EDITH LOUISA (DOLLY) HELMCKEN (MRS. HIGGINS)
(1862-1939)

Edith Louisa, or "Dolly", was the youngest daughter of Cecelia and John. She was just two when her mother died in 1865, so was raised primarily by the family's housekeepers. Dolly was one of the favorite grandchildren of Sir James Douglas, and would often accompany him on his drives around the neighborhood.

Dolly first attended school at St. Ann's Convent in Victoria. She was described as having a happy disposition and lots of friends. She excelled at arts and crafts, especially in needlework and ceramic painting. She even wrote and illustrated a children's book. The Helmcken house museum still holds some of her work.

After she finished her schooling at St. Anne, Dolly was sent to a finishing school in Toronto. She had shown exceptional talent in art and music, and went to London, England in 1882-3 to further study this. Her aunt accompanied her, and she traveled extensively through Germany, Switzerland, France and Italy. Shortly after she returned to Victoria.

She married Williams Ralph Higgins April 1889. Ralph had a passion for music himself, having completed a music degree, specializing in singing at London's Royal College of Music. The Higgins family was another prominent pioneer family. Ralph's' father was the first Speaker of the Legislature, and the founder of what is today Victoria, BC's daily newspaper the Times Colonist.

After they were married, the couple traveled in Europe for three years before they settled down to a house in Victoria. Ralph worked as a reporter for the Daily Colonist in 1884/85, then as City Editor. He then accepted a position in the department of education.

Tragically, Dolly's husband suddenly took ill, and had an emergency operation, and died within that same week at 30 years old. His obituary says he was:"Genial and manly in his tastes and dispositions, a friend of true athletics, a lover and talented exponent of good music a generous and open hearted worker in every charitable and philanthropic cause, the late Mr. Higgins had many, many friends and not one enemy"(Oct.31/1896)

After her husband's death, Dolly went to live with her father John Sebastian at Helmcken house in October 1896. There she lived with John until his death in the 1920's, and a large addition to the house was constructed for her.

She lived on by herself in the old house until her death in 1939. Dolly refused to change anything in the doctor's room, and everything to do with her father was considered "sacred". Dolly had ordered the house and all Helmcken's writing to be destroyed upon his death.

Aunt Dolly eventually had a change of heart, and the provincial government then bought the house and turned it into a museum.

Dolly had been involved with charitable work all her life. She was treasurer of the Protestant Orphanage Home for about twenty years, was active in women's activities in the Church of Our Lord. In addition to these commitments, she also carried on other less public charitable works.

Upon her death, Dolly's ashes were placed in the family plot at Ross Bay Cemetery. It says of her in her obituary "...(she) was a fairy godmother to many lonely, sick and poor people who might otherwise have been forgotten."

Letter from father

To Harry Helmcken To Cecil Roderick

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