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Meet your Bowen Island neighbours: Phil Kemp

Our weekly Q&A continues
Phil Kemp
Phil ended up on Bowen after marrying a woman he'd first met 30 years earlier in Jacksonville, Oregon.

When did you come to Bowen?


How did you come to be on Bowen? 

Got married to a woman who lived on Bowen and moved here.

What’s the story there? 

We had known each other years before and then lost contact. We both had lots of things change in our lives and got back in contact and it kind of came from there. We’ve known each other for 30 years. We both lived quite separately in Jacksonville, Oregon.

I don’t know Jacksonville.

Jacksonville is where the first gold was found in the state of Oregon. That’s what started the gold rush there and the gold was found in the backyard of my old house. And all the tourists used to come and look at it every day.

Where on Bowen do you live?  

Tunstall Bay

Fill the ferry lineup gap or don’t fill the gap?

Fill the gap if I’m there early, if there’s no overload.

What’s your favourite Bowen Island fact or story?

It’s something you started. The guy from the Vancouver Maritime Museum gave you a story [December 2020]. And it related to a man from Shetland who was a skipper for the Union Steamship Company who died of a heart attack sailing down Howe Sound. I took that story and copied it to one of the Shetland, where I’m from, Facebook pages and all of a sudden, all these people that I knew came forward and said ‘Oh, my uncle worked for the Union Steamship Company’ and ‘My brother worked at the Union Steamship Company’ and ‘My grandfather worked at the Union Steamship Company.’ It was filled with guys from Shetland who didn’t necessarily stay here, they didn’t emigrate, but they would come and work here for years and return to Shetland. 

How did that link happen?

I’m going to say that it was just in the days when seamen worked all over the world. And the Union Steamship Company had their vessels built in Scotland. I think that that’s where some of that connection was – sailors would work on any ship anywhere in the world. One of the ships that was built brand new for the Union Steamship Company was built in Scotland and they sailed it from Glasgow to here. Apparently, the sand on the beach in Mannion Bay was the sand that was in the ballast of that vessel when it sailed over. A friend of mine in Shetland, his uncle was on the crew of that boat that sailed from Scotland to Bowen Island. 


It’s this weird story. It’s just the strangest thing. I knew nothing about it. I just learned all this, this past year.

What do Bowen Islanders have in common? 

I think they have just a desire to live somewhere really unique. And have a life that’s really unique. Because if you can’t handle that uniqueness, you’re not going to last very long here.

What’s your favourite COVID-19 balm or activity? 

Being outdoors. Walking and being outdoors, especially at the Cape, that’s where I spend most of my time.