The Man Who Saved Vancouver: Major James Skitt Matthews.


224 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-1-894974-39-4
DDC 971.1'3303092





Reviewed by Ann Turner

Ann Turner is Financial and Budget Manager at the University of British
Columbia Library.


Founder of the City of Vancouver Archives and for nearly 40 years its outspoken proponent and defender, Major Matthews was as well known for his voluble and combative personality as for his foresight and vision in preserving Vancouver’s past. In his enthusiasm for all things Vancouver he saved not only the civic documents but also the relics of its history—all he could lay his hands on—as well as oral histories he elicited from the early settlers and First Nations people in the area. He was an accomplished and inspiring public speaker who used his gift for words to show others the wonders of Vancouver’s past and the need to keep the memories alive and vivid for later generations.


His frequent altercations with the city fathers and journalists kept him in the headlines throughout his career as Vancouver’s archivist and favourite curmudgeon, but his earlier careers in the military and in business are not as well known. This sensitive biography reveals the whole man, including his unsettled childhood, his marital and interpersonal difficulties, and the development of his passion for Vancouver, his adopted home. The author has done extensive research in local, provincial, and national archival collections to gather and carefully document the facts and photographs for her narrative. The Major would be proud.


Sleigh, Daphne., “The Man Who Saved Vancouver: Major James Skitt Matthews.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed December 4, 2023,