William Adolf Baillie Grohman

William Adolph Baillie Grohman (1851–1921) was an Anglo-Austrian author [1] of works on the Tyrol and the history of hunting, a big game sportsman, and a pioneer in the Kootenay region of British Columbia.


Grohmann was born in 1851 in Gmunden, the son of Adolf Rheinhold Grohmann (1822–1877) and Francis Margaret 'Fanny' Reade (1831–1908). He spent much of his youth in Tyrol in Austria, and could speak Tyrolese dialect like a native. His early years were spent at the Schloss von St. Wolfgang which had a famous garden. His father was a manic depressive and in 1861 he was committed to an asylum, in 1873 His mother bought the semi-derelict Schloss Matzen [2] in the Tyrol, near the branch of the Zillertal and the Inn Valley.[3] He was educated by private tutors and at Elizabeth College, Guernsey. As a young man Grohmann roamed out from the family castle to hunt chamois and deer in the surrounding high alps, wandering for days through the still-remote Tyrolese mountain villages. His two earliest books, Tyrol & the Tyrolese (1876) [4] and Gaddings with a Primitive People (1878) ,[5] provide a rare first-hand insight into Tyrolese folk customs and the austere, isolated existence of pre-industrial Alpine village communities.[6]

He was an expert mountaineer and made the first winter ascent [7] of the Großglockner, the highest mountain in Austria (3798m), on 2 January 1875,[8] and was a member of the Alpine Club. He is credited as being one of the first to introduce skis to the Tyrol, having been sent four pairs by his father in law, Tom Nickalls, who had a hunting lodge in Norway - he started using them in 1893, as is related in an article in The Field in 1937,[9] by his daughter Olga, who herself became an early member of the Innsbruck Ski club. The article in The Field includes photographs of WABG's wife Florence on skis in 1894 - the earliest known photograph of a woman on skis in the alps. Skis were also introduced to the Tyrol the same year at Kitzbuhl[10] by Franz Reisch.

A crack shot and a passionate big-game hunter, he travelled out to the American West many times the 1870s and 1880s to shoot big game when the Rockies and mountain states were opening up to sportsmen. His book Camps in the Rockies (1882) [11] gives an account of his travels though Wyoming and Idaho, both as a "topshelfer" (a rich comfort-laden sportsman[12] ) and later on – more to his boyhood taste of stalking with Tyrolean mountain huntsmen – roughing it with trappers and Native Americans. Although written in a style of detached amusement to titillate armchair Victorian readers, this work, like his earlier books about the Tyrolese, has careful and sympathetic passages on American Indian and local customs, and gives a valuable first-hand account of the American and Canadian West just before and after the arrival of the railway. He ranged widely over the Pacific Slope and the Central Rockies and explored new ranges in the Selkirks.

Baillie Grohman liked the new country he found so much that he returned to British Columbia in the 1880s as a pioneer, investing through the Kootenay Company Ltd, [13] a London registered company which obtained a concession of 78,525 acres (317.78 km2) to develop the Upper and Lower Kootenay valleys.[14] He wrote a number of articles for British magazines promoting the possibilities of British Columbia.[15] In his youth he had seen how the embankment of the Inn River in the lower Inntal had turned unproductive flood land into profitable farmland and so envisaged that a similar control of the Kootenay River and a lowering of the water levels of the Kootenay Lake would create large areas of fertile farmland. This plan was thwarted by political pressure from the Canadian Pacific Railway and others,[16][17] who managed ultimately to get the concession revoked and awarded to rival interests. Probably his impatient and untactful temperament and privileged background was not well suited to the political manoeuvring needed to mollify the Provincial Colonial Administration and counter the machinations of the CPR and other interests.[18] Before the concession was revoked the Kootenay Company was held to one of the conditions of its grant – that it must build a canal to connect the Columbia River and Kootenay and William Adolph Baillie-Grohman.[19] The canal,[20][21] took a massive investment and because of the railway, was pointless (only two ships ever used it) and the project failed.[22] It is now a historic site at Canal Flats, British Columbia. Grohmann lived some time in Victoria, British Columbia,[23] negotiating the concession with the government of BC, and then in the Kootenay, opening the first steam sawmill in the region[24] and the first steam boat on lake Kootenay;[25] he was the first J.P and the first postmaster in Kootenay .[26] His account of his time in BC Fifteen Years' Sport and Life in the Hunting Grounds of Western America and British Columbia (1900) [27] describes his time pioneering, and also has accounts of hunting the rare white Rocky mountain "antelope goat", sometimes known then as "Haplocerus Montanus" but now assigned the Linnaean name of Oreamnos americanus, as well as the pursuit of many other types of game. Baillie Grohmans's scheme for reclamation was later successfully implement by others .[28]

