Friday, 25 October 2013


One of the interesting items of information that Jean Hunter, a former neighbour of the MacLauchlans during her teen and pre-teen years in Calgary, gave us relates to her time as Administrator of the Victoria Symphony during the 1970s. She recalled that the bookkeeper of that organization was married to a grandson of Dr. Robert Henry MacLauchlan. The grandson’s name was Brett MacLauchlan.

We are eager to receive contact from Mr Brett MacLauchlan because we think he may know anecdotes relating to his grandfather’s life, which involved procuring abortions in Calgary during the 1940s and early 1950s, trafficking in narcotics as early as 1938 (according to the New Westminster press reports at the time of his murder in 1966), bootlegging in Calgary in the late 1940s, and, finally, being bumped off by a West Coast drug organization in 1966.

Would anyone knowing Brett MacLauchlan or any of his offspring please contact us through this website.

Monday, 21 October 2013


One of the most intriguing of our discoveries is that Robert Henry MacLauchlan and his second wife had a second home in Vancouver in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He and the former Calgary stage actress Evelyn Hambly very likely lived at the Darlington (1403 Beach Avenue), a quite classy address in Vancouver’s West End during the late 1940s and early 1950s.

We would like to know if there are any people still alive who may remember the doctor and Evelyn living there or have heard about them living there.

Our source for this information about their residence at that location is Mrs Jean Hunter, a former administrator of the Victoria Symphony. Mrs Hunter, when she was a stage-struck teenager, lived next door to the MacLauchlans when they leased Riley Lodge in Calgary in the 1940s. So did her siblings, retired Alberta author and defence attorney Jack Pecover and retired Nanaimo schoolteacher Helen O’Conner.

“It was a sign that you had made it,” remembered Mrs Hunter, “that you had enough money to get out of frigid Calgary and to winter in Vancouver.” Hunter, mother of deceased BC journalist Dennis Bell, remembers the Beach Avenue apartment well, because it was the first one she had ever seen with pink porcelain fixtures in a corner-set bathroom. “Smashing!” was how this lively 90 year old described it.

Readers of this blog, the following tenants lived in the Darlington in that year: two sisters -- Miss Doris E James (schoolteacher) and Miss Phyllis M James (saleswoman); Arnold H and Mildred Tatton (he was a BC Electric employee), Hubert D and Isabel Richardson (he was also a BC Electric employee); Mrs. O Bayfield;  Miss Margaret H Roulston; Mrs. Sarah Morrison; H Baker; J Brookes; W E Campbell (these latter six people had no occupation listed); Mrs. V M Graham (Dental assistant); James and Barbara E MacDonald (James MacDonald was one of the partners in the law firm of Robson and MacDonald, and later became a justice of the BC Appeals Court; he was the son of Malcolm Archibald MacDonald, a former Chief Justice of BC during the 1920s and was also the brother of Alex MacDonald, former Attorney General of BC who served in Dave Barrett’s NDP government of the early 1970s); Mrs. H I “Alice” Heeney and Byng Heeney; and Frederick C and Cleora Charles (he was the manager of a gas station, Majestic Service).

To repeat: We know this is a long shot but if there is anyone out there who knows the above people, or who is related or descended from them, we would like to know if they ever mentioned the MacLauchlans being residents of the Darlington at 1403 Beach Avenue.

Friday, 18 October 2013


Unless a good reason exists, it’s pretty hard to justify nosing about in someone else’s life. Our good reason for probing into the MacLauchlan Murders is to tell a fascinating story – a tale of early Hollywood, the Calgary theatre world in the 1920s, international drug smuggling and the abortion underworld of the 1950s and 1960s.

One of the points of our fascination is to understand the nature of the attraction between Dr Robert Henry MacLauchlan and his third wife, Margaret Anne “Nan” MacLauchlan. Readers of this blog will remember that MacLauchlan and Nan were both murdered on March 21, 1966 in a quiet residential neighbourhood in New Westminster.

Nan’s daughter, Lorraine Cunningham (or someone who once knew her), may have a key to her mother’s personality – and to her fatal attraction to Dr MacLauchlan.

