By OLIVER O’DELL
Customer Care and Patrol Team
ONE HUNDRED and thirteen years ago, the infamous Billy Miner robbed a Canadian Pacific Railway train that was passing through the Kamloops area.
This event has become a memorable part of Kamloopsian and British Columbian history because it was the first successful train robbery in Canada, costing the Canadian Pacific Railway approximately $75,000.
Miner’s crimes continue to play a role in Kamloops’ history today via Kamloops’ Heritage Railway, which offers a first-hand reenactment of the robbery.
Also referred to as “The Grey Fox” or “The Gentleman Bandit” the outlaw Bill Miner remains a controversial historical figure to this day. Despite his criminal persona, Miner was said to be good with animals and children.
He was remembered as “quiet, well-educated, grizzled, with keen steel-blue eyes, gentle and kindly mannered with women and children.” Miner was also known for his polite demeanour while robbing his victims, and he became reputed for coining the well-known phrase, “Hands up!”
Folklore regarding Miner has ranged from the symbol of a North American Robin Hood to the image as a violent, drug-smuggling bandit. Throughout his lifetime, Miner was incarcerated for his crimes several times, and, on several occasions, he succeeded in escaping from prison.
After an eventful life, Miner passed away in prison on Sept. 2, 1913.
As a lifelong resident of Kamloops and alumni of the history program at Thompson Rivers University, I remember listening to stories of Billy Miner throughout my entire life.
It struck and fascinated me to hear about such a notorious figure who was locally regarded, during his time, as a decent man. Although it may be exciting to learn about a real-life Robin Hood character, Downtown Kamloops won’t need any vigilantes with the CAP team ready to patrol.
Written by Oliver O’Dell, Customer Care and Patrol (CAP) Team Member. The CAP Team is the Downtown Kamloops ambassador program. Reach them at 250-572-3008/3009 or the Downtown Kamloops office at 250-372-3242.