They met on a mountain in 1924 and never looked down.
Esmé Trevor-Bulkley was hiking Capilano Canyon in North Vancouver with two other women when they ran head-on into a party of three young men. One was Andy Cruickshank, out for some fresh air with two of his fellow Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers.
“They started chatting and Andy offered to share his lunch,” says granddaughter Kerry Karram. “Then he gave them tickets to the RCMP’s mounted musical ride on Georgia Street where he’d be performing.”
Andy and Esmé’s Vancouver courtship was cut short when the RCMP posted him to Dawson City. While he loved the Yukon and the essential services – like delivering mail – that he provided northerners, he missed his “star”. As the letters and poems they exchanged for two years shows, she missed her “Cruicky” too.
“Then in 1927 he decided to leave the RCMP,” Karram says. “Mounties weren’t allowed to have wives until they’d been in the force for five years, and he’d decided he’d rather deliver the mail by plane than dogsled.”
After all, Andy was a trained British pilot who had served in the Royal Air Force in Britain during the First World War. Once he had made his decision, he bought a Ryan B-1 high-winged monoplane (G-CAHR) nicknamed the Queen of the Yukon, and flew it down to Vancouver in the fall of 1927.
As daughter June Lunny describes in her book, Spirit of the Yukon (Caitlin Press), the Queen was greeted by thousands in the cow pasture at Lansdowne Park. But Esmé was the only person in the crowd who mattered.
They were married shortly afterward and boarded a ship bound for Skagway – with the Queen’s parts strapped to the deck. Then they flew into Whitehorse to a hero’s welcome and set about making Yukon Airways and Exploration Company a success.
Esmé rode along on most flights and even made Dawson’s first airmail delivery, dropping a mail sack out of the window over Main Street on November 11, 1927.
“My grandfather was teaching her to fly,” Karram says. “She also loved fixing planes with him and contributed a lot in brains and money to get the business off the ground.”
Once they had young children at home, Esmé held down the fort when he was off flying.
“She was an incredibly strong, beautiful woman,” Karram says.
Even so, once when she was expecting her first daughter, her family hid the newspapers so Esmé would not know Andy was lost somewhere in the Yukon.
Then in 1929, the same year their first daughter, Dawn, was born, Andy also coordinated Canada’s largest aerial search effort when the MacAlpine Party went missing in the Northwest Territories.
“It was their second anniversary during that search,” says Karram, who published a book on the MacAlpine expedition and search, Four Degrees Celsius, largely based on her grandfather’s diaries.
He helped save the eight downed men that year, and went on to make countless successful flights. On June 29, 1932, however, unthinkable news reached 26-year-old Esmé: Andy’s plane had crashed in the NWT, killing him and two others.
Her “Cruicky” was gone, but their love lived on with every letter she kept and every story she told her daughters and grandchildren. In 1977, these star-crossed lovers were finally reunited.
From Esmé to Cruicky:
Restless when you’re far away
Happy when you’re near,
You are home and rest to me
Calming every fear.
Think of you at eventide
when the shadows fall,
Weary longing for you dear
Only you – that’s all.
From Andy to his “star”
Tonight I’m in a tent my love
The night is cold and still,
And all the twinkling stars my love
Light up the distant hill.
While in this tent a vision comes
The brightest star on Earth,
Appears to shine from high on me
Her eyes give gladness birth.
They seem to say I know my love
That you are safe at last,
Your message came at noon today
My sorrows are all past.
Oh! Darling star my heart is sore
I know this pain you’ve had,
From now my life will all be spent
To make you ever glad.
Glad that I was safe for you
Glad I understood,
Glad I know you suffered so
Glad that I’ll make good.
Goodnight my hearts own Darling
Goodnight my star so bright,
Goodnight may heaven bless you
Good night my wife, goodnight.