Blonde and blue-eyed, with high cheekbones, “Lo” Cunningham was easily the most attractive girl in New Westminster’s Lester Pearson High School 1959 graduating class.

In our last blog posting we listed the names of people residing in the 500 Block of Fifth Street in 1966, the year that Dr Robert Henry MacLauchlan and his third wife Margaret Anne “Nan” were murdered.

In this posting we are hoping that one or more of Lorraine’s classmates, the young men and women of 1959, may remember something she might have said all those years ago about her mother and the doctor. We are seeking to fill out the story of how MacLauchlan and Nan came together in 1957. Had she known him from before, when both lived in Calgary? Had she somehow met him through her father’s regiment, the Calgary Highlanders, when it was commanded by the doctor’s younger brother, Lt. Col Donald MacLauchlan, a decorated hero of World War II’s Normandy campaign?

We have heard from one of Lorraine’s schoolmates, who shared with us a too-brief cameo moment:

“I remember them – she and her mother. They were both golden-haired, walking in New Westminster when the girl (Lorraine) was very young. Both were “well turned out” and looked very happy together.”

That cameo took place in the early middle 1950s. Several years later, about two years after the doctor had moved into her mother’s house, Nan was on the verge of adulthood. In the 1959 Lester Pearson Senior High School yearbook, she was described as “[Enjoying] music, dancing, ice skating, piano and custom cars.” The little blurb ends with the sentence “Lo hopes to become a psychiatric nurse in the near future.”

The comment about liking “custom cars” is piquant, because standing right beside her in the yearbook photo is a tall, good looking young man named Dallas McDonald, who lists his interests as “baseball, football, music and cars.” Were Lorraine and Dallas high school sweethearts? Does someone out there in or beyond the world of the Internet know?

Following graduation, Lorraine Cunningham worked at Royal Columbian as an X-ray technician. A few years after graduating, she went to San Francisco to get further training on X-ray techniques. At Christmas 1965, she married a man in Mexico City, whose last name was Bojalil.

During her graduating year, Lorraine was in Division Nine. Her classmates in the attached photo are as follows: 1st Row (L-R) -- Joyce Taylor, Gail Mitchell, Sharon Warga, Verna Hnatiw, Arlene Boruck; 2nd Row -- Jack Calhoun, Barbara Johnstone, Gail Murray, Jan Smith, Dorothy Leeder, Lloyd Warnes; 3rd Row -- Brian Dickson, Hugo Nielson, Lorraine Cunningham, Dallas MacDonald, Jay Ross; 4th Row -- David Greenbank, Richard Dirks, Dick Mickelson, Bruce Soderberg, Roy Thorpe and Rod McLeod.

Monday, 14 October 2013


A New Westminster residential block during the 1940s, 50s and 60s, it seems to us, would be a relatively stable community. We think it would be one where, because most people tended to stay put for years and years, a community would have formed. Such communities, even when their members with the passage of time disperse, continue to have a sort of “neighbourhood memory” of events that were, by their nature, unusual or surprising. In our research into the MacLauchlan Murders, we are hoping to access what remains of that “neighbourhood memory.”

In 1966 the residents of the 900 Block of Fifth Street in New Westminster would be such a community and we believe there is a neighbourhood memory remaining. All the residents of the 900 Block, having been closer or more distant neighbours of Dr Robert Henry and Margaret Anne “Nan” MacLauchlan who had lived at 912 Fifth Street before they had been killed, were representative of New Westminster as it was then – a compact, rather heterogeneous city so far as occupations were concerned.

