William Adolf Baillie Grohman

William Adolf Baillie Grohman

William Adolph Baillie Grohman, (1851 - 1921) Anglo-Austrian author, big game sportsman and Kootenay pioneer.


Eldest son of a wealthy Austrian Family - his Grandfather Adolf Grohman was a successful Viennese banker - and of an Irish Beauty, Fanny Reid (a relative of the Duke of Wellington), WABG spent much of his youth in the Tyrol, and could speak Tyrolese dialect like a native. As a boy he roamed out from the family castle at Schloss Matzen near the branch of the Zillertal and the Inn Valley to hunt chamois and deer in the surrounding high alps, and wandering for days through the still remote Tyrolese mountain villages. His two earliest books "Tyrol & the Tyrolese" (1876) and "Gaddings with a Primitive People (1878)" provide a rare insight into Tyrolese folk customs and the austere, isolated life of pre-industrial Alpine society.

WABG was an expert mountaineer and made the first winter ascent of the Großglockner, the highest mountain in Austria (3798m) on January 2, 1875 and was a member of the Alpine Club.

A crack shot and a passionate big-game hunter, he travelled out to the American Midwest many times the 1870s and 80's to shoot big game when the rockies and mountain states were opening up to sportsmen. His book "Camps in the Rockies" (1882) gives a picaresque account of his travels though Wyoming and Idaho, both as a "topshelfer" ( a rich comfort laden sportsman) and later on - more to his boyhood taste of stalking with Tyrolean mountain huntsmen - roughing it with trappers and native Americans. Although written in a style of detached amusement to titillate armchair Victorian readers, this work, like his earlier books about the Tyrolese, has careful and sympathetic passages on Indian and local customs, and gives a valuable firsthand account of the American & Canadian West just before and after the arrival of the railway. He ranged widely over the Pacific Slope and the Central Rockies, exploring new ranges in the Selkirks.

WABG liked the new country he found so much that he returned to British Columbia in the 1880s as a pioneer, investing through the Kootenay Company Ltd, a London registered company which obtained a concession of 78,525 acres to develop the Upper and Lower Kootenay valleys. He wrote a number of articles promoting the new lands in British Magazines. In WABG's youth he had seen how the embankment of Inn River in the lower Inntal had turned unproductive flood land into profitable farmland and envisaged a similar control of the Kootenay River and lowering of the water levels the Kootenay Lake of would create large areas of fertile farmland. This plan was thwarted by political pressure from the Canadian Pacific Railway and others, who managed ultimately to get the concession revoked and awarded to rival interests. Probably WABG's impatient and untactful temperament and privileged background was not well suited to the political manoeuvring needed to mollify the Provincial Colonial Administration and counter the machinations of the American Syndicates. Before the concession was revoked the Kootenay Company was held to one of the conditions of its grant - that they must build a canal to connect the Columbia River and Kootenay. The canal took a massive investment and because of the Railway, was pointless (only two ships ever used it) and WABGs investment failed. It is now a Historic site at Canal Flats, British Columbia. WABG lived some time in Victoria, British Columbia, negotiating the concession with the government of BC, and then in the Kootenay, opening the first steam sawmill in the region. His lively account of his time in BC "Fifteen Years' Sport and Life in the Hunting Grounds of Western America and British Columbia" (1900) describes his time pioneering, and also has accounts of hunting Haplocerus Montanus the rare white mountain antelope goat and other game.

WABG's later works include successful works on the history of the Tyrol (by then an increasingly popular destination for English tourists); "Tyrol, The Land In The Mountains" (1907) and "Tyrol" (1908) as well as a guidebook to his own castle "Schloß Matzen im Unterinntal: Kurze geschichtlich" (1908).

A passionate collector, WABG amassed a large collection of furniture and European sporting art (his collection of sporting prints was sold at a special sale at Sotheby's in 1923) and in his later years he developed an erudite interest in the history and art of sport, building up an extensive library on hunting and game animals, including early ecological studies along with early treatises on hunting in many different European languages. Assisted by his wife, Florence, he produced a lavishly illustrated and Authoritative edition of the "The Master of Game" (1904), the oldest English book on hunting, written by Edward of Norwich, 2nd Duke of York (1373-1415). This has a forward by his friend and later US president Teddy Roosevelt, also an avid hunter. WABGs book on early depictions of hunting "Sport in art, An iconography of sport" (1913) remains a definitive work on the subject, written with a unique combination of both field and historical learning. An edition of Maximillian I of Austria's "Das Jagdbuch Kaiser Maximillians I" 1901 with Dr Mayr is also of interest for early game ecology.

As well as writing authoring 11 books , WABG published numerous articles articles in contemporary magazines on both historical and travel subjects.

In 1885 WABG married Florence Nickalls, daughter of Tom Nickalls a London Stockbroker known as the "Erie King" from his many coups in American Railway shares. His eldest son Tom Baillie Grohman became an admiral in the Royal Navy. His daughter Olga Watkins became a pioneer in Kenya and the first women member of Kenya Legco.

Mount Grohman (2299m) near Nelson, British Columbia is named after him as are the Grohman Narrows of Grohman Narrows Provincial Park.


Other Links

* [http://www.bivouac.com/MtnPg.asp?MtnId=6245 Mount Grohman] [http://www.summitpost.org/view_object.php?object_id=150224 Grossglockner]

ee also

* Elizabeth Watkins (writer)








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