His later works include successful works on the history of the Tyrol (by then an increasingly popular destination for English tourists); Tyrol, The Land in the Mountains (1907) [29] and Tyrol (1908) [30]as well as a guidebook to his own castle Schloß Matzen im Unterinntal (1908).[31]

A passionate collector, he amassed a large collection of furniture and European sporting art (his collection of sporting prints was sold at a special sale at Sotheby's in 1923),[32][33] and in his later years he developed an erudite interest in the history and art of sport, building up an extensive library on hunting and game animals, including early ecological studies along with early treatises on hunting in many different European languages. Assisted by his wife, Florence, he produced a lavishly illustrated and authoritative [34]edition of The Master of Game (1904),[35] the second oldest English book on hunting, a translation (from the French Livre de Chasse 1387 of Gaston Phébus) by Edward of Norwich, 2nd Duke of York. This has a foreword by his friend and later US president Teddy Roosevelt, also an avid big game hunter. In his book on early depictions of hunting Sport in art, An iconography of sport (1913),[36] Baillie Grohman was able to bring together a lifetime's understanding of hunting in the field with an extensive historical knowledge of early sporting art gained through his own collecting and research. An edition of Maximillian I of Austria's Das Jagdbuch Kaiser Maximillians I (1901) with Dr Mayr [37] is also of interest for early game ecology.

As well as writing authoring 11 books, he published numerous articles in contemporary magazines on both historical and travel subjects.

On the outbreak of the First World war, as British Nationals, he and his wife faced internment but were allowed to leave Austria after the intercession of Prince Auersperg. They returned after the war and started the Tyrolean Relief Fund to help Tyroleans through the famine that was an aftermath of the war in the Tyrol. He died in 1921.


In 1885 Baillie Grohman married Florence née Nickalls, daughter of Tom Nickalls (1828−1899) and Emily née Quihampton (1834-1909), Tom was a London stockbroker known as the "Erie King" from his many coups in American railway shares,[38] the champion rowers Guy Nickalls and Vivian Nickalls were Florence's brothers.

Florence and William had a son and a daughter: their son, Vice-Admiral Harold Tom Baillie Grohman RN CB, DSO, OBE (1887–1978), had a distinguished career in the Royal Navy, commanding the battleship HMS Ramillies at the start of the Second World War;[39] and their daughter, Olga Florence Baillie Grohman (1889–1947)[40] , who married secondly Oscar Ferris Watkins, became a pioneer in Kenya and the first female Member of the Kenya Legislative Council (MLC).


