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Greater Victoria writer unearthing forgotten tales of Vancouver Island

Ann Marie Burns hopes to write books about some of the tales she’s written for Papertown Station
Ann Marie Burns started researching her family tree and then broadened to Vancouver Island’s history. (Courtesy of Ann Marie Burns)

Greater Victoria writer Ann Marie Burns went from researching her family tree to uncovering forgotten tales from Vancouver Island’s past.

Her website, Papertown Station, started as a Facebook page in 2018 and has steadily grown as she added a website to publish short stories about local people, places and forgotten tales. Since she started she’s written over 300 short stories.

Reading through old documents to verify her family history pointed her towards a number of local interesting stories. After spending time volunteering in local classrooms and helping a couple of friends set up their own websites, Burns decided to develop her own site.

“I began blogging at the birth of the internet… before blogging even had a name. Out for a run one day, I rolled my ankle pretty bad and mom came to help me out. She began telling me stories about Scotland to take my mind off the pain. Her stories were fascinating. I began writing them out and went on to spend the next 20 years researching my family tree. Surprisingly, this research led me to my own back door here in British Columbia.”

Some of the favourite stories she’s covered touch on a wide range of topics, from the Farson’s to Alice the Albino Whale to the Martin Mars waterbombers.

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“We spent summers on Sproat Lake swimming as the Martin Mars fired up her engines in the distance and took off from the water as we swam. It was a story that compelled me and one that I went looking for, not happened to come across.”

She says local newspapers and the province’s online archives are among the best she’s come across during her years of researching.

“We are lucky this way, especially if you’re one for doing your own research and digging like I do.”

Burns said she’s sad to see the Royal BC Museum will be closing down, “even though there is always room for telling some bigger truths.”

Burns sees the effort more as a writing project than historical research. Papertown Station is a way to work on her storytelling before she starts writing books about local history – she has plans to write six books, when time and money allow.

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