Mark Bate and his second wife

Timeless Tales: First mayor Bate helped build a city

NANAIMO – Nanaimo's first mayor, the indefatigable Mark Bate, was elected to 16 terms.



Nanaimo’s first mayor was indefatigable and unforgettable.

Mark Bate helped write the city’s history, figuratively and literally, as a pioneer, businessman, politician, musician, historian, husband and father.

His bust can be found near the harbour and his cornet is kept at the Nanaimo museum, but it’s his top hat, also at the museum, that perhaps symbolizes him best of all.

Bate came from a middle-class family in Birmingham, England, but in Nanaimo, he was a gentleman and a leading figure.

“He was a man about town,” said Christine Meutzner, manager of the Nanaimo Community Archives.

Bate, born in 1837, immigrated to Canada along with his sister, aunt and cousin on the Princess Royal, arriving in 1857. He worked as a clerk with the Hudson’s Bay Company, then as a manager with the Vancouver Coal Mining and Land Co. after it bought out HBC’s coal operations. Bate was a major player and employer in creating an industry and community atop Nanaimo’s coal beds.

In the city’s first mayoral election in 1875, Bate defeated James Harvey, 118 votes to 101.

Victory and concession speeches were made, and then, after the meeting was adjourned, according to an article in the Nanaimo Free Press, “the friends and supporters of the mayor elect lifted him shoulder high and carried him through the town, cheering as they went.”

The defeated Harvey commented on voters’ choice, saying “that time would show who were right,” but as it turned out, voters chose Bate time after time. He went on to serve 16 one-year terms as mayor.

It was a period when Bate and the citizens of the era were building the foundations of a freshly incorporated municipality.

“The actual regulation of the town, he was in on the very early phases of it, making sure that we get the goods and services that we now think are normal to have,” Meutzner said. “Since he was here so early and he lived so long, he really was here from the very embryonic, very early stages of Nanaimo development to when it was really well and truly established.”

Over the years, Bate was a justice of the peace, chairman of the board of education, president of the Nanaimo Literary Institute, conductor of the Nanaimo Brass Band and a member of several service clubs.

He was married in 1859 and had five sons and five daughters, then in 1901, four years after his first wife’s death, he remarried. Bate died during a trip to England in 1927.

He is remembered in the region in a few different ways, beyond his bust on the waterfront. Mount Mark rises above the shores of Horne Lake near Qualicum Beach, Newcastle Island has both a Mark Bay and a Bate Point, and the drive at Nanaimo City Hall is called Bate Lane.

These tributes show that Nanaimoites remember Mayor Mark Bate, and take their (top) hats off to him.

Just Posted

UPDATE: Suspect and Mountie bitten by police dog during arrest south of Nanaimo

Two suspects were arrested in connection with a stolen pickup truck in Cassidy on Thursday evening

City to re-name community policing office and keep it open

Council votes 6-2 for city to maintain a presence at Victoria Crescent office

Nanaimo RCMP seek help finding missing Nanaimo boy

Chaas Mearns, 13, was reported missing Jan. 30

Construction set to begin on Nanaimo airport terminal expansion

First phase of construction project to begin in March or April

Duncan family says care home switched mom’s cat with robot cat

Staff alleged to have said they were taking cat for bath, then replaced her with robotic stuffed toy

B.C. Games open with Olympic touch

The 2018 B.C. Winter Games kicked off in Kamloops

Beefs & Bouquets, Feb. 22

To submit a beef or a bouquet to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, e-mail bulletinboard@nanaimobulletin.com

More snow forecast to fall Friday on Vancouver Island

Environment Canada calling for 2-10 centimetres on the east coast of the Island and areas inland

Buccaneers double up Generals to win Game 2

Nanaimo now leads the best-of-seven series against Oceanside two games to none

Indigenous elders share history with Nanaimo-Ladysmith School District students

‘Our kids learning their history through elders is nothing that we can find in our textbooks’

UPDATE: One driver taken to hospital after three-vehicle collision in Harewood

Accident happened at Howard Avenue and Seventh Street at about 9:30 a.m.

B.C. ski cross racer wins Olympic gold

Kelowna’s Kelsey Serwa wins the gold medal in thrilling fashion in PyeongChang

New charges against ex-Trump campaign associates

More charges were laid Thursday against President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman and his business associate

Man accused in death of Winnipeg teen Tina Fontaine not guilty

Raymond Cormier was accused of killing Indigenous 15-year-old and dumping her body in the Red River

Most Read