Special thanks to Susan Tomlinson Durbin – Great-Granddaughter, for her contributions to this entry.
Robert was born in Ireland in 1842. He was educated as an Anglican minister and later as a doctor—although he never completed his physician’s training. In 1876, Robert left Ireland and embarked on a journey to the northern interior of British Columbia, where he hoped to establish an Anglican mission. During a brief stop in Victoria, Robert met and fell in love with Alice Woods, and when he returned a year later they were married. The couple travelled back north to the settlement of Kincolith, the present day Ging̱olx, BC, where Tomlinson had founded his mission. Robert established several other missions in northern British Columbia and Alaska.
Alice and Robert had nine children, six who survived to adulthood and three who died in infancy. They later adopted two orphaned siblings from Golden, BC. In 1912 Robert and Alice (along with their adopted children Hazel and Harold Cook) returned from Metlakatla, Alaska to their home in Meanskinisht (Cedarvale) British Columbia.
While Tomlinson and his family didn’t live in Victoria, they frequently visited the city because it acted as a base to replenish supplies to bring north and many members of Alice’s family still lived in the city. It is possible that Robert visited Point Ellice House in his capacity as a reverend, especially since the hand-written note on his calling card reads “if it is necessary for anyone to sit up at night and you keep (sic) assistance I will consider it a privilege to be able to help you.” Rev. Robert Tomlinson died in September 1913 at Meanskinisht and is buried in the Meanskinisht Churchyard Cemetery.
For more information see Heritage Park Museum’s post “Robert Tomlinson: The Man Behind Meanskinisht.”
List of Calling Cards
The Point Ellice House collection contains hundreds of calling cards left for the O’Reilly family by visitors. This initial research was conducted by Public History students at the University of Victoria, and these biographies constitute only a portion of the individuals represented by the calling cards within the collection.