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Two men, both armed, one a fugitive, the other a member of a posse, met on a steep trail on Alone Mountain on Vancouver Island.

It was about 4:30 p.m. on July 27, 1918. A gunshot broke the still of the isolated forest. In an instant, one man became a killer, the other a martyr. The survivor was the only witness.

The man who did not walk from those woods, whose body was hauled out on a makeshift canvas sling after two undertakers refused a police request to bury him on the spot, was a labour organizer and conscription evader. To this day, almost 87 years after his death, the name Albert (Ginger) Goodwin evokes strong passions.

The Yorkshire immigrant has been made immortal by song and mural, has had his name grace a magazine, a mountain and a highway.

On Saturday, a gravesite remembrance with speeches and a wreath laying will be held as a highlight of the 20th annual Miners' Memorial Day in Cumberland. The day commemorates those killed in industrial accidents.

Not all consider Mr. Goodwin's fate to be that of martyr. Shortly after coming to office in 2001, the B.C. Liberal government removed his name from a stretch of the Inland Island Highway. A spokesman said at the time it wasn't government policy to have stretches of highway named after individuals.

The Goodwin name lingers because so much mystery surrounded - and still surrounds - his death.

Was the killing a case of self-defence, or murder? Or was Ginger somehow responsible for his own end?

Roger Stonebanks, a reporter, spent nearly 20 years of his spare time researching the details of Mr. Goodwin's life. A definitive biography, Fighting for Dignity, published last year by the Canadian Committee on Labour History, successfully distills cold, hard facts from the romanticism of myth.

"He's alone on a trail," Mr. Stonebanks recounted. "A policeman is alone and on the same trail. They're both carrying rifles. What is not clear is if they were approaching each other, or one was catching up to the other.

"Whatever happened," he added, "happened very quickly."

After all these years, many of the unanswered questions surrounding the death remain unanswerable.

Whatever the circumstance, a single death amid the carnage of the First World War and the Spanish flu epidemic remains a symbol of British Columbia's long and still-smouldering conflict between labour and capital.

In death, Mr. Goodwin achieved a notoriety greater even than that held in his lifetime.

"People would call him radical, militant," Mr. Stonebanks said. "I think he was. But he was a peaceful person. He advocated change through peaceful means, through Parliament and elections.

"He was never arrested for anything."

He would have been, however, had he not been shot to death.

The events that would end on a mountain trail began the previous year. Mr. Goodwin was a strikingly thin man with rotten teeth, who many thought of as sickly, even though he played soccer on local teams. When examined to determine his status for conscription, three doctors rated him Category D, meaning he was temporarily unfit but subject to later re-examination.

Just 11 days after Mr. Goodwin led smelter workers in the Kootenays on a strike for an eight-hour day, he was ordered to report for another examination. Already-suspicious labour supporters were not surprised when he was reclassified as being fit for service.

After losing appeals and being ordered to report to duty in Victoria, Mr. Goodwin joined other draft dodgers hiding in the hills near the coal-mining town of Cumberland.

Some locals ensured the men in the bush were supplied with food. Sometimes, the draft dodgers broke into local hunting cabins for provisions. One of those cabins was owned by Scabby Anderson, who won his nickname for crossing a picket line.

Mr. Anderson joined a posse including a renowned cougar hunter in tracking down draft dodgers in dense bush. Joining them was Dan Campbell, a 46-year-old disgraced former policeman who had lost a posting in Esquimalt after a shakedown was exposed. Armed with a deer rifle, Mr. Campbell was acting as a special constable of the Dominion Police when he encountered Mr. Goodwin, who carried a .22-calibre automatic rifle.

A single shot tore through Mr. Goodwin's neck, severing his spinal cord. He fell face first to the forest floor, dead at 31.

His body was eventually taken to 2725 Penrith Ave., a Cumberland home where he had boarded before taking to the woods. From there, his coffin was escorted through the streets to be buried in the cemetery where mourners will gather again on Saturday.

Finding the address of the home in which the labour leader lay in state was one of many impressive bits of shoe-leather sleuthing by Mr. Stonebanks. Having tracked down an elderly witness to the funeral procession who was unable to return to Cumberland, he instead brought Cumberland to her. She selected the correct address after being shown photographs of every house on the street.

The reporter's untiring research also corrected many errors in Mr. Goodwin's scant official record. He was born at 113 Well Lane (not Bole Hill) in the Yorkshire mining village of Treeton (not Barnsley) on May 10, 1887 (not 1877). He was buried on Aug. 2, 1918 (not April 2). Even the gravestone that is a feature of the Miners' Memorial Day events misses the date of death by a day.

The story has been made mythic by the imaginations of such songwriters as Bill Gallaher ( Ballad of Ginger Goodwin), Wyckham Porteous ( Cumberland Waltz, an achingly beautiful song), and Aengus Finnan ( Marching Ginger Goodwin). Even punk rocker Joe Keithley has written what must be the genre's only ode to a Great War draft dodger.

In the end, a grand jury dismissed the case against Mr. Campbell even though police and two justices of the peace felt evidence warranted proceeding with a manslaughter charge. He lived to be 80.

At the Cumberland Museum, which boasts Mr. Goodwin's fishing rod and two reels, a display includes a highway sign reading: Ginger Goodwin Way.

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