Books Authored by W A Baillie Grohman

Articles by W A Baillie Grohman

See also


  1. "Worldcat: Baillie-Grohman, William A. (William Adolph) 1851-1921".
  2. WABG1907 Schloss Matzen - See Bibliography.
  3. Watkins2005, Elizabeth (2005). Olga in Kenya: Repressing the Irrepressible. Brighton, Sussex, England: Pen Press Publishers Ltd. p. 9. ISBN 978-1905203741.
  4. WABG1876 Tyrol & The Tyrolese - See Bibliography.
  5. WABG1878 Gaddings with a Primitive People - See Bibliography.
  6. Draxl, Anton (2013), "Das Karwendel Flurnamen, das "Hinterriß-Thal", Wilderer und Bergsteiger", Das Karwendel : Geschichte, alte Namen, Land und Leute (in German), vol 2. Vom Kaiser Max bis zum Jahr 1945, Lienz, p. 521
  7. WABG Ascent of the Gross Glockner - See Bibliography.
  8. Roberts, Eric (1977). "The Grossglockner: Its climbs and Pioneers". Alpine Journal. 82: 197. Made by W.A. Baillie-Grohmann, P. Groder, A. Kerer & K. Gorgasser
  9. Watkins, Olga (1937). "The first Skis in the Tyrol". The Field. London (November): 1274–1276.
  10. "Mit dem Ski auf das Kitzbichler Horn (1994 m) 1 November 1893" (PDF). Der Schneeschuh. 1st volume. Munich. 1893.
  11. WABG1882 Camps in The Rockies - See Bibliography.
  12. WABG1882 Camps in The Rockies p2.
  13. WABG Report on the Government Concessions for 78,525 Acres of selected Land in the Kootenay - See Bibliography.
  14. Jordan, Mabel E (1993). "The Upper Kootenay River Canal". Frontier Days in British Columbia. Heritage House. pp. 74–81. ISBN 978-1894384-01-8.
  15. WABG Articles - See Bibliography.
  16. The Kootenay Valley. A report on certain cases involving reclamation and the development of water power in the valley of the Kootenay river, under the terms of article IV of the treaty of January 1 1, 1909 heard before the international joint commission, Ottawa and Washington (PDF). Ottawa and Washington: Government of Canada. 1935. p. 29."and the Canadian Pacific Railway heard with horror that the waters of the Kootenay were to be turned into the Columbia, which river was already giving their line considerable trouble at high water."
  17. Dance, Anne (2015). "The Kootenay Valley. Dikes, Ducks, and Dams: Environmental Change and the Politics of Reclamation at Creston Flats, 1882-2014". BC Studies (Winter2014/15): 17, p20.
  18. Jordan1993 p75.
  19. Jordan1993 p76.
  20. Jordan, Mabel Ellen (1987). "The Upper Kootenay River Canal". Canadian West. British Columbia Historical Society ((Summer 1987)): 76–82.
  21. Welwood, Ron J (2003). "Baillie-Grohman's Diversion". BC Historical News. British Columbia Historical Federation. 36 (No4): 6–12.
  22. Jordan, Mabel Ellen (1956). "The Kootenay Reclamation and Colonization Scheme and William Adolph Baillie-Grohman". British Columbia Historical Quarterly. British Columbia Historical Society. 20, 3-4: 187–22.
  23. Bosher, J.F. Imperial Vancouver Island. Who Was Who 1850-1950. p. 107. ISBN 978-1-4500-5963-3.
  24. Jordan1993 p80.
  25. Taming the Kootenay, 1882-1893: W. A.Baillie-Grohman and the Midge. Creston and District Historical and Museum Society. p. 1.
  26. SFN InternationalJointCommission1935 p30.
  27. WABG1900 Fifteen Years' Sport and Life - See Bibliography.
  28. InternationalJointCommission1935 p76.
  29. WABG1907 Tyrol, The Land in the Mountains - See bibliography.
  30. WABG1908 Tyrol - See bibliography.
  31. WABG1908 Schloß Matzen im Unterinntal - See bibliography.
  32. Catalogue of the Extensive Collection of Old Engravings, Drawings & Books Relating to Sport (formed by the Late W.A. Baillie-Grohman, Esq.), the Property of Mrs. Baillie-Grohman, of Schloss Matzen, Brixlegg, Tyrol ... which Will be Sold by Auction by Messrs. Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge at Their Large Galleries on Monday, the 14th Day of May, 1923 [18p]. Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge. 1923. Prints from his collection can be found in the British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum New York
  33. "Lot 32, Jan van der Straet, called Stradanus, (Bruges 1523 - 1605 Florence), THE WILD BOAR HUNT".
  34. World cat & This went through 17 editions between 1904 and 2005.
  35. WABG1904 Master of Game - See bibliography.
  36. WABG1913 Sport in art - See bibliography.
  37. WABG1901 Das Jagdbuch Kaiser Maximillians I - See bibliography.
  38. Duguid, Charles (1901). The story of the Stock Exchange. Its History and Position. Grant Richards. p. 250.
  39. Heckstall-Smith, Anthony; Baillie Grohman, Harold Tom (1961). Greek tragedy. London: H.Blond.
  40. Watkins2005.


Mount Grohman (2299 m) near Nelson, British Columbia is named after him as are the Grohman Narrows of Grohman Narrows Provincial Park.

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