14 years of research, audio transcriptions and hard work has amounted to two books, a radio series on CBC and an uncovered story about the origins of Fort St. James.
Echoes of British Columbia by Robert “Lucky” Budd is a compilation of stories and interviews from the history of British Columbia over the number of decades. It includes one about the first non-aboriginal settlers in Fort St. James who helped to map the geography of the area and open up the provinces interior.
Budd’s project began in 2000 when the CBC contacted him in regards to digitizing the national audio archives.
Budd is a audio preservationist and his work in audio recording had brought him up on the CBC’s radar and he was conscripted to digitized 2700 hours of audio recordings.
“In 2000, the CBC Radio went on a nationwide initiative to have all of their audio archives digitized,” said Budd. “I had just finished my undergraduate degree at the University of Victoria and I had been in a touring rock band. I had this reputation as the guy who records things… So I was somewhat headhunted by the B.C. Archives as the guy who records things and the guy they wanted as their audio preservationist.”
It was during his work with the B.C. archives that Budd stumbled upon the recordings of Imbert Orchard, a radio producer who moved to Prince George (then known as Fort George). Orchard would go on to record interviews with 998 people in northern British Columbia. It was these recordings and interviews that would serve as the basis for his book Voices of British Columbia and its subsequent sequel Echoes of British Columbia.
“Imbert Orchard went around British Columbia with a sound technician named Ian Stephens from 1959 to 1966 to record what he called ‘the story of the country.’,” said Budd. “He travelled the entire province by plane, foot, packhorse, mule, boats, etc. to get into all these little pockets of B.C.”
During that time Orchard interviewed 998 people all of which were either first generation British Columbians or First Nations.
In his work decoding the historical recordings, Budd came across the story of one Forin Campbell.
“That story really spoke to me,” recalls Budd. “The story is incredible. Forin Campbell, here’s this incredible person who was among the first non-aboriginal people to come into Fort George. There were two or three other non-aboriginal people and without somebody like him [Campbell] our whole topography and notion of what the north is would be different.”
Forin came to the Fort George and eventually the Fort St. James area to be a cartographer and was tasked with mapping out the geography of the northern interior.
“His job was to go over every single mountain and find out what was, quote on quote, beyond the next hill,” said Budd. “In doing so he spoke to so many locals and has a perspective on northern B.C. that nobody else would ever have because he was among the first non-aboriginal people in theses places.”
Budd said that stories like Campbell’s really get into the “meat and potatoes” of British Columbia’s history.
Since publishing his books, Budd has also begun work as a memoirist, taking on jobs from Canadians throughout the country. His works have also been adopted by numerous school boards in British Columbia.