Of the 21 occupied residences listed in the 1966 City Directory, 14 were headed by what might be described as the managerial or professional class. These residents included J W Burns (a manager at the BC Distillery, who with his wife Margaret, resided at 901), G D Grant (a manager at Allan Knight Mfg and his wife Helen living at 902), Dr Derek Watson (a UBC professor with his wife Gladys at 905), M A Renton (a psych nurse at 916), Dave Mercer (a police officer and his wife Doris at 919), Peter Meehan (Deputy Chief of Police at 921), K O Macgowan (a Vice President and Director at W M Mercer Ltd, with his wife Audrey at 922), Dr E F Weir (a physician and his wife Juanita at 923), J E Hanna (a teacher and his wife Cathy at 930), R G D Hawes (another teacher and his wife Claire at 931), W H Main (proprietor of the Click Shop and his wife Lucy at 932), H D L Mercer (Burnaby’s Deputy Assessor and his wife Margaret at 933), J A Rines (President of Rines Agencies and his wife Shirley at 937), and L F McQuarrie (a master mariner and his wife at 939).

The remaining seven occupied residences in the 900 Block were the homes of people working as clerks or trades people, and included John Reid (a CPR pipefitter and his wife Nancy at 906), D A T Cooper (a projectionist and his wife Violet at 907), Ken Vogt (a parcel clerk at Woodwards and his wife Donna at 910), Gottleib Lippert (a mechanic and his wife Daisy at 915), R L Guppy (occupation unlisted, however his daughter Rosiland topped the RCH nursing class in 1968; at 917), R N Lee (occupation unlisted, at 920), and Angus MacLean (likely retired, at 936)

Two residences were vacant – 912 and 925. The first, of course, had been where the MacLauchlans lived; the second has no information attached to it.

To a degree we have already accessed some parts of the “neighbourhood memory,” mentioned above. From a descendant of one of the very close neighbours of the MacLauchlans, we have already received information about the couple. The source’s parents lived right next door and had a ringside view of the events of December 22, 1965 when the couple’s home was raided by a swarm of police, and the MacLauchlans were charged with trafficking. This informant went on to write us a letter in which she described how previously her father had watched for at least several weeks how the doctor would take a daily stroll down the street, circle the block and, in the alley, meet a man. A package would be exchanged and each person would continue on his way.

We believe that are other people out there, former residents of the 900 Block of Fifth Street or their descendants, who may have similar or corroborating tales. We would very much like to hear from you. Feel free to make use of our contact information provided on the home page of this website.

Friday, 11 October 2013


In spite of what must have been a tumult of sirens I am embarrassed to admit that I slept through the fire that laid waste to two heritage buildings and closed dozens of businesses in the 600 block of Columbia Street early Thursday morning, October 10th.

In fact it was only when I was sitting in the Belmont Cafe a few hours later that I first learned that there had been a serious fire in the early hours and that it was still being mopped up. As an aficionado of the arts, one of my first reactions was to wonder if the new Anvil Centre had been engulfed. I was relieved to learn that it was still intact and that its unusual architecture was safe.

However, as most New Westminster residents now know (if they didn’t before), 115 years ago there was a far larger fire that destroyed most of the city’s downtown business section on September 10, 1898. That fire had originated in several tons of hay stored on the huge Brackman & Ker's wharf on Front Street. In that conflagration, the New Westminster Opera House, a major civic building, built and owned by Arthur May Herring, was also destroyed.

Unlike in Thursday’s successful efforts, the firemen of 1898 were unable to control the blaze. Once it was over, one-third of the city had been destroyed. Included in the destruction were such public buildings as the YMCA and the public library. Although it was not, strictly speaking, a public building, New Westminster’s Herring Opera House was destroyed.  The structure, which had been erected in 1887, was 50 feet by 130 feet and accommodated, depending on the source referenced, between 800 and 1200 people. It had opened four years before one was built in Vancouver.

