Arthur Thomas Bushby: music maker and policy maker

Arthur Thomas Bushby - musician and politician

Arthur Thomas Bushby – musician and politician

Arthur Thomas Bushby was born in London on March 2, 1835, the son of Joseph and Anne. His father was a well-respected merchant and his mother was a linguist, who could speak several languages including Danish and Spanish. As a young man, Bushby studied music both in England and in Europe.

Upon hearing of the Fraser River gold rush, Bushby left for Victoria in November 1858 and arrived on Christmas Day on board the Panama.

“Robert Burnaby and I went to church, a neat little conventicle—heard a rather decent bass voice in the choir—it was Begbie whom I had met coming out of church; he did not recognize me at first owing to my rough dress and beard and moustache.”

The following Tuesday, Bushby presented his letter of introduction to Governor James Douglas, who invited him to dine that evening with his family, Begbie, and Captain Gossett. There he met for the first time Agnes Douglas, who was seventeen. From that time on, he became a frequent visitor to the Douglas home where he played the piano and sang.

Bushby was appointed private secretary to Judge Begbie in February 1859, and accompanied Begbie on his first circuit of the interior. Working for Begbie was probably not without its challenges and Bushby revealed in his diary that he was most happiest singing and playing music. He even considered “rushing head long into the musical profession, go to San Francisco and have a try.”

A few months later, Bushby was appointed registrar of the Supreme Court. He continued to keep himself busy with musical productions in Victoria, especially with the Victoria Philharmonic Society, of which he was a founding member. In February 1861 he was given the post of registrar-general of deeds for the mainland Colony of British Columbia.

In May, 1862, Bushby married Agnes Douglas and the couple moved to New Westminster where he became involved in civic affairs as well as music and drama. He held a number of government posts which required him to travel to various parts of the province including Wild Horse Creek and the Cariboo. He was a member of the Legislative Council from 1868 to 1870.

Bushby died suddenly on May 18, 1875 at 40 years old. He left behind his wife and four children.