File MS-2840 - Captain Thomas Gilchrist papers

Title and statement of responsibility area

Title proper

Captain Thomas Gilchrist papers

General material designation

  • textual record

Parallel title

Other title information

Title statements of responsibility

Title notes

Level of description


Reference code


Edition area

Edition statement

Edition statement of responsibility

Class of material specific details area

Statement of scale (cartographic)

Statement of projection (cartographic)

Statement of coordinates (cartographic)

Statement of scale (architectural)

Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

Dates of creation area


  • 1947-1979 (Creation)
    Gilchrist, Thomas, 1904-1981

Physical description area

Physical description

Originals, 3 cm

Publisher's series area

Title proper of publisher's series

Parallel titles of publisher's series

Other title information of publisher's series

Statement of responsibility relating to publisher's series

Numbering within publisher's series

Note on publisher's series

Archival description area

Name of creator

Biographical history

Custodial history

Scope and content

Captain Thomas Gilchrist (1904-1981), seaman and writer, wrote articles, short stories, radio plays, television plays and documentaries from the late 1940s to the late 1970s. The collection includes examples of his work as well as clippings and biographical information about his life and writing career. Captain Thomas Gilchrist was born in Scotland and spent most of his life at sea. He apprenticed as a cadet at fifteen and qualified as a Master Mariner by twenty-five. During the interwar years he sailed with various shipping lines in many parts of the world; he also commanded a rescue boat off the coast of China during the Nan King Rebellion of 1925. During World War II he served with the United States merchant fleet in support of military campaigns in the South Pacific. In 1946 he moved to Vancouver and mastered deep sea vessels for Vancouver-based shipping companies. In Vancouver, Captain Gilchrist married and eventually retired from the sea. Since the 1930s he had been writing about his sea-going adventures as a hobby. Then, in the late 1940s, he succeeded in placing short stories in mariner's periodicals and adventure magazines that published in Canada, Britain, Australia and the U.S.A. In the early 1950s he began writing radio dramas for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in Vancouver. Radio soon became a full time outlet for his writing interests and led him to retire from the sea in 1953. During the 1950s his plays appeared on the CBC radio's "Vancouver Theatre", "Pacific Playhouse" and "CBC Wednesday Night". He also wrote the series "Tales of the Seven Seas", "Tales of Fiddler's Green" and "Marine Investigator". "Marine Investigator" was set in Vancouver and based upon the cases of fictitious private detective Don Grey who specialized in harbour related crimes. It was perhaps his most successful series, running from 1953 to 1958. In the late 1950s he wrote several television plays that were broadcast on CBUT (CBC Vancouver) as well as a three-part documentary about Vancouver harbour entitled "Port Watch". During the 1960s Captain Thomas Gilchrist's writing tapered off, although he wrote his longest work in the mid-60s, a novel, which he never submitted for publication. Instead, he returned to sea and resumed captaining ships until he suffered a stroke that prevented him from future deep sea work. In 1969 he skippered the "Monte Cristo", a replica of an 18th century ship, on its inaugural voyage along the B.C. and U.S. Pacific Coast, but that was his last major voyage. Although shore-bound, he continued to take an interest in marine affairs, including attempts to revive Canada's merchant marine. Failing health necessitated a move to a nursing home in 1977; there, he wrote a few unpublished pieces before he passed away in 1981.

While this collection is small, it presents a cross section of Captain Gilchrist's writing, including short stories, radio and television dramas, non-fiction articles, the draft of his novel, notes and lists. It also includes newspaper clippings and publicity material that contain biographical information. It provides a broad base for the study of Captain Gilchrist's career as a writer and, to a lesser extent, as a seaman, and for the study of Canadian broadcasting, popular culture and other subjects.

The Captain Thomas Gilchrist papers have been described to the item level. As there was no original order to the files, they have been grouped for convenience into the following basic categories: short stories; radio and television plays; novel; and miscellaneous. A rough chronological order was applied. Short stories by Gilchrist that were part of commercial magazines were photocopied and placed in individual files; the magazines were returned to the donor. Photographs from the collection have been segregated and are awaiting re-housing by Preservation Services (07/02/00).

Related records include audio recordings of seven episodes of the Marine Investigator series and other radio plays in the John Emerson Collection (Tape Accession 4356) and the Don Mowatt Collection (Tape Accession 4303). In addition, Concordia University's Broadcast Studies Centre has preserved over 100 Gilchrist radio scripts that it acquired from CBC Vancouver in 1976. These are indexed by microfiche NW 016.8222/F499, Canadian National Theatre on the Air.

The collection represents only a small portion of Captain Gilchrist's work; according to his wife, Wynne, he cleared out most of his papers shortly before his death. She subsequently donated the remaining records to the B.C. Archives and Records Service in August 1992.

Notes area

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition


Language of material

Script of material

Location of originals

Availability of other formats

Restrictions on access

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Associated materials

Related materials


General note

Accession number(s): 91-7755

Alternative identifier(s)

Standard number area

Standard number

Access points

Place access points

Genre access points

Control area

Description record identifier

Accession area