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Rattlesnake Island and Peachland's most infamous resident featured at film festival

FILE- Rattlesnake Island.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED
February 05, 2020 - 7:00 AM

Peachland’s most infamous resident has returned to the spotlight.

Eddy Haymour wants Rattlesnake Island back and in his quest to have it returned, he’s spoken to director Greg Compton for the film Eddy’s Kingdom, which premiers at the Victoria Film Festival Feb. 11.

“That is my island and the government took it from me under duress,” Haymour says in the brief trailer for the film.

He later can be heard saying, “I will challenge to my death for my island” and assuring his daughter that he will get it back. She doesn't share his view.

The film revisits Haymour's island fixation and ill-fated attempt to transform a rugged, five-acre piece of land into a Middle Eastern-themed amusement park complete with submarines, an 18-hole miniature golf course and a massive ice cream stand in the shape of a camel.

Eddy's Kingdom - Official Trailer from TonyCerciello on Vimeo.

"What was a potential fantasyland to some was an outright ecological disaster to others," the movie synopsis reads.

"Peachland residents held strong opinions about development in their region and Haymour’s proposal encountered stiff resistance. What followed was a nightmare of legal obstacles, political interference and frustration that has lasted for more than 40 years of his life. Well into his 80s, Eddy clings to his hope of reclaiming his island and completing his exotic vision, but time is quickly running out."

While the idea may seem absurd now, Haymour's efforts weren't viewed negatively by all.

READ MORE: How Rattlesnake island almost became a theme park

Don Wilson, who is the keeper of Peachland's history, was friends with Haymour and remembers his efforts fondly.

Haymour had a barbershop in Peachland, and Wilson remembered that he would take his barge to the island and back every day as he started to get the theme park plans underway and Wilson was one of the people who delighted in his efforts.

“Obviously, though, that was a big plan and he ran into all sorts of difficulties with it,” he said, in an interview last summer.

In part, funding big dreams can be tough. Also, not all of his fellow Peachlanders were on board.

“I think the majority of people weren’t opposed to it,” said Wilson. “But some people were. It’s like when you cut down a tree and some people say ‘what a good view’ and others say ‘how could you do that?’”

The province seemed to fall on the latter side, and among other things, passed building regulations that stopped Haymour from completing the project. Sewage system plans were rejected and the ministry also blocked access to the dock serving the island.

In July 1973, Haymour was in dire financial need and suffering from mental stress from all the forces, both government and private, working against him. He offered to sell the property to a neighbour who was suing him for $146,000. The offer was refused.

Later that year Haymour was charged with threatening to send a letter bomb to former B.C. premier W.A.C. Bennett, although evidence of this threat didn’t materialize. And after being held for extensive psychiatric examination, he wanted to plead guilty to the lingering charges, but the Crown urged the provincial court to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.

“The powers that be wanted him out of there and that’s what it was,” said Wilson.

In July 1974, he had been in custody for seven months and had just learned his wife was divorcing him, his life was in ruins and the island property was being foreclosed on. The government then had Haymour sign the deed for the island for $40,000 and he was transferred to Riverview Hospital, a mental health facility in Coquitlam. He was later released and went to Lebanon.

With five cousins, he held about 20 hostages at the Canadian Embassy in Beirut for a week. Nobody was injured, but it may have been one of the most high-profile stories in Okanagan history, let alone Canada.

“That’s what everybody knows about him,” said Wilson, pointing out there are a number of books and news stories about the incident. “Because of the embassy problem in Lebanon, he’s become well known.”

To read the rest of that story, go here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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