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Story of famous Yukon silver heist comes to the Nelson Public Library

By Contributor
May 20th, 2015

A two million dollar silver heist might sound like the stuff of fiction, but in Alicia Priest’s memoir A Rock Fell on the Moon: Dad and the Great Yukon Silver Ore Heist, the events of that time couldn’t be closer to home for the author.

Priest, who recently passed away, was a respected journalist whose in-depth investigation lead to this book, released by Harbour Publishing last fall and nominated for a BC Book Prize. 

Priest’s husband Ben Parfitt presents the book with a talk and slideshow on Tuesday, June 9 at 7pm at the Nelson Public Library.

It was 1963 when the author’s father, Gerald Priest, allegedly stole 670 bags of ore — 80% silver — from United Keno Hill Mine in the Yukon. Priest, Chief Assayer for the mine, claimed the ore came from a giant boulder found on a stake he held known as the Moon Claim.

Other evidence suggested that the ore was stockpiled over time in an abandoned tunnel.

For the author, a child at the time, the almost-perfect crime perpetrated by her father would change her life, her carefree northern childhood traded for a difficult existence in an East Vancouver basement apartment.

After her parents died — her father lived for a time in Slocan City, so there is a Kootenay connection — Priest decided to find out the truth, using her journalistic skills to research trial transcriptions, conduct interviews, comb through news stories and police reports, letters and memos to reconstruct a baffling but unforgettable story.

Priest was writing the book when she was diagnosed with ALS in 2012, lending urgency to her work. With the support of her husband she was able to complete the memoir and see it published before her death earlier this year.

Part brazen mining mystery, part memoir that is in turns heartbreaking and funny, the story takes us from the tiny town of Elsa to the courtroom.

Throughout, her father’s charm belies underlying truths.

The Library’s Adult Services Coordinator Anne DeGrace is excited about the event.

“This presentation will fascinate anyone interested in mining, history, or simply an audacious story well told,” she says.


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