Buster the hippo ate his way through Ladysmith – Chronicles From the Past

Ed Nicholson shares Buster the hippopotamus' daily food intake in August 1962 as he looks at what made the news in 1912, 1937 and 1962.

August 1912

The Ladysmith Chronicle in August 1912 printed a summary of a report by Lord Mersey, Commissioner of Wrecks, on the sinking of the Titanic. The official British inquiry into the disaster made 24 recommendations “with a view to promoting the safety of vessels and persons at sea.” [Shipping Casualties Loss of the Steamship Titanic, 1912]. The key conclusions were that:

• The ship had been travelling too fast for those waters

• The crew was not properly trained to handle lifeboats

• The officers did not fill the lifeboats before launching them

• There should be enough lifeboats on all ships to carry all passengers in the future

• All ships should carry a Marconi wireless, with operators continually on duty

August 1937

Aug. 3, 1937, marked the passing of one B.C.’s most remarkable women. Mrs. Laura [Surles] Dunsmuir, widow of the former premier and lieutenant governor of B.C., the Hon. James Dunsmuir, died in Victoria at the age of 79.

She came to B.C. as a bride of 18 when her new husband was appointed colliery manager at Wellington. Mrs. Dunsmuir was the daughter of a prominent North Carolina farmer, and she welcomed her husband’s growing importance, if only because it allowed her to climb B.C.’s social ladder. After James was finished with politics and had divested himself of most of his business interests, the Dunsmuirs set up house in their newly-constructed mansion on the Esquimalt Lagoon named Hatley Park in 1909. Mrs. Dunsmuir quickly became the leading lady in Victoria society, while James devoted himself to more simple pleasures with his male friends, fishing and bird hunting or sailing on his 218-foot yacht, the Dolaura. [Note: James died in 1920, the wealthiest man in B.C. Hatley Park is now the site of Royal Roads University.]

August 1962

The Carson and Barnes Circus was a big hit in Ladysmith in the summer of 1962. One of the stars of the fair was Buster, a four-ton hippopotamus greatly admired by the  children. Both the local Shopeasy and Gourlay’s Red & White were also “fans” and happy to help out with Buster’s daily intake: 2,300 pounds of hay, 32 bushels of oats, 1,200 pounds of bran, 400 pounds of sweet feed, 400 pounds of raw meat, 50 pounds of fish, 120 loaves of bread, 86 bananas, 50 bunches of carrots, 100 pounds of onions, one crate of oranges, one half-crate of celery, one half-crate of lettuce and 200 pounds of potatoes.

I think Buster would have enjoyed meeting up with the unidentified Vancouver Island firefighter who, according to a  report in the Chronicle, had to be restrained by a hastily-appointed Protection Committee of firefighters from finishing his breakfast. The breakfast, eaten by one man at a single seating, is thought to constitute a record of some sort.

Altogether, he consumed 16 eggs, one can of tomatoes, half a can of jam, one and a half loaves of bread, half a pound of butter, seven cups of coffee, six potatoes and half a pound of cheese. According to the cook’s report, the man was still hungry and demanding more when other firefighters drove him from the cookhouse before he had a chance to ravage their entire summer food supply.

Later, one member of the committee was heard to comment, “We were forced to act in self-defence!”

Move over Buster!

Compiled by Ed Nicholson, Ladysmith Historical Society