It is likely that Herring’s pharmacy business located at 85-6th Street was also destroyed in the fire. It is also possible that if this loss did occur it may have prompted Herring to run for Council that year. In any event, he was elected an alderman in the City of New Westminster in 1898.
Councellor Betty McIntosh works to keep parking meter rates low. Read the Record

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Historic Columbia Street ablaze

The 600 block Columbia Street was ablaze about 3:30 AM this morning with the iconic Copps Shoes  (H L Lewis) building burning out od control.  The fire has wiped out the Bridal Shop which had moved into the space Copps Shoes had vacated, a Restaurant, Barber shop and most likely my favour store which was in the basement on Front Street. Montgomery & Fritzgralds an antique store where I bought books and baseball memorabilia.  The building collapsed within 45 minutes of the fire being discouvered.
Many businesses have been affected by smoke and water.
Rumors say there were propane tanks on the roof possibly from work being done on the roof.  But it is too early to say how the fire started.  These are building built around 1904 thus made mainly of wood. Owner Terry Brine says a roofing company was putting a new roof on the lower building.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Royal City Record article

Read the most recent coverage by the Royal City Record/Now.  It is an article about trying to learn more about daughter Lorraine Cunningham a 1959 Lester Pearson Grad and an X-ray Technician at Royal Columbian Hospital 1959 to 1961. As well asabout her mother Nan (Margaret) Cunningham (MacLauchlan) a teacher at Woodlands School who earned her Bachleor of Education in 1964.  Nan and  Dr. Robert Maclauchlan were gunned down in their home March 21, 1966.  Here is the latest article and please contact us at if you have any information.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013


One of the very interesting aspects of researching the murder of Dr Cunningham and Nan has been the part played by what might be called “meaningful coincidence”. For example, it was through coincidence that we were led to former neighbours of Dr MacLauchlan.

To wit: after having learned that Dr MacLauchlan had been married three times and that his second wife’s maiden name had been Hambly, we further discovered, first through the archives of Variety magazine (the Bible of American show businesses), that she had been a stage actress in Calgary in the early 1920s.

Trying to find out more about her and the venues where she had performed, I discovered that one showplace had been The Grand, a fine Calgary theatre built by Senator James Lougheed in 1912. The definitive work on The Grand had been written by Professor Don Smith, now retired from the University of Calgary’s History Department. (Don is the author of several books on Canada’s First Nations, including one on noted Native imitator Grey Owl.)

 In search of more information on Evelyn Hambly, we struck up an email correspondence with Don Smith. The story does not end there. A few weeks into our correspondence, Rod’s email in-box was graced by the subject line “STOP THE PRESSES!” The body of Don’s mail went on to tell us, in rather excited terms, that his good friend, retired lawyer Jack Pecover, had been a next door neighbour of “Doc and Evelyn” in the late 1940s! Contact with Jack quickly ensued and from it we were able to get much information on the everyday lives of Robert Henry MacLauchlan and Evelyn Hambly, his “toast of the Calgary stage” wife.

Friday, 4 October 2013

No Dog Barked: the background to our tentative book title

For those visiting our site who may have wondered why our book on the MacLauchlan Murders is tentatively called “No Dog Barked,” here’s the story:

Dr MacLauchlan and his wife Nan were murdered on late Monday evening, March 21, 1966 and their bodies were discovered Wednesday, March 23, 1966. The couple had a small dog, an 8-year dachshund named Pogo, who was not harmed by the murderer and, according to the police, had wandered through the house for two days while the murder victims lay undiscovered. In fact, Pogo had also been seen on the sidewalk in front of the MacLauchlan’s residence at 912 Fifth Street on the Tuesday.

The story of Pogo perambulating along the sidewalk immediately reminded us of the Sherlock Holmes mystery Silver Blaze. The story focuses on the disappearance of a race horse of that name on the eve of an important race and on the apparent murder of its trainer. As described in Wikipedia, it features some of Conan Doyle's most effective plotting, hinging on the "curious incident of the dog in the night-time:"

Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): "Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"

Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."

Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time."

Holmes: "That was the curious incident."

Not only was the murder of the MacLauchlans a very quiet deed (giving the police reason to believe it was carried out using a silencer-equipped 38 automatic), no dog – meaning Pogo – barked. There may be a parallel between these two murders – one fictional and the other real. Some questions are raised, the first one being did Pogo know his owners’ murderer? Is that why he was quiet? The second question, naturally, is how did Pogo get out? Was there a “doggie door”? Or did someone let him out and then, sometime on Tuesday evening, let him back inside 912 Fifth Street?