Sunday 16 February 2014


Alert readers of this blog will recall that, on occasion, Ken McIntosh and I have relied very heavily on the memories of Alberta author and retired criminal defense lawyer Jack Pecover, and his sisters, Jean Hunter and Helen O’Connor, to achieve a more complete picture of Dr Robert Henry MacLauchlan and his second wife, Evelyn Dee Hambly, one of the stars of the Calgary stage between 1922 and 1925. Jack has been especially helpful in providing us with information that demonstrates that the doctor had a kindly, if somewhat taciturn, side. For example, Jack has shared with us his reminiscences, from the late 1940s or early 1950s, of the doctor pulling a stripped-down Model T (the object of what might be termed “an automotive reconstruction effort” by Jack and his teenage friends) behind his brand new Cadillac and of the day the doctor put his medical skills to work for an equine patient, Jack’s mare, which had injured her postern.

Another memory of Jack’s which we found interesting was one that recalled how the doctor wore a leg brace which fit over his shoe. Although Jack could not recall which leg the brace was involved with, we have found that it must have been the right one, given information appearing in the autopsy report done after MacLauchlan’s 1966 death. The report, done by New Westminster’s Dr Frederick Lindsay Sturrock, mentions that a post-mortem examination found that:

“There is evidence of old disease in the right femur which could be an old fracture or osteomy elitis. There is some shortening of the right leg in consequence and some swelling of the right ankle.”

Of interest also in the autopsy was Dr Sturrock’s note that Dr MacLauchlan’s upper front incisors were all artificial and were gold-coloured. These dental and skeletal abnormalities make one wonder. Was the doctor involved in a fight when he was incarcerated in Lethbridge Jail during 1955? Did he have some teeth knocked out? Jack Pecover and his sisters, three very observant individuals, have never mentioned that MacLauchlan had “gold” front teeth. So far as the old injury to his femur, Ken and I have found out through our research that the doctor had skeletal tuberculosis as a young man. Thus it may be possible that that particular anomaly was the result of illness rather than injury.

We are always interested in hearing from our readers (who we have noted come from all over Canada and the US, and even Australia, South America and Asia) and welcome comments and suggestions for further research directions.

Wednesday 12 February 2014


Sapper George Herring, Margaret Anne Cunningham’s great grandfather and Royal Engineer ancestor of the New Westminster Herrings, was part of that persistent red line of British imperial authority that in the mid- and late 19th Century ran around the world. From Shanghai and Hong Kong in China, through India, Africa and the Middle East via the Suez Canal, to North America, London held sway over a quarter of the globe’s continental surface. As the saying went, the sun never set on the British Empire. It was a world system based on British guns, grit, persistence and virtue; and the life and achievements of George’s son, Arthur May Herring, exemplified the application of the first three.

Education ran heavy in the Herring family, perhaps prompted by the example of Arthur May Herring, Margaret Anne’s grandfather who took a degree in chemistry and electricity in San Francisco. Of his three sons who survived to adulthood two of them gained a post-secondary degree: Arthur Francis Charles became a doctor and John Victor Paul became an engineer.

Margaret Anne, as did her sister Frances, achieved her certification as a teacher at Calgary Normal School during the 1930s. Two decades later she attended UBC where she upgraded to her bachelor of education in 1964. By that year, or shortly after, she had become principal of Woodlands School in New Westminster. In the following year she was arrested and charged (along with Robert Henry MacLauchlan) with trafficking in narcotics. The year after that she was dead, killed in a drug-related murder along with MacLauchlan, her erstwhile “uncle” and later her husband.

Go here for more information on this enigmatic and interesting woman, descendant of an accomplished and old New Westminster family, and her relatives.

Wednesday 5 February 2014


Does anyone out there among our internet audience know anything about Wilfred Heffernan?

One of the most active prosecutors in the fight against the drug trade in Canada during the 1950s and 1960s was Saskatchewan lawyer Wilfred Heffernan. Hired by the federal government to prosecute all drug cases in western Canada, it was Heffernan who, at their first appearance in New Westminster court on December 23, 1965, read the charges to Dr Robert Henry MacLauchlan, Margaret Anne Cunningham (who married the doctor several weeks later) and their associate, long time criminal Joseph Sperling. All had been charged with trafficking in narcotics. As the Columbian (New Westminster’s paper of record at that time) reported:
After a 15-minute recess, while the court waited for special RCMP prosecutor Wilfred Heffernan, the three were crowded into the tiny witness box to hear the charge laid against them.
During the whole of his half-hour court appearance, MacLauchlan, wearing a grey suit without a tie, and Sperling, a thin man wearing a dark overcoat, appeared unmoved.
After reading of the charge Heffernan asked Magistrate Holmes to set bail for MacLauchlan and Sperling at $25,000 each and bail for Mrs. Cunningham at $2000.
Lawyers Nick Mussallem and Raymond Westaway, on behalf of the accused, objected to such heavy bail being set for MacLauchlan and Sperling.
In July 1971, Nick Mussallem was appointed to the BC Provincial Court, where he acquired a reputation for demonstrating first and foremost that the presumption of innocence was not some tiresome legal fiction to which lip-service must be paid but was the golden rule in his court.
In contrast, such an attitude apparently did not come naturally to Wilfred Heffernan. According to the memoirs of former BC Supreme Court Judge Thomas Berger, who as a young lawyer crossed swords on occasion with Heffernan, the prosecutor “[was] nettled whenever I was successful. He seemed to think it was a failure of justice whenever an accused person was acquitted.”

During the 1950s Heffernan prosecuted many of the eastern Canadian criminals who were members of the Montreal-based drug trafficking gangs. For example, on June 20, 1956, Heffernan led the prosecuting side in the case against Jean Paul Chevrier, Vincent Valois, Robert Tremblay, Marcel Frenette, James Malgren and Lucien Mayer – all of whom had been included in a 34 person police roundup the year before. 

On occasion Heffernan received death threats from the criminal organizations he was doing legal battle with. Following his career with the federal Department of Justice, he joined the prestigious Vancouver law firm of Russell and DuMoulin, now known as Fasken Martineau.  

Wilfred Heffernan died August 16, 1973 in Vancouver at the age of 70. Ken and I are eager for contact with any of Wilfred Heffernan’s family, friends or legal associates who might have anecdotes they are willing to share about this crusading prosecutor. Just check out our contact information on the home page of this website.
Wilfred Heffernan was an avid hockey player in his youth. In the photo above, which is courtesy of the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame, Heffernan is the fourth player from the left.

Saturday 1 February 2014

Margaret Anne Cunningham

Margaret Anne Cunningham returned to New Westminster around 1946. She was affectionately known as "Nan".  Nan Cunningham began teaching at Woodlands School about 1948 and did so until suspended December 1965 when she was charged with Trafficking in a Narcotic (Heroin). Nan Cunningham had return to to school and received her Bachelor of Education from UBC in 1964.
Rod and I would love to speak with former students, teachers or other Woodland employee's who remember Margaret Anne "Nan" Cunningham.
Nan Cunningham lived at 1117 Hamitlon Street from 1946 til 1950 when she moved to 612 8th Ave until 1954. From 1954 until her death she lived at 912 5th Street in New Westminster. We would enjoy talking with former neighbor as well.
Nan Cunningham was born in New Westminster but moved to Alberta the year of her birth 1915. She married Ernest Cunningham in 1940.
Nan was born Margaret Anne Herring. Anyone remembering her please contac us.