Bob Gannicott left England for Yellowknife nearly penniless when he was 19 because of a thwarted romance. He had been studying mining engineering at the University of Nottingham, but dropped out to work at the Giant Mine in Yellowknife. From that start Mr. Gannicott, who died this month at the age of 69, went on to become a prospector and mining promoter and, with the discovery of diamonds in Canada, he became one of the richest men in Yellowknife.
Robert Gannicott was born on June 11, 1947, in Sandford, a quiet country village in Somerset, in England’s West Country. His mother, Ida, was a school teacher and his father, Ivor, was an engineer who was in submarines in the Royal Navy during the Second World War.
Back then England had “11-plus” exams, which were used to determine children’s abilities so they could be streamed toward either academics or more practical training. Bob Gannicott passed on the bright side, winning a scholarship to a local grammar school, which led to university.
When he was 15, he met Geraldine Davies on the school bus and the two became inseparable. They took up the hobby of caving – exploring underground caverns. One of the best places to do that was in the Mendip Hills in Somerset, near where they lived.
“Caving was one of the reasons he felt comfortable about working in mines, and why he started studying mining engineering at the University of Nottingham,” said Geraldine (who now goes by the surname Peacock).
When Bob and Geraldine announced they wanted to marry, their parents forbade it.
“We should have just gone ahead with it, but you felt you couldn’t do that back then,” Ms. Peacock said. Mr. Gannicott left for Yellowknife and the couple didn’t get back together for more than 30 years, after they had both married and divorced other people.
Young Bob Gannicott landed in Montreal in 1967 and was so broke that he jumped a freight train to get himself to Edmonton. In Winnipeg, the railroad police nabbed him, but upon learning where he was headed, they gave him a train ticket to Edmonton in exchange for his watch. The mine paid for the rest of the trip from Edmonton to Yellowknife. Once he received his paycheque he sent money to get his watch out of hock.
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