At the age of 31, Albert “Ginger” Goodwin was shot dead.
His story begins long before this though. Albert’s father worked the coal mines in Yorkshire England and at the age of 12, Ginger got a job driving the mine ponies. The Goodwin’s along with many other families were evicted from their company houses after a strike at the mine, a strike that lasted for 2 years. This might have made most people quit coal mining but instead, Albert found work in several other mining companies and kept at it. But strikes for better conditions kept shutting down the mines and by the time he was 19 he was on his way to a new country where he hoped to find better working conditions, he was on his way to Canada.
He arrived here in 1909 and found work in a mine in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia. Soon enough though there were strikes here as well. It was the same as home, poor conditions, low pay and no days off. With the strikes came the evictions and hard-working families were left starving. By 1910 Albert was heading west to BC where he first worked in the Kootenays before heading to Vancouver Island where he settled in Cumberland. It was a beautiful town, but the mines here were very dangerous, methane was the biggest factor with explosions happening all the time, 64 men died in one such incident 10 years before Albert arrived.
Albert was a socialist, and he fought for the men in the mines, he was becoming known as a labor leader was a big part of a strike that lasted for 2 years. The strike failed mostly due to the fact that war was looming and coal was needed. The local companies took note of Albert’s involvement and blacklisted him in the local mines.
Albert took work in a smelter up in Trail. He might not have been very impressive to look at but he had a powerful voice and began to take up the Union cause, he quickly moved up the ranks and soon was the vice president of the BC Federation of Labor and president of the Trail Labor Council.
The war in Europe had been going for 2 years and more soldiers were needed, so the Canadian government brought in the draft, it was 1917. Goodwin was against the war but did sign up and register but applied for a deferment. Many others followed suit in seeking a deferment. When he was assessed for service, he was found to have bad teeth and was in very poor health, he was quite petite and in rough shape, he received his deferment.
He continued to fight for the workers and was instrumental in a strike that shut down the smelter, just 2 weeks after the strike began, Albert was called back in for another assessment and was found to be fit for service. He had no interest in fighting in Europe and headed off to Cumberland and from there into the wilds of Vancouver Island, He was not alone, many others joined him. They were helped by the people of Cumberland and another labor leader Joe Naylor. a socialist and union activist who has been a mentor to Goodwin.
The Dominion Police were tasked with apprehending these deserters but with all the locals helping the band and their knowledge of these woods, the police were no closer to finding these men than they were when they began 3 months back. The police hired a special constable named Dan Campbell, Dan operated a hotel outside Victoria but at one time he had been a policeman until he was fired for corruption. He was a man who knew his way around the forest and was good with a rifle.
On July 27, Campbell came upon Goodwin in the woods where he was picking berries, and he shot Goodwin, he said that he pointed a rifle at him, and he had to shoot in self-defense. Many did not believe this, even the authorities were in doubt and Campbell was arrested and charged with manslaughter and taken to Victoria.
When Albert Ginger Goodwin was buried, the mines shut down and everyone walked behind his coffin in a huge procession. In Vancouver the unions called for a one-day strike in honor of Goodwin, 5500 workers left their jobs, the army was called in and there was much violence. The soldiers considered the strikers as traitors.
Shortly after Campbell’s Arrest, a grand jury reached the decision that Campbell fired in self-defense and that there would be no trial. Campbell was set free.