In June we hosted a successful Homecoming reunion for former residents. For this mini-series we asked the participants for a story from their past that we could share. In this post, we feature Ian Miller, who spent the first six years of his life at Britannia. Ian's childhood at the Mine is perhaps one of the most tumultuous stories from its past. And for this, we are grateful for his graciousness in sharing the story.
Ian's father was the notorious John Black, a.k.a. Keith MacDonald, who stole the company pre-Christmas payroll in 1954, all $44,500 of it. Ian and his mother Nessie (Agnes) were abandoned by his father, left to fend for themselves while Black absconded to Ontario. There, as one of Canada's most wanted fugitives he survived for two years before being caught and jailed. As details emerged it turned out he had been married three times and so bigamy was added to his crimes.
Ian and his heartbroken mother remained at Britannia. His mother was a bookkeeper for the Mine and his grandfather a Mill machinist and so as employees the whole family was entitled to stay in the company town. They were taken in by his grandparents Jock and Polly Campbell who lived in Minaty Bay. They lived there until his mother remarried and the family all moved to Vancouver.
In his childhood years at Britannia, Ian remembers the fun days spent playing with friends on the beach, in the creek, and along the railroad tracks where he liked to visit with the track maintenance crews and get the occasional ride in their speeder. He also used to play in the culvert that ran under the highway, and painfully remember the spanking he got from his mom when she found out about that last escapade! He also says that he still bears the scar on his forehead from a home-made arrow shot by a friend.
There is a happy ending to this story however. In later years, Ian and Black's children from his first marriage found each other. As siblings they have willingly connected and got to know each other. Now that his mother and adoptive father have both recently passed away, Ian has a younger brother and his "Ontario family" (as his mother called them) to be close to.
Through his research, Black's story has been pieced together by Ian. He shares it with us here in 'The Amazing Story of Britannia's Christmas Heist of 1954'.
Read other stories about life at Britannia: