Tom Wilkinson was born in 1871 in South Shields Northern England, the youngest of William, a shipwright and his wife Margaret’s five children. The family is not certain of the reason why Tom came to Canada, but one story is that he was transporting horses here from England about 1910 and it is also told that he was involved with the first Calgary Stampede held in 1912.
He became an instructor of physical education training at the Esquimalt Military Base during the First World War as his age precluded him from active duty. While attending a servicemen’s social he met Hope Aldin, a young woman from Enderby, B.C. She and a then 45 year old Tom were married in 1916. Hope, born in 1895, was the daughter of a pioneer family that settled in Enderby. Bill, the first of their nine children was born in Victoria in 1917.
After the war ended Tom, Hope and their small son moved to the farm in Cobble Hill that had been purchased from Michael Cameron in 1918. They relocated to their newly built small home on ‘75 acres of Sec. 6 Range 7 Shawnigan District’ in March of 1919. The acquisition of this land they called Shincliffe Farm for $2,000 was made possible in part by The Soldier Settlement Act (1917, 1919). This act allowed veterans to acquire land through government loans with additional funding for livestock and land improvements. The farm name originated with the village of Shincliffe, County Durham, England where Tom acquired his farming skills.
Five months after arrival in Cobble Hill Tom and Hope’s first daughter Edna was born. Seven more children would eventually join Bill and Edna: Violet (1920), George (1921), Margaret (1922), Thomas “Bob” (1924), Joan (1926), Charles (1927) and Herbert (1930). Tom was a very strict Englishman, but a devoted husband and father who once walked all the way to Duncan and back to obtain medicine for one of his children. Hope was a strong, capable and supportive woman devoted to her family and to improving the farm.
It is amazing to think that at the age of forty-five Tom Wilkinson married and started a family of nine children and that at forty-eight began developing a mixed farm from raw land. Logging and clearing was done with horses, farm buildings were constructed using lumber from felled trees, an orchard and a garden were planted and water was hauled from Shawnigan Mill Bay Creek. Chicken brooder and layer houses were erected and eggs were sold to the Hudson’s Bay Company. A small herd of cows was developed, hand milked, the milk transported in cans to the railway station in Cobble Hill and the cream was sold once a week to the Northwestern Creamery in Victoria. Over the years a large addition was added to the original house and about 1941 electrical service was obtained. The senior Wilkinsons continued farming until their eldest son Bill purchased Shincliffe in 1946.
Tom and Hope retired to a property off Shawnigan Cobble Hill Road and Tom passed away in 1955 at the age of 83 after a long, productive and respected life. Hope remained very involved in St. John’s Anglican Church and the Cobble Hill Women’s Institute. She lived to be eighty-seven, spending her later years first with son Bert’s family and then in a small cottage on daughter Edna and husband Gerry Crothers’ property next door to what is now Ecole Mill Bay. Hope’s door was always open and she enjoyed serving her visitors tea and homemade bread. She loved keeping track of her 28 grandchildren and although her children and their spouses had varied and successful careers across Canada as well as internationally, all but one retired to Vancouver Island.