Peace & Environmental Activism – On Don coming aboard the Phyllis Cormack…

Robert Hunter’s “Warriors of the Rainbow – A Chronicle of the Greenpeace Movement”
an excerpt from
pg 191, Holt, Rinehart and Winston NY 1979

The Phyllis Cormack/Greenpeace departs Vancouver on September 15th 1971. This is a photographic record by Robert Keziere of the very first Greenpeace voyage, which departed Vancouver on the 15th September 1971. The aim of the trip was to halt nuclear tests in Amchitka Island by sailing into the restricted area. Crew on-board the ship, are the pioneers of the green movement who formed the original group that became Greenpeace.
The Phyllis Cormack, Greenpeace 1971

“The addition of Don Francks to the crew changed the whole gestalt. 43 years old, Francks was not only a master musician, actor, comedian, he was an avatar of tremendously positive energy. He never drank. He wore his hair in long pigtails, which Cormack delighted in pulling, and even though he had been living with his beautiful wife Lili, and their daughter, Cree Summer, on a Cree Indian reservation for years, he had lost nothing of his hip, big-city sophistication and humor. His repertoire of songs went back to the Depression and included all the early-blues stuff, as well as everything modern up to the Beatles.

From the first day on board, he dedicated himself to slaving away in the galley, or, when he wasn’t doing that, ceaselessly polishing and cleaning the boat. His humility was breathtaking. And while there had been much talk of spirituality on the boat before, spirituality was now incarnate. Don Francks, too, had had visions and dreams, but he had also had a chance to absorb the North American Indian lifestyle through his pores. 

He was perhaps one of the wisest man I had ever met – but he never let his knowledge come out in a heavy fashion. Rather, he entertained us. Cormack in particular was entranced by this sparkling entity who had arrived in our midst and who led us in chorus after chorus of “Hallelujah, I’m a Bum!” If there was such a thing, Francks was a true Warrior of the Rainbow.”

Don at a Greenpeace rally, British Columbia 1971
Don at a Greenpeace rally, British Columbia 1971