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Bartholomew Fergus Foley

Musicologist, culture critic, gentle rebel, gifted communicator. Born on Aug. 2, 1945, in Abbeyside, Ireland; died on Oct. 25, 2014, in Gabriola, B.C., of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, aged 69.

Fergus, always known by his second name, grew up on Ireland's south coast and attended his first school just over the back garden wall. He would regale his friends on B.C.'s Gabriola Island with stories of the high jinks and adventures he got up to there and later, in Dublin, at school with other non-conformists and rebels.

As soon as he was able, and into his late teens, Fergus worked hard to help his beloved mother, Mary, run the house in Abbeyside and to mind the six other children. From her he learned many useful domestic skills, and a richly ironic outlook on life. He often communicated with those he loved best through banter and teasing, which his mother excelled at. Laughing with Fergus and his mother was a deep pleasure: It felt like being in love.

As a young man, he trained at and managed hotels in Cork, Frankfurt and London, before opting in the late 1960s for la vie bohème. A founding member of London's Gay Liberation Front, and a committed social activist, he attended anti-nuclear marches, demonstrations, and alternative culture festivals. He continued throughout his life to work for animal rights and environmental protection.

By 1975, angered by the delusive "freedoms" of consumerism, Fergus hitchhiked to India. There he discovered an equal antipathy to Europe's dropouts, with their search for easy routes to redemption and transcendence. He lived with Tibetan refugees in Kathmandu at a time, as he put it, "before there was an airport or McDonald's." He hitchhiked back to Ireland and lived off the land in Colligan Wood, a forest outside his hometown, from where he would drop in, by bike, for tea with his mom. One of his younger sisters recalls her classmates screaming hysterically when he came to visit her at school, thinking that Fergus was either God or Jesus, and asking her to get an autograph, please.

On a visit to Dublin, he met the man with whom he would spend the rest of his life, travelling to teach in Nigeria, then to Vancouver, then settling, in 1989, on Gabriola Island in the middle of a forest, where we gardened and made art. Old gay radicals, we refused the more recent conventions of gay marriage, and lived freely and openly on the island, among many friends and some objectors.

Fergus was proud of his garden, the rising vines of beans and sweet peas, fruit trees and rhododendrons, and especially his rose garden. The food bank benefited from his garden's bounty. He minded the wild creatures and birds who visited, and several cat and dog companions, during our 25 years here.

His academic study of male gay cultural work in the 20th century is in the Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa. He taught from 1990 to 1994 at Simon Fraser University, commuting by ferry to the downtown Vancouver campus; wrote for the alternative press; and was a founding member of community radio station CHLY in Nanaimo, which recently aired a tribute to his deeply felt presence on the island.

His gentle voice – speaking Gaelic, Spanish, German and English – went out over the Internet and airwaves for 12 years, exploring "world" music as a means to peace and community, and creating a global fan base. On Gabriola, he made his home and established his particular version of a multicultural, tolerant and diverse community. He is much loved, and deeply missed.

Craig Tapping is Fergus’s life mate of almost 40 years.

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