Opened in 1862 as the Bank of British Columbia, the building remained a bank until 1988 under a different array of banking establishments’ control. Of all the bank employees to work at this location in the 126 years it was a bank the most notable was, the bard of the Yukon, Robert Service.
As featured on the
Victoria Ghost Walk Tours
Robert Service was born in Lancashire, England in 1874 and was the eldest of ten children. While still a young boy, the family moved to Glasgow, Scotland, where Robert first attended school. He was mainly a solitary child who immersed himself in books and his own imagination, yet still found time to raise a ruckus by getting into scraps with other children.
It was during his sixth birthday that Robert first amazed his family and himself with his ability to create rhyming verse, which came in the form of a spontaneous grace during dinner. Throughout his school days Robert immersed himself in the writings of Shakespeare, Burns and Longfellow, all filled with adventure and declamatory verses.
By the age of fourteen, Robert had left school and started an apprenticeship with a bank in Scotland. It was here that he found himself with extra time during his shifts and started to devote more time to his poems, of which over a dozen were published in the local paper.
In 1896 at the age of twenty-two, Robert resigned from his position at the bank and moved to Canada in search of new travels and adventure. During the next eight years he wandered up and down the West coast of Canada and the U. S. trying his hand at a variety of jobs such as farming, ranching, manual labor, and running a general store. All of these experiences would provide material for his writings.
By 1903 Robert would move to Victoria. Tired of working and searching for an easier life, he accepted a job with the Canadian Bank of Commerce (what is now the Bard & Banker Public House). During his employment at this branch, Robert would spend his nights sleeping on the vault, which was located at the top of the staircase, hence the name of the room The Vault. Robert would later transfer to a different branch in Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory.
It was here in the Yukon when Robert almost met his demise at the hands of a bank teller, thinking he was a robber he tried to shoot him in the head but narrowly missed, providing the inspiration for The shooting of Dan McGrew. A month later Robert attended a party where he heard a fantastic story, giving birth to the poem we know as The Cremation of Sam McGee.
Robert’s poems would become so popular and profitable that he was able to leave his position with the bank and focus solely on his writing. By the start of the First World War in 1914, the Toronto Star had asked him to be a correspondent and once again in search of adventure, he accepted. At the end of the war Robert stayed in Europe, living most of the remainder of his life in France, which is partly why we have a strong French influence on our wine list.
Robert Service died in 1958, still writing and publishing poems into his mid-eighties and although he lived a large portion of his life in Europe, he is still widely referred to as the Bard of the Yukon. Through his writings and banking career this is how the name for our pub came to be the Bard & Banker.