition government.
He was the youngest mayor Victoria ever had when he was elected at the age of 37 and held the office from 1929 to 1931. He was the youngest reeve Oak Bay ever had when he was elected at the age of 33 and served from 1925 to 1927.
Oak Bay elected him to the Legislature in 1932 and he remained there until 1952 when, as finance minister, he was fired by Premier Byron Johnson and lost his seat in the election following the breakup of the Coalition government.
The man who scorned the change of his party’s name to Progressive Conservative (he said he was a Tory and was proud to belong to a party with a proud and progressive history) came to Canada from England in 1911 at the age of 19.
His first job in Victoria was with a pick and shovel. He later took a job as a clerk with B.C. Electric at $50 a month, then became a chartered accountant and went into business for himself.
In the Coalition government he was minister of mines and fisheries, minister of municipal affairs and minister of public works. On the death of R. L. Maitland he was elected leader and made finance minister.
He was known as a man with no hobbies who preferred work above social life, sports or cards, who read mainly business and financial newspapers, worked early and late and rarely took a holiday.
A teetotaler, he was involved in Growers Wine Ltd. It was said he puffed and chewed his way through as many as 15 cigars a day “spewing smoke like a locomotive.”
Newspaper profiles described him as dynamic, hard-hitting, a dramatic speechmaker, tough, sometimes brutally blunt yet charming and suave when he wanted to be.
Anscomb didn’t agree with bilingualism. He believed there should be only one language “and that’s the British language,” he said two years ago.
Earlier he said he would rather see Canada trade with Socialist Britain than with Yankeeland, his name for the U.S.
He felt that anyone who abandoned outright free enterprise had “.joined the other side.” He referred to the CCF. party [note: now the NDP] as communistic.
He was still being forceful and outspoken when interviewed in November, 1970. He was 100 years behind the times in his thinking, he said, but he liked it that way.
After Mrs. Anscomb died in 1965 the former Tory leader made his home at 356 Newport [note: see below for a map] and at the Union Club. The couple had no children. Anscomb is survived by a brother, Bute, in Vancouver.
Funeral will.be held at 1:15 p.m. Thursday in St. Mary’s Anglican Church, Oak Bay, with Rev. Cyril Venables and Archdeacon A. E. Hendy officiating.”
(Source: Daily Colonist, 15 November 1972, page 22)
A Nostalgic Funeral
By JAMES K. NESBITT Special to the Colonist
Herbert Anscomb, B.C. cabinet minister from 1941 to 1952 who used to insist a hotel room costing more than $10 a day was pure swank and extravagance went Thursday to his tomb in Ross Bay cemetery in a solid walnut coffin weighing more than 700 pounds.
He hand picked it out for himself, the same as his wife’s. In his instructions to his executors he underlined, three times, the words “solid walnut,” the keen business type to the very end.
In St. Mary’s Church, Oak Bay, the coffin was covered with the regulation purple pall, with its embroidered cross, denoting that, before the eyes of the Almighty, all men are equal, whether their mortal remains are in solid walnut, pure bronze or sewn into a canvas bag.
As the $900 coffin was carried down the church steps, the sun glinted from its gleaming red-toned wood, and the pallbearers bowed beneath its weight
It was placed into the solid granite mausoleum beside Anscomb’s wife. They had no children. She had been “Birdie” Brooker of Victoria, and they had been distant cousins.
The name Anscomb is carved into the granite, and below are two red marble slabs — Annie Maud, 8th May, 1956 and Herbert, 23rd Feb. 1892-12th Nov. 1972.
Mrs. Anscomb had expressed a wish to be neither buried nor cremated. Her husband had her body embalmed for four months while he put his name on a waiting list for a double plot, and then had the tomb built. He insisted on Ross Bay, though there was plenty of space in other cemeteries.
Most Sunday mornings through 16 years Anscomb picked a small bunch of flowers in his garden and placed them on his wife’s tomb. If anyone found him doing this he appeared embarrassed, and became most brusque. I always suspected he was afraid he’d burst into tears.
Mr. and Mrs. Anscomb lived very modestly in an Oak Bay waterfront home called Hove Villa, where Anscomb, defiantly, flew the Union Jack. A staunch Britisher, he had no patience with the Maple Leaf.
His funeral drew an assorted assemblage. Three of Anscomb’s former cabinet colleagues were there — Leslie Eyres, William Straith, John Cates of Vancouver, and the widow of another, Ernest Carson.
