People of the Sound - Mike & Mabel Hamilton

Mike (b. 1888, Christened Walter Charles) and Mabel Hamilton (nee. Hall) traveled and lived throughout Clayoquot Sound. Their story is often told as a sweet romance. 

Mike and Mabel Hamilton. Courtesy of Hamilton Collection. 

The future couple met on a ship travelling from Ireland to Canada. Mabel's family settled in Langley and Mike moved to Howe Sound for a linesman position. They made indelible impressions on each other from their first meeting and kept in touch with letters over the years, few of which are left. 


Hike to Alberni. 1949. Courtesy of Hamilton Collection. 

Many of the photographs in our collection were taken by Mike Hamilton, including  the one above, capturing a long walk through the mountains to Port Alberni. Many of his photographs are from Nootka Sound and Hesquiaht Harbour where he spent time installing line. 

Before moving to Canada, in the UK, he laid telegraph cable from Dartmoor to Cornwall. While working in England, the foreman re-dubbed him Mike, joking that Hamilton must be a 'Mike' or a 'Pat' as he was Irish. When he came to Canada he immediately started a position installing telegraph line in Howe Sound. He then was commissioned to work on a line from Tofino to Nootka in 1913.

After the Clayoquot Sound line was completed, Mike was charged with maintaining the section from Ahousaht to Hesquiaht, an endless task. After the job was completed Mike made Tofino his home and set up a machine shop in partnerhsip with Hilmar in 1917. Mechanical repair jobs would take Mike farther afield as well, often to Kakawis, where Christie Residential School was located on Meares Island. He also serviced the movie projector there

Mike Hamilton at Nookta. 1919. Courtesy of Hamilton Collection.

Mabel first visited Mike in Tofino in 1919. She finally came to Tofino in 1923. She was quite keen on establishing a house on Strawberry Island, which Mike had purchased in 1920, though Mike second-guessed his decision to buy and sold it for $150. Mabel was happy to finally be with Mike, but had to get used to the small-town rhythm, especially the gossip! 

Mabel in Tofino. 1923. Courtesy of Hamilton Collection. 

After their marriage in 1924, Mabel and Mike set off for their honeymoon to Kennedy Lake, staying at the hatchery manager's house. The following year Mabel started working at the post-office. 


Hamilton Honeymoon, Clayoquot Arm. 1924. Courtesy of Hamilton Collection.

The couple had four daughters, Marie, Joan, Pat and Sheila. The couple moved to Port Alberni in 1927, where Mike was later mayor. Many of Mike's photographs survive in the Port Alberni Archives.

Mike and Marie Hamilton. Courtesy of Hamilton Collection. 

Hamilton Sisters at Mary Hall's. Courtesy of Hamilton Collection.

Mayor Mike Hamilton. ca. mid. 1950s. Courtesy of Hamilton Collection. 


Titian, Denise August. "Tofino resident makes public photographs." Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper

Horsfeild, Margaret. Voices from the Sound. Nanaimo: Salal Books, 2008. 

Horsfield, Margaret and Ian Kennedy. Tofino and Clayoquot Sound: A History. Madeira Park: Harbour Publishing, 2014.