A Man Called Moses


230 pages
ISBN 1-894898-04-4
DDC C813'.6





Reviewed by Nanette Morton

Nanette Morton teaches English at McMaster University in Hamilton.


A Man Called Moses is a fictional account of the life of Wellington
Delaney Moses, a barber who was one of the first black men to arrive in
British Columbia. Born a slave in Grand Cayman, Moses, along with the
remaining slaves in the British empire, was freed in 1831. Stifled by
the tiny island’s limited opportunities, he left for the goldfields of
California. Abandoning thoughts of staking a claim, he prospered as a
barber. California was not the Eldorado it appeared to be; though
nominally free, black people could not testify in court and their civil
rights were severely limited. Moses, fellow businessman Mifflin Gibbs,
and a few others packed up and moved to British Columbia, where they
hoped to escape the human-rights abuses of America. But Victoria was not
much better; discrimination followed them everywhere.

While Moses’s story is intrinsically interesting, the narrative
itself is rather flat. Gallaher relies extensively on Moses’s
unpublished diaries and the memoir of Mifflin Gibbs. In his efforts to
remain historically accurate (the novel includes notes and a
bibliography), Gallaher flattens out what could have been a very
dramatic story: too many day-to-day interactions are included, drawing
focus from a murder and other dramatic events that could have been

to a livelier novel. Also, he rather awkwardly uses dialogue in order to
fill in gaps about this neglected period of history. Still, the writing
is competent and the mere fact that the period is unexplored makes this
book an interesting read.


Gallaher, Bill., “A Man Called Moses,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/15429.