Gwladys and Gwen Downes Scholarship in Theatre

The Gwladys and Gwen Downes Scholarship in Theatre has been established by Dr. Gwladys Downes in memory of her mother, Mrs. Gwen Downes, who played for over thirty years a leading role in the Victoria theatre community until her death in 1959.  This award replaces the Gwen Downes Memorial Book Prize instituted by Dr. Downes in 1960 for an outstanding student in the Theatre Programme at the University of Victoria.

Born in Doncaster, England in 1891, Doris Gwendoline Bywater-Jones came out to Canada in April, 1914 to join her fiancé Gordon Downes, a geologist who was teaching at Victoria High School.   They spent the war years in England and France, returning to Victoria with two children after Gordon was invalided out in 1918.  He became principal of Oak Bay High School in the early twenties, remaining there until his death in 1929.

Mrs. Gwen Downes, whose cultural interests were wide-ranging, was particularly attracted by the theatre.  She had special skills as an actress and in her later years was successful in numerous character roles.   A long time member of the Little Theatre and its successor, the Theatre Guild, she worked with many other groups both amateur and professional, including the St. Barnabas Players, Intimate Stage, the York Theatre and, in Penticton, the Lancaster Summer Stock Company.  During World War II she spent three years with the Ottawa Little Theatre.

She also became known as the “Puppet Lady” who delighted in entertaining children with performances for which she wrote the script and designed both the costumes and the scenery.

Dr. Gwladys Downes joined the Department of French at Victoria College in 1951, retiring from the University of Victoria in 1978 as full professor.  She attended both Victoria College and the University of British Columbia (B.A., M.A.) and holds a doctorate from the Sorbonne, Paris.  She was awarded an honorary degree from UVic in 1994.

Dr. Downes passed away in 2005.

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