The Wreck of the Valencia

by John MacFarlane 2017

Valencia Lifeboat

The name board from the Valencia’s Lifeboat No. 5 which was carried by the ill–fated Valencia. (Photo from the John MacFarlane collection.)

I was visiting the new location of the Maritime Museum of British Columbia for the very first time recently. You will recall that they staved off a huge threat to their future when the Provincial Government evicted them from the old courthouse on Bastion Square. The new site is tiny, and the vast bulk of the collection is in storage, but they still have a reading room and a small space for exhibits. They expect to rally their forces here and look to the future.

Valencia Lifeboat

The name board from Lifeboat No. 5 (Photo from the John MacFarlane collection.)

While I was there I was silently thrilled to see an artifact on display which has a strong link to my own family. It was the lifeboat name plate from the Valencia which you will recall was wrecked in a huge tragedy on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The story has been told in a couple of books on the subject which are worth obtaining (they are surely out of print but available on the used market).

Years after the event in 1933 my grandfather, Captain George Alexander MacFarlane, found the Valencia’s Lifeboat No. 5 in a farmer’s field in the Alberni Canal. There were a number of stump ranches on the inlet at that time. It was high up on a hillside well above the normal water level. The boat was in good condition and was filled with scrap metal parts so perhaps the boat was salvaged. Being fascinated with nautical history he took the name board off the boat with an axe and it sat in a cupboard his house for years afterwards.

In 1956, when the Maritime Museum opened (then in Esquimalt BC) my grandmother donated it and another plate with the number five on it as founding artifacts of the collection. It is only through the understanding of the significance and context of artifacts such as this that makes them meaningful. This plate is a link to the 117 people who lost their lives in this disaster.


The Valencia (Photo from the Wikipedia collection.)

Neitzel Book

This is the cover of the 1995 book by Michael C. Neitzel The Valencia Tregedy which I am sure is available on the used book market. (Photo from the John MacFarlane collection.)

Michael Neizel’s book is a very good telling of the story of the wreck but I was disappointed that he did not report the origin of the lifeboat nameplate origin correctly. His miss–telling has now entered the popular record. For example, the article in the Wikipedia that states that "In 1933, 27 years after the disaster, Valencia’s lifeboat No. 5 was found floating in Barkley Sound. Remarkably, it was in good condition, with much of the original paint remaining." is completely incorrect as I detail above. It was not afloat when my grandfather found it.

To quote from this article please cite:

MacFarlane, John M. (2017) The Valencia. 2017.

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