Freeman F. King Scholarship

Freeman F. King (1889-1975)

Freeman King was a man to remember. In any setting he stood out. He was tall, thin and straight, with a rough-cut face featuring a wonderfully hooked nose; even in his last years he moved with the vigour of a youth who could hardly wait to get on with life's next adventure. Through most of his years he was to be found in green forest environments where usually he was surrounded by a group of people.

Freeman loved the wild places about Victoria, and he had a deep understanding about how plants and animals in those places lived their lives. Being a born storyteller, he enjoyed telling others what his sharp eyes were seeing and what his sharp brain was understanding. He was a spellbinder, in green places or by a campfire, to people of all ages, but he liked children best, and they loved him as only children can love a grown-up who has not outgrown the wonder, the enthusiasm, the sense of adventure that is part of childhood.

For many years Freeman was the major force behind the most successful nature club for children in Canada. Victoria's Junior Field Naturalists (part of the Victoria Natural History Society) was envied by naturalists across Canada, but none could duplicate its success because none had a Freeman King. Through his years with his Juniors, and his years before that with the Boy Scouts, Freeman led thousands of youngsters into the green world, and into life, with a delight for exploring the outdoors that none could ever forget.

Freeman was born in England in 1891, married in 1916, and came to Canada as a young man. After some years on the prairie as a cowhand, policeman and homesteader, he came to the Victoria area in 1925, where he soon found himself running camps in the woods for the provincial government. Many Vancouver Island provincial parks were established in those depression years by men in such camps, and many of their trails were made by men working with Freeman. Later he was well known in the Boy Scout movement where he became a Field Commissioner. Then, in the last two decades of his life, his fame as a nature interpreter and park naturalist spread far beyond Victoria and British Columbia.

He played an important role establishing many natural sites in the Victoria area including John Dean Park, Goldstream Trail, MacDonald Park, Eves Park, Camp Bernard and Thomas S. Francis Park, in whose establishment he performed a vital role by encouraging Thomas Francis to deed 168 acres of land to the provincial government. I n 1967 he also had a 50-acre park named in his honour. He was a familiar figure in both Francis Park to which he devoted part of most days, and Goldstream Provincial Park where he was Chief Naturalist every summer.
He became famous in those years as a communicator and teacher in wild places. For more than a decade the government of British Columbia passed a special Order-In-Council each spring so that Freeman could be hired for yet another summer, for he was long past 65, the age when the law discourages hiring people.

A long list of people that Freeman helped to understand green places, both through his nature walks and through his column "Nature Rambles", which appeared in the Victoria Times for 20 years, were inspired to make natural science their life's occupation. Many of them took biological subjects at university, often going on for advanced degrees. Now those who are helped by the Freeman King Scholarships of the Victoria Natural History Society are following the footsteps of many others helped directly by this remarkable man. Were he here, he would be pleased to help in this way now, just as he helped so many others personally before. And the only return that he would ask is that those helped would learn to really see what they looked at in this green and living world, and that they really try to understand what they saw. "What is it?" he would ask, pointing to something like a leaf. All he asked was that you tried to find the answer from the leaf. Books were acceptable, but the leaf was the one to believe.

If you have received a Freeman King Scholarship, welcome to the growing list of people who have been helped by Freeman King.

Adapted from R. Y. Edwards, in The Victoria Naturalist, March 1978, Vol. 34, No. 7.

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