To be asked, as I was recently by the Editor of this esteemed paper, how it fell to this person to be the first to attempt to organize in Canada a Land Rover owners' club is like asking how long is a piece of string. The most sensible response it seems to me, was because of the real felt need that existed then, clear across this vast chunk of very real Canada, for some form of network apparatus to help dispel the uncomfortable feeling of threatening isolation that attended operating a Land Rover at the time in this country. (I might add the idea was original to me; slow-brained as I am it never occured to me that there might be such groups already in existance for help when needed). If nothing more, owning a Land Rover taught me what it must be like to be a lone raisin in a box of Kellog's Raisin Bran. Remember too, we had been abandoned by Mother, over there in Solihull around this time.
One susposes, had there been sufficient numbers of the marque in the Northwest Territories to justify the scheme, it is quite possible I'd be credited today with being the first to form a Land Rover club north of 60' across the globe, there being nothing of the kind at the time in either Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Greenland, Svalbard, Siberia or Alaska. That there were Land Rovers in each of these exotic cold countries goes without saying, eh? They just hadn't got their acts together yet.
My acquisition in Vancouver of a 1966 109" in 1969 brought to three the total of the marque in Yellowknife. (The clock read 8,000 miles, the unit had never been sold and was serving as a BMC distributorship's service vehicle in and around Vancouver). The other two units were the property of a surveyor-cum-judge of the NWT, with considerable northern experience (It was rumoured he had arrived in the mining town ahead of the highway's completion. That figures, eh?)
Despite the magical solvent that Land Rover proves to be between owners the world over, it is sad to report the Solihull icon failed abysmally to melt the judge's puzzling ice-bound feelings towards the newcomer on the block unless it was the long hair and beads. (I had been cautioned to maintain a squeaky-clean law & order profile, the said judge had little sympathy for hippies in his court). Consequently not once in all the years we saluted one another on the streets of the village we never swapped stories about the unique and conspicuous wheeled object d'art we had in common. By and large, the four banger gave a good account of itself contending with long periods of sub-zero (fahrenheit) temperatures, provided one had the block heater and battery blanket. Chief annoyances were frozen gearboxes and differentials. Stray cats fated warm engine blocks 5-star Hiltons throughout the winter so your day started with a thunderous thumps of the bonnet until you saw Mr Cat come out from under your feet be fore inserting key. It was not unheard of for cats to get caught up in the fan, sad to relate.
Some of the credit for my initiative on the Ottawa/Association of Land Rover Owners of Canada (ALROC) scene must be given to that honourable institution of ink-and-stencil duplication and the leader in the field, the British Gestetner. (I bought for fifty dollars the very machine through whose rollers was once produced a newspaper, if you can credit it, one of the first in NWT. I still have the dinosaur but, please don't whisper this to CSIS eh?) So, the delicious hot days of 1974 found Gestetner-produced notices being tucked under every vehicle with a split windscreen within my view, promoting the notion of Land Rover impassionates getting together for the Proper Feeding and Care of Land Rover in Canada and Social Benefits in the Process.
It was thanks to Mike McDermott I feel sure that we held our first meeting (others were held later there too) in the office of the "Citizen", his employer at the time. If memory serves, Peter Parsons drove me to the meeting in his SWB. Sad to relate, if Minutes were kept of the founding meeting their whereabouts are unknown to me. I deeply regret I am not able to present an accurate list of those present who responded to the notice on their windscreens. I can recall vividly however, I had to repeatedly remind the meeting that we were gathered together for discussion about a Land Rover club and not the Land Rover machine, about which everyone present seemed to be taken up with the person on each side of him (I do not believe there were any females present, though I could be wrong.
So, like Topsy, the organisation grew and soon we were receiving enquiries from many distant parts including the exchange of publications, newsletters, news and views, some from other continents. Our own well-named Transfer Box survived until the Spring of 1989, completing 28 issues. That T-Box served a useful purpose cannot be denied and even today enquiries about it are infrequently received. I do not think it is an exaggeration to state that as many as 200 LR owners were at one time on ALROC's register, though Andy Graham may have other numbers. Were I asked what exactly was the purpose, the raison d'etre of ALROC my immediate, unhesitant response would be "Look around you, there's a monument to the first Land Rover onwers' club in Canada. It is known as Ottawa Valley Land Rovers." From where I sit today, I'd say OVLR has got to be the finest example of its kind anywhere. Thanks Ladies and Gentlemen, for carrying on so nobly. You deserve a lot of credit.
From the July, 1996 issue of the Ottawa Valley Land Rovers newsletter
Note: In November, 1996, I received the following note from Paul Campbell, an OVLR member in Yellowknife: "I just read "Beginnings " by Harold Huggins on the ALROC web site. You may be interested that I now live in Yellowknife, own a 1974 88" and see the old Rover that belonged to the Surveyor/Judge, mentioned by Mr Huggins, fairly regularly. It no longer moves but it has been in town for at least 30 years.
February 2008 - We've added a page with photos of the 1986 ALROC Ice Races
May 2008 -
I have had your web site saved for years. Looked at it this morning and wanted you to know that I own the above Land Rover and it is safely stored in my garage in Yellowknife.