B.C. gentleman train robber Bill Miner inspires art in all its forms
Bill Miner is a legendary name in some parts of BC—especially in the Inner Province of the province, where the notorious train robber was caught by the police over 115 years ago.
His story has inspired several books, an award-winning film, and even a few songs.
Known as the Gray Fox and the Gentleman Bandit, the Miner’s criminal life started in America in 1800. He was famous for robbing carriages, sometimes carrying packages on long journeys, and was arrested and eventually sentenced to 25 years in prison in California in 1881.
When he was released from prison in 1902, trains had largely replaced horse-drawn carriages. And so he replaced his typical goal with a new one.
Follow federal governmentMiners robbed CP Rail trains in BC in 1904 and 1906. In the spring of 1906, he was arrested near Kamloops, BC, tried, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison in a dark-security prison. federal office in New Westminster.
However, on August 8, 1907, the Miner escaped. He went back to America, where he continued to rob trains.
The miner was eventually caught and died in prison.
A feature-length film about a train robber’s exploits was released in 1982, starring Richard Farnsworth in the title role.
gray fox won seven Genie Awards, honoring the best Canadian film from 1980 to 2012.
Farnsworth was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance.
“When [director Phillip] Borsos was thinking about the kind of mythical landscapes of British Columbia and western Canada, this Bill Miner character emerged… as a folk hero,” said film critic Tom McSorley.
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He is considered something of a Robin Hood type. It’s the kind of folk hero myth that I think surrounds him because it’s like sticking with the man.”
The film that explores how Miners transitioned from robbing carriages to trains illustrates that particular moment in the history of technology.
McSorley said: “As Bill Miner himself said, ‘A professional always specializes.
Canadian folk singer Paul Valdemar Horsdal, better known by his stage name Valdy, is also interested in the legend of Bill Miner. He collaborated with musician Gary Fjellgaard, and within two days of deciding to write a song honoring the Miners, they had one.
“Billy is definitely one of my heroes,” Fjellgaard said. “He just represents freedom.”
The song appeared on a Valdy and Fjellgaard collaboration album, Second candidate: Still running.
In 2017, Kamloops Music Collective commissioned composer Robert Buckley to write a song about the Miner to eventually use in teaching music students about both local music and history.
The result was a number of orchestras named The Legend of the Miner Billy.