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Eric Duncan

Eric Duncan was born in Sandwick, Shetland, in 1858, and at the age of nineteen years joined his uncles in the Comox district, Vancouver Island, British Columbia. He farmed at what became known as Sandwick (today part of Courtenay) and kept a store there for many years. His public service included appointments as Provincial Government Agent at Comox (1882-1888), Postmaster of Sandwick (1889-1912), a school trustee and an 1891 census taker. He was a noted poet and an active member of St Andrew's Anglican Church, behind which he was buried after his death in 1944.

In 1889 Duncan married a Swedish immigrant, Anna Ask (d. 1921). Having no children of their own, they adopted a son, Charles (born to the pioneering Pritchard family), who was killed in the First World War. Their house, built in 1911 and 1912 and listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places, is currently in danger of demolition.

A prolific writer, Duncan authored poems, letters and other articles for newspapers and magazines in the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States. Some of his poetry was collected in Rural Rhymes and The Sheep Thief (Toronto, Montréal and Halifax, 1896), The Rich Fisherman and Other Tales (London, 1910) and The Rich Fisherman and Other Sketches (Toronto, 1932). His autobiographical and historical reminiscences were published in Fifty-Seven Years in the Comox Valley (Courtenay, 1934), later expanded into From Shetland to Vancouver Island (Edinburgh, 1937; enlarged, 1939).

From Shetland to Vancouver Island remains the most important document for the history of the Comox Valley. It tells the author's own story, beginning with his boyhood in Shetland, and it records the development of the new community that became his home in 1877. In a forthcoming edition prepared by local historian Brendon Johnson, Eric Duncan will speak to a new generation of readers, introducing them to the mind and heart of a Scottish settler in Canada.