November 11 is truly a ‘Day of Remembrance’ for many Canadians.
Some Canadians have made their marks in history not just by their death in the various wars, but by leaving indelible memorials which are recognized nationally and internationally.
Dr. John A Pearson
His name lives on in the rebuilding of the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings, the design of the Peace Tower with its plethora of Scripture verses engraved therein, and the numerous banking, university and hospital edifices that his firm, Darling & Pearson, built in Toronto and Montreal.
Recently, in doing some other research, I stumbled upon a ‘November 11th‘ moment associated with John A Pearson.
In our little book, ‘The Legacy of 25 Scripture Verses on Parliament Hill’ we show the Altar of Remembrance which is in the middle of the Memorial Chamber.
I have since discovered that a similar ‘altar’ was made by John A Pearson, as a communion table for St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Toronto in memory of the soldiers of the 48th Highlanders Regiment (who belonged to that church) and who gave their lives in both World Wars. I further discovered that John A Pearson was a Sergeant with the 48th Highlanders Regiment in World War I.
Just as there is a Book of Remembrance in the Memorial Chamber, there is a Book of Remembrance in the communion table, which houses the names of the soldiers from that regiment. The pages are turned once a year on November 11th to commemorate those soldiers.
There are two ‘abutments’ (extensions of the table) in the communion table. On the front of the one on the right is written the same quote from Pilgrim’s Progress as seen just under the lip of the Altar of Remembrance in the Memorial Chamber – “My marks and scars I carry with me to be a witness for me that I have fought His battles who now will be my rewarder.”
On the front of the left abutment is the passage from Ephesians 6: 13-17. “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day and having done all to stand.” These verses are also etched on the altar of the Memorial Chamber.
On the Altar of Remembrance in the Memorial Chamber, the symbols of the “Armour of God” are represented as shields around the brass receptacle of the Book of Remembrance. On the communion table, carved on the sides of both abutments one finds – The Belt of Truth, The Breastplate of Righteousness, The Sandals of Peace, The Shield of Faith, The Helmet of Salvation and The Sword of The Spirit.
The basement of the church is the museum of the 48th Highlanders Regiment and was opened in 1997 by Queen Elizabeth II.
Walter Seymour Allward
Another ‘accidental’ discovery of someone leaving an indelible mark on society was the person of Walter Seymour Allward. Most people probably have never heard his name, but his famous work – The Vimy Memorial, is recognized by the international community.
Allward danced across my desk in the process of posting about those historical plaques and markers my husband and I are wont to capture.
In the article on our website about the War of 1812 around Lake Ontario, I found out that for the 1812 Memorial in Toronto, Frank Darling (of Darling & Pearson) designed the granite pedistal for the bust of ‘The Old Soldier’ and Walter Seymour Allward was the sculptor for the bust which was completed in 1907.
It is said of Allward, that he ‘was a Canadian monumental sculptor best known for the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. Featuring expressive classical figures within modern compositions, Allward’s monuments evoke themes of memory, sacrifice, and redemption. He has been widely praised for his “original sense of spatial composition, his mastery of the classical form and his brilliant craftsmanship”. It is also said of him, ‘Allward’s 1917 heroic monument, the Bell Telephone Memorial, has been seen as the finest example of his early work'(Wikipedia).
Living THIS close to Brantford, I HAD to see what this heroic monument was all about. THAT I will leave for another post. Suffice it to say, it was a fantastic discovery.
I recently saw an event celebrating John McCrae in the Guelph museum. Like Allward, many people might know of McCrae’s work (his Remembrance Day poem, In Flanders Field) but know nothing about him. I never cared to find out before now.
And then I found out that he was born in Guelph, not terribly far away from me, and might warrant a trip to check out his life’s story at the museum. I found out that he wore many hats – Lieutenant-Colonel, poet, author, physician, surgeon, professor of pathology, and artist.
He first served in the Second Boer War (1899-1902), followed by serving in World War I (1914 to 1918) where he literally died ‘with his boots on’. He contracted pneumonia which became pneumonacoccus meningitis. He was still actively commanding No. 3 Canadian General Hospital (McGill) at Boulogne when he died in 1918.
He had first penned In Flanders Field anonymously in December of 1915. By 1916, he was accurately attributed as the author. The poem became one of the most popular poems of war, was apparently printed extensively in the United States and used in fundraising efforts for the war. He was amused at his sudden fame, but according to his biographer, “he was satisfied if the poem enabled men to see where their duty lay.”
Lest we forget, here’s the poem:
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders Fields, the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead, short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
The words, “be yours to hold it high.” were incorporated in the images of the stained glass windows of the Peace Tower by John A Pearson.
Author’s Note: Lynette is the owner of ChristianRoots Canada. Blogger. Publisher. Course Creator. Passionate about Canadian History from the perspective of God’s Providence.