The Fraser Wilson Mural at the Maritime Labour Centre on Triumph Street in Vancouver. I finally made my pilgrimage out to see this mural first hand at the Got Craft fair this past weekend. And what better surroundings than an auditorium filled with crafters, makers, and artists! Fraser Aldwyn Wilson would be proud.
This work is a monumental treasure; there aren’t many like it, and this piece is probably Fraser Wilson’s most significant work. We’re lucky to have it for many reasons; it was almost painted over, and had it not been relocated and/or painted over, it would have been destroyed by fire! The Pender Auditorium burnt to the ground in July of 2003.
The Maritime Labour Centre’s website tells us more about the mural’s history:
This mural depicting the mid-1940s British Columbia Industrial scene was originally painted on the wall of the Pender Auditorium by Fraser Wilson in 1947.
The building, owned by the Marine Workers and Boiler Makers, Industrial Union Local 1 until its sale in 1969, was at the time the center of trade union activity in Vancouver. It was not until the Pender [Auditorium] was to paint over the mural, and after it had changed owner (who now wanted a white background for divided work areas) that a few individuals including Gary Oliver, BC Teachers’ Federation’s Jim MacFarlan, and Alderman Bruce Yorke, lobbied an application through the 1986 Vancouver Centennial Commission to move and restore the mural for the walls of the newly-built Maritime Labour Centre, the new home of the Vancouver District Labour Council, and several unions including the Boilermakers.
The restored mural was re-dedicated by Fraser Wilson at the opening of the new Maritime Labour Auditorium on January 22, 1988.
I’ve mentioned this before, but it is worth repeating; the mural was painted in 1947, the same year Fraser Wilson spoke out against the newspaper during a bitter strike and he was promptly fired. More details from text originally posted on the Dayton Boot Company website:
Shortly after the company was launched, in 1947 the highly regarded cartoonist of the Vancouver Sun, Fraser Wilson, then president of the newspaper guild (union) spoke out against the Province during a bitter marathon strike. He was fired and told to leave his office and job within the hour.
Sadly, Fraser Wilson never worked another day in the newspaper industry. With his primary source of income lost, Mr. Wilson turned to advertising and art as his primary means of support. Charlie Wohlford and Wayne Wohlford recognized his talent and engaged Fraser Wilson to create catalogues, advertising and cartoons to promote the Dayton Brand.
I also speculate that the mural could very well be one of the first things he endeavored to do after he was fired. Whatever the case, it is magnificent. My photos don’t treat the mural quite as beautifully as the colour corrected/enhanced photograph by Sean Griffin, which I’ve also included above for reference. The colour discrepancies are probably a combination of both the unnatural lighting I was under and the mural’s pigments showing their age.
This brings me to a very important question; does anyone know the whereabouts of the descendants of Fraser Wilson? I would really like to followup with the family and ask them if there is more we can learn of Fraser Wilson’s legacy. To facilitate this, I’ll post a little bit of genealogy here in the hopes it will lead me to the family.
Fraser Aldwyn Wilson
Born July 1, 1905 in Vancouver, BC
Died July 31, 1992 in Burnaby, BC
Father: Adney James Wilson of Drayton, Ontario
Mother: Alexandria McRae of Chicago, Illinois
Fraser Aldwyn Wilson married Sarah Leith Reid on September 7, 1931.
Sarah Leith Reid
Born September 24, 1910 in Greenock, Scotland
Died November 25, 1987 in Burnaby, BC
Father: James McLaughlin Reid of Greenock, Scotland
Mother: Annie Leith of Paisley, Scotland
Fraser and Sarah Wilson had their son Joel J. Wilson some time in the 1930s? According to Sarah Wilson’s obituary in the Province dated November 27, 1987, Joel Wilson married Sally and had 2 daughters Tracy and Kelly, and there were also at least three great-grandchildren. However, I can’t seem to find any more recent information about Joel and Sally Wilson. It’s quite possible that Tracy and Kelly Wilson no longer carry the Wilson name. If anyone has any more information they can provide, please send me a note, and please provide a way to keep in touch. Perhaps there is still more we can learn of Fraser Wilson’s legacy. Thank you all in advance!