Mount O’Beirne

Feature type: Mount
Province: British Columbia
Location: Alta-BC boundary, E of Moose Lake
Latitude: 52°55’00”
Longitude: 118°37’00”
NTS map: 83D/15
Official name listed at BC Geographical Names
The Irishman Eugene Francis O’Beirne (or O’Byrne) (b. ca. 1810), a graduate of Cambridge University, arrived in the Red River settlement (in present-day Manitoba) in 1861, after stays in India and the United States.

In the spring of 1862, O’Beirne accompanied one of the group of Overlanders (adventurers from eastern Canada bound for the Cariboo goldfields) to Fort Carleton. From Fort Carleton, the Hudson’s Bay Company sent him upriver to Fort Edmonton. At Fort Edmonton, the English travellers William Wentworth Fitzwilliam (Viscount Milton) and Dr. Walter Cheadle reported that they “made the acquaintance of Mr. O’B., a gentleman of considerable classical attainments, on his way to British Columbia. Altogether his appearance showed a curious mixture of the clerical with the rustic. His speech was rich with the brogue of his native isle, and his discourse ornamented with numerous quotations from the ancient classics.” O’Beirne begged to accompany Milton and Cheadle to British Columbia. In spite of the grumblings of their Indian guides, the Englishmen acquiesced and O’Beirne joined the party. The Hudson’s Bay Company servants at the post donated ten pounds to buy the Irishman a horse.

Cheadle, Milton, O’Beirne, and four native Indians crossed the Yellowhead Pass in 1863. Nearly starving in the North Thompson Country, they safely reached Kamloops, where O’Beirne seperated and proceeded to Victoria. After working there as a church secretary, he went to San Francisco, and later to Australia “where, upon occasion, he enlivens the bush fireside by an account of hair-breadth escapes during that terrible journey across the Rocky Mountains.’”

In Milton and Cheadle’s book, The North West Passage by Land, O’Beirne appears as a bumbling loudmouth, a Bible-quoting lush whose cowardice continually landed the party in trouble. George Grant, who travelled through the pass with Sanford Fleming in 1872, corroborated Milton and Cheadle’ account on several points, including that of the character of Mr O’B.

References:

  • Cheadle, Walter B. 1835-1910. Cheadle’s Journal of Trip Across Canada 1862-63. Ottawa: Graphic Publishers, 1931
  • Grant, George Monro. Ocean to ocean: Sanford Fleming’s expedition through Canada in 1872. Toronto : Belford Brothers, 1877
  • Milton, William Fitzwilliam and Cheadle, Walter B. The North-West Passage by Land. Being the narrative of an expedition from the Atlantic to the Pacific, undertaken with the view of exploring a route across the continent to British Columbia through British territory, by one of the northern passes in the Rocky Mountains. London: Cassell, Petter and Galpin, 1865
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