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Patrick Brown

Picture of Patrick Brown
Co-founder, contributing writer

I was born in 1937 in Somerset, England. My early years were spent travelling with my mother on wartime trains between various parts of the British Isles (London, Lancashire, Orkney Isles) in pursuit of my father, who had a variety of postings in the British Navy.

My first brush with North America was in Maine in 1944. My family returned to Canada as immigrants in 1947, and took the train to Vancouver.

I graduated from North Vancouver High School in 1953. According to 'scientific' testing, I was suited to be an editor or a lawyer, a slim choice from the limited range of occupations listed at the time. Not knowing what else to do, I went to UBC. Two years of pre-law, plus meeting a number of lawyers, soured me on the law idea, and I started my business career in 1957, at the bottom, in the mailroom (remember mailrooms?).

The next year, I met my first computer and returned to UBC in 1957 to learn all about these incredible new machines. Impatient, in 1959 I went to work as a computer programmer in Ottawa, working on the big IBM machines used to calculate the 1961 census. A year later, a fully qualified (!) programmer, I left the snows of Ottawa for the snows of Calgary, where I found a job in the oil business.

Wanderlust again intervened, and I sold my car and moved (back!) to London. After spending my remaining savings working in a cybernetics lab, and wearing out various relatives, I presented myself as a systems analyst to the Iraq Petroleum Co., who were very new to computers at the time. I was promptly dispatched to Beirut, Baghdad, Kirkuk, Basra, Bahrein and Qatar to perform miracles with computers, which were just learning to speak Arabic (written right to left). No, I never learned Arabic; FORTRAN was bad enough.

The Middle East was then, and still is, a fascinating mix of the primitive and the sophisticated. The fluid state of Iraqi politics at the time (monthly revolutions, and the continual Kurdish wars) resulted in a number of unscheduled trips to the Oman, Jordan, Jerusalem, Cairo, Istanbul, etc. Adventure travel it was. No, I never met Saddam Hussein-he was still a junior officer at the time, and I don't think he was any good at FORTRAN either.

I met my wife Susan in London and I brought her back to Vancouver in 1965 - for both of us, a second immigration. We have two daughters, Elizabeth Anne (1968) and Camilla (1970). Both are married and live nearby. Susan and I were divorced in 1990, but we have six grandchildren to look after.

In 1965, I joined Peat Marwick as a management consultant. Following my first engagement, my boss told me that I could not succeed in this honourable profession unless I could learn to suffer fools gladly. I'm still not sure who he was referring to. After I had suffered fools relatively successfully for ten years, Peat Marwick experienced the inevitable schism and I spent the next six years as a partner with IBI group, variously masquerading as an accountant, an engineer, or an architect, as required, in Calgary and Edmonton as well as Vancouver.

I then abandoned the consulting business for a real job - Vice President, no less, of a Calgary company devoted to bringing Canada the natural gas powered car, and ultimately fighting the wars of the National Energy Program. There was a lot more travelling (the US, Europe). When I gave up airplanes in the mid-eighties I had logged nearly three million miles.

In 1984, I found myself consulting again, though this time as an expert in alternative fuels and sort of loosely attached to BC Research. Consulting is a bad habit; I gave it up in 1996, after a lot of work with entrepreneurs, inventors, and venture capitalists. Maybe I was ahead of my time; at least I hope that was the problem.

In 1987, I met Island Tides editor and publisher Christa Grace-Warrick in a drama class. She was teaching and I was studying. She introduced me to the Gulf Islands where she was living. We enjoyed collaborating so we began by doing some theatre shows together at the Vancouver Fringe Festival.

She had this idea about starting a Gulf Islands' newspaper and I, remembering those early aptitude tests, was all for it. So we did. And in 1989 I finally got to be an editor. I've been writing for Island Tides ever since, though I'm not an editor anymore, I just write stuff. (Currently I am taking a break from writing.)

At about the same time, I moved to Pender Island, at first living on my boat, and finally ashore. I learned to sail in the Persian Gulf, the Shatt al Arab, and the Thames. I still sail; I'm on my sixth boat, a 30-foot sloop which I designed myself and have now had for twenty-eight years.

I'm still as impatient with computers as ever. I think they get really useful about six months before they become obsolete. But then I'm probably obsolete.


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