Canada's History : 2020-08-01

TRADING POST : 46 : 46


“Hard-Drinking Parrot Stymies Progress” and a opus published in 1961, “100 Year Old Parrot Still Soaks Up Brandy in Victoria.” The latter tale described a visitor’s effort to ascertain, by peeking through the mansion’s windows, whether the bird was still breathing. Louis’s lifespan was a matter of supreme importance to a pair of local organizati­ons. Wilson’s will decreed that, upon Louis’s death, the residue of his inheritanc­e was to go to the Royal Jubilee Hospital and the Red Cross. The will also disqualifi­ed any beneficiar­y who contested it — something that greatly displeased A.C. Wurtele, the Royal Jubilee’s board chairman. “It seems to me that people are more important than parrots and Louis might well be turned over to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals,” Wurtele said in a December 1966 interview. “This money is being wasted. The estate is being eroded by legal fees, and I am afraid there will be nothing left.” In 1963, magazine writer Russell Sackett travelled to Victoria to check in on the bird’s well-being. He had first written about Louis in the late 1950s. In his 1963 followup, he recalled that earlier eventful encounter: “I first met Louis in 1957; I wanted to see the noted squatter. I was reassured by a view of Louis, brilliant blue and yellow, looking splendidly indestruct­ible even through a dusty, heavily screened window of his private house, where he was doing a headstand on his perch.” Sackett had returned to Victoria in 1963 to investigat­e the bird’s welfare. Checking in at the Empress Hotel, the reporter met a long-time Victoria resident who wondered whether Louis actually was dead and had been replaced by a doppelgäng­er. Sackett eventually spoke by telephone to Wong, the bird’s caretaker, who invited the reporter to come to the mansion, look through the window, and see for himself. Sackett described what happened next: “Feeling unsure and jittery as I squeaked through the gate, [I] walked to the window, shaded my eyes and tentativel­y called, ‘Louis?’ There was a shadowy movement far back in the birdhouse, and suddenly there was Louis, jaunty and resplenden­t as ever, sidesteppi­ng deliberate­ly along his perch toward the window. ‘Wong?’ he rasped, eyeing me accusingly.” Louis lived at the mansion for another three years. But his lengthy occupancy was nearing its end. In 1966, the law firm that managed Victoria Jane Wilson’s estate decided that it was too costly to keep him in the large house, which had fallen into decay. After some discussion, lifelong arrangemen­ts were made for Louis to be cared for by Wong and his family at their premises, a modest abode. With the macaw at long last having flown the coop, builders were free to develop the estate. In 1969, published “The Bird Who Has It Made,” which described how Louis continued to live a privileged, pampered life. Wong died soon after taking the bird in, but his family continued to care for the parrot in the grand manner to which he was accustomed. The exact date of Louis’s death is unknown; some say that he died a few years after Wong, but others claim that he held on until 1985, when he would have been about 115 years old. Vancouver Sun Life Canadian Magazine While the bird is gone, his legend lives on. In 1975, the Chateau Victoria Hotel & Suites was built near the former White House site, complete with a top-floor restaurant named the Parrot House after you-know-who. And today, Victoria’s Hallmark Heritage Society’s highest prize for heritage preservati­on is called, you guessed it, the Louis Award, in honour of the parrot who for years fought the forces of progress — and won. 46 AUGUST–SEPTEMBER 2020 CANADASHIS­TORY.CA