There were Masons and Rotarians, Conservatives and Liberals and a few down-and-outs, to whom Anscomb had probably been’ kind, in his gruff way, no doubt giving them, as well as a dollar, a lecture on the evils of sloth and drink, though he manufactured beer and wine.
Mayor Frances Elford of Oak Bay paid the tribute of her municipality, where Anscomb was reeve more than 40 years ago. Former Victoria Mayor Percy George was there, Anscomb having been mayor of Victoria when the 1930s started.
Anscomb was the last of the Big Four of the Coalition government, which had two Liberal premiers — John Hart and Byron Johnson, and two Conservative deputy premiers — Royal Lethington Maitland and Anscomb.
Archdeacon A. E. Hendy said of Anscomb: “He has gone to his long rest, knowing he did what he could in the only way he knew how.
“Too few people, as capable as he, wish to devote their lives, as he did, to the service of others.
“To the very end, politics was part of his life. You always knew where you stood with him — there was no shilly-shallying about Herbert Anscomb. He held to his own political theories through thick and thin. His life was one of public dedication.
“I wonder if he said to St. Peter: ‘Is there bilingualism here?’
“A great man has gone from us — we leave him in God’s hands — may he rest in peace, and may light perpetual shine upon him.”
Former deputy ministers who had worked under Anscomb were at the church and several now retired members of his staff.
“He was always a wonderful boss,” said Miss Amy Wills, his secretary when he was minister of public works.
“If anything went wrong he always took the blame himself,” said Miss Connie Chrow, his secretary when he was minister of finance.
“When everything was right, and he was pleased, he always said that it was everyone else who had done a fine job for him.”
It was nostalgic, this funeral, for those who had known this strange, gruff person with the warm and sentimental interior, who deliberately hid it with a hard-boiled facade.
I remember his splendid legislative and hustings speeches. He had punch and vitality. He was never dull, nor windy. He could show a delicious sense of humor, an ability to poke fun at himself.
One night, electioneering in Penticton, the lights went out while he was speaking. “Socialism seems to have arrived — see the darkness,” he said, and went right on speaking.
In the Legislature, Mrs. Nancy Hodges was complaining about highway soft shoulders.
“Whose soft shoulders, did you say?” asked Anscomb, a twinkle in his eye.
“Not the kind of soft shoulders you’re thinking of my friend,” replied Mrs. Hodges, grimly.
Anscomb reddened, though he roared with everyone else.
If I met him in a legislative corridor, he always said: “Drop in any time, sonny,” and when I did, he’d say: “Come in Senator — glad to see you — make yourself at home.”
Then he’d answer my questions, chewing all, the time on a ferocious-looking black cigar.
These were the thoughts we had as we saw Herb Anscomb, turned 80 last February, packed off to his granite tomb in his magnificent coffin.
The grandeur of coffin and tomb, somehow didn’t seem to suit this very humble human being, who rose to high places, but never lost the common touch, though he kept that touch firmly in check in an iron self-discipline.
A granite tomb, and a solid walnut coffin, yet Herb Anscomb drove an ancient car, never put on the least style, spumed the trappings of the well-to-do, and never pompously strutted.
He will be missed on Victoria’s downtown streets making his quick way between bank, trust company, post office and newstand, stopping to have a word or two with old friends, always viewing with alarm.
One felt a little more cheerful after a brief talk with him.
An odd mixture was Herbert Anscomb. Those of us who knew him, however slightly, won’t soon forget him, and we feel just a little richer for the knowing.
As Archdeacon Hendy said, he now has an honored place in our history and I’m glad, as the Irish say, that he was given a grand send-off.
Honorary pallbearers were former B.C. lieutenant-governor Major-Gen. George Pearkes, Col. Donald McGugan; Mr. Justice R. A. Wootton; retired B.C. Appeal Court judge Thomas Norris; B.C. Conservative leader Derril Warren; Judge M. T. Drake; Brig. G. R. Bradibrook; Harry Anderson; Hugh Sibbald.
Active pallbearers were Harry Mearnes, C. Keir, R. Rigby, William Osborn, R. W. Phipps, T. Bissley.”
(Source: Daily Colonist, 17 November 1972, page 10)
Here is a map showing the location of Herbert Anscomb’s home at 356 Newport Avenue, Oak Bay.
Here is a Google Street View image of 356 Newport Avenue, Oak Bay:
Herbert Anscomb and his wife, Annie Maud Anscomb, are buried in Ross Bay Cemetery, Victoria, B.C.
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