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Real Surrey Pioneers

Mary Jane Shannon and TJ Sullivan posing for Canada 150 photos

Who Were These Characters?

The characters portrayed by the Re-Enactors were real people who lived in our very own city. While developing each character, facts and stories were gathered from the Surrey Archives' collections and the oral histories. The result is historically accurate characters from 1872 to 1945 brought to life by gifted actors. For more information and photographs about each character portrayed by the Re-Enactors, contact the Surrey Archives at 604-502-6459.

Irene Bourassa, Portrayed by *Emily Henney

Irene Bourassa (nee Christmas) and her family emigrated from England to New Westminster in 1913, relocating to Surrey in 1921. Irene attended the newly opened Surrey High School then tenaciously debated her way into the Animal Husbandry Program at UBC. She received a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture in 1930 and was the only female in her graduating class. Irene married Art Bourassa in 1931 and together they ran the Shell Co. of BC Ltd. in Cloverdale. After Irene’s death in 1995, the Bourassas left $2.5 million dollars each to Surrey Memorial Hospital and Royal Columbian Hospital - the largest personal gifts ever received by these institutions.

Eric Anderson, Portrayed by *Ryan Haneman

Eric Anderson made his way to Canada from Sweden on a whaling ship. As the ship’s carpenter, he was sent ashore in New Westminster to get supplies for repairs to the ship.

Upon seeing how beautiful Canada was, he left the ship and crossed the Fraser River to settle in Surrey.  Beginning as a humble farmhand, he eventually owned enough land to sell a parcel to the BC Electric Railway for a nice profit before retiring comfortably.

 

Zennosuke Inouye, Portrayed by *Kevin Takahide Lee

He was a prominent Surrey businessman, chauffeur, and veteran of World War I.  After the war, he purchased 80 acres of land in Strawberry Hills through the Soldier’s Settlement Board and built a pioneer homestead. He was President of the Surrey Berry Growers' Association and a volunteer at the Japanese Language School.

During World War II, he and his family endured the hardship of the internment camps and the repossession of his farmland, profitable business and home.  He wrote 80 letters to  government offices and ministers, fighting to regain his land. He is the only Japanese Canadian war veteran to have his land returned to him.

Mary Jane Shannon, Portrayed by *Sara Holt

She began her life as a student in the first Surrey school, established by her father, Thomas Shannon and a few others. After teaching in the wilds of Cariboo Country, she would return to Cloverdale to become the teacher at her old school.

Miss Shannon was a remarkable woman who had a zest for life and learning. She left her teaching post to pursue a career in nursing and eventually became a Nursing Trainer for nurses bound for overseas service. Always one for adventure, she studied writing in New York after World War II and spent her later years writing her Cariboo Tales.

TJ Sullivan, Portrayed by *Vince Metcalfe

TJ Sullivan joined his brother in Surrey to set up a sawmill in 1903, but was drawn into local politics as a way to help improve his community.  He was elected Reeve of Surrey, a position he held for 10 years. He had a hand in the construction of the 1912 Municipal Hall and the Peace Arch.

One of his greatest achievements was as a Commissioner of the Surrey Dyking District, which built concrete dams at the mouth of the Nicomekl and Serpentine Rivers to control tidal waters, reclaiming 130,000 acres of farmland.

Sarjit 'Mac' Singh, Portrayed by Roman Kahlone

Not only was he the first South Asian Surrey citizen to own a commercial farming operation (Cloverdale Produce), but he was also Chair of the Surrey Damming and Dyking Commission and an advisor to the Minister of Agriculture in Victoria.  A farmer at heart, he and Bob Bose were also name Dominion Cup Potato Judging Champions in 1950.

He was a Surrey trailblazer, marrying a Caucasian woman in 1956 and challenging race barriers both personally and professionally.

 

*The participation of these Artists are arranged by permission of Canadian Actors’ Equity Association under the provisions of the Dance • Opera • Theatre Policy.