ALL SET TO GO TO WORK - Justice Minister John Turner pauses briefly at the entrance of LeRoi Mine in Rossland to study a hand-drill which was once used in the mine. Mr. Turner toured the mine where his grandfather worked as part of a brief visit to Rossland on July 1, 1971. (Jim Swettenham photo)

Times reporter recalls John Turner’s return to Rossland home

“Mr. Turner treated my wife, Gerry, and I like we were long lost friends.” - Jim Swettenham

Former Canadian Prime Minister John Turner led an extraordinary life, but it is less well-known that the man born in the U.K. also spent a few memorable years of his childhood growing up in the small West Kootenay community of Rossland, B.C.

The Trail Times received an email from former Times reporter Jim Swettenham, who fondly recalls a day spent with Turner back on July 1, 1971.

“The day with John Turner was very enjoyable,” said Swettenham. “Mr. Turner treated my wife, Gerry, and I like we were long lost friends. We felt very much at ease with him.”

Turner passed away in Toronto last week (Friday, Sept. 18) at the age of 91. His accomplishments are many and varied, but he is likely best known as the Liberal leader, whose brief 79-day tenure as Prime Minister in 1984 is the second shortest in Canadian history.

A lawyer by training, he served as justice and then finance minister from 1968-1975. It was during this time he returned to the West Kootenay.

Turner toured the LeRoi mine where his grandfather worked, visited the Rossland Historical Museum, and returned to his home, with the Trail Times reporter in tow.

“He took us into his childhood home and let us listen in on his phone call to his Mother,” said Swettenham. “He was so excited to be back in his childhood home and was doubly excited to tell his mother all about it.

“Hi, mom…I’m in the house!,” Turner shouted into the phone to his mother, Phyllis Gregory Turner, who by then resided in New Brunswick.

Turner’s mother had returned to her hometown of Rossland, after her husband Leonard Hugh Turner died suddenly at their residence in London, Eng. in 1932.

She was an economist by trade, having graduated UBC, and studied at the London School of Economics. Phyllis and her two children stayed in Rossland until she acquired a position with the Public Service of Canada in Ottawa. Her accomplishments were considerable and she eventually became the first female Chancellor of UBC.

John meanwhile also became an exceptional academic and athlete. He was a Rhodes Scholar, and after graduating at UBC in 1949, attended Oxford. He was also a national sprint champion and qualified for the 1948 Olympic Games. While at Oxford, he raced on the same track team as Roger Bannister, the first runner to break the four-minute mile barrier.

After a courting of Princess Margaret came to an end, Turner wed Geills McCrae Kilgour, a systems analyst for IBM and the grand-niece of Canadian army doctor John McCrae, who also penned the ever-popular poem ‘In Flanders Fields’.

Swettenham, who now resides in Winnipeg, says the meeting was memorable, and the impression made by the late John Turner, obviously, a lasting one.

“Mr. Turner is one of eight Canadian prime ministers that I have had the good fortune to have met over the years and I think I would be safe in lumping him with Lester B. Pearson and John Diefenbaker when it came to being down to earth and in touch with the common people in that they didn’t put on aires.”

You can’t get much more Canadian than that.

Related read: Books returned to Trail high school 50 years later

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here


John Turner (Canadian Press photo)

Just Posted

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 18 COVID-19 cases, highest daily count since July

The total of COVID-19 cases in the region is now at 662

A Kelowna clinic decided to immunize their patients in a drive-thru flu clinic earlier this month. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
Interior Health anticipates increase in flu vaccinations this season

Some 300,000 doses of flu vaccine ready for distribution across Southern Interior

The city is applying for two of the projects itself. File photo
Rossland city council throws support behind five infrastructure projects

Projects include new downtown washroom and $1-million Red Mountain race building

(Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay)
QUIZ: A celebration of colour

Fall in British Columbia is a time to enjoy a spectrum of vivid colours

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

Most Read