‘The Homecoming’ is local sculptor Morgan MacDonald's tribute
Near the Military Road entrance of Bannerman Park in St. John’s on Saturday afternoon, a city crew dismantled a white tent where an hour or so earlier several hundred people had gathered.
Nearby, three teenagers sit on a bench looking at and chatting about the newly-erected sculpture a few feet from them.
It’s exactly what the sculptor intended.
The teenagers look at the bronze Royal Newfoundland Regiment soldier with wonder.
The soldier is wearing his uniform. His cap with the caribou head badge is held in his hand near his hip.
“It’s passing on the torch to the next generation."
Sculptor Morgan MacDonald
He’s missing a piece of his ear — a reminder of the war and the bullet that nicked him as it whizzed past his head.
He’s holding the hand of a smiling young girl, presumably his daughter.
Morgan MacDonald created the sculpture, and he’s still in the park along with those teenagers on the bench, and several others who stand around admiring the monument.
MacDonald hopes the monument encourages passers-by to reflect, but in particular he hopes it encourages young people to ask questions.
“It’s passing on the torch to the next generation,” he said.
He recalls the day the monument was installed — there was a boom truck and workers wearing hard hats and safety vests.
Among them, a young boy was riding his bike.
“(The boy asked), ‘What’s this all about?’ And it’s making that connection to tell that kid on the bike that this a Newfoundland Regiment soldier, and do you know what the Newfoundland Regiment did? This kind of stuff. I think it acts as just another piece to give that reflection to the next generation,” said MacDonald.
Unveiling the monument at the ceremony were benefactor Marty Gregory and Mayor Danny Breen along with plenty of children — great-grandchildren of Sgt. Charlie Parsons, one of the heroic Monchy 10 soldiers, and six students from Beatrix Potter School in London who tend the graves of Newfoundlanders buried at Wandsworth Cemetery.
Those children have picked up the torch to which MacDonald refers in their efforts to learn more about the soldiers whose graves they tend. It’s the sort of inspiration MacDonald hopes the monument will instill in others.
Bronze soldier based on benefactor’s grandfather
For a ceremony in St. John’s, there were quite a number of attendees from Spaniard’s Bay.
That’s because the soldier depicted in the monument was somewhat based on the benefactor’s grandfather, Lance Corporal Matthew Brazil, and many of his descendants now live in Spaniard’s Bay.
Brazil was a Royal Newfoundland Regiment soldier during World War One.
His grandson and Spaniard’s Bay Mayor Paul Brazil said he was “one of the fortunate ones” who answered roll call the next day after the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel.
Paul and benefactor Marty Gregory are first cousins, and Matthew Brazil was their grandfather.
Paul said his grandfather had several injuries during the war — one of them was the bullet wound to his ear that’s depicted in the sculpture.
“You see how it was such a close call, the bullet whizzed past his head — it could have hit him somewhere else in the head and ended his life. Grandfather went to war before he got married and started a family, so should he have not survived the war, well that would be it for all of us – we wouldn’t be in existence,” he said.
Instead, Brazil survived Beaumont-Hamel and Gallipoli, survived what one telegraph described as “gunshot wounds face and leg, severe”, and survived being gassed twice.
He eventually had at least 50 grandchildren, according to Paul’s estimate.
Today, his memory and the memory of so many other soldiers like him, also survive — they’re kept alive in the looks of wonder in teenagers’ eyes as they admire his bronze likeness in the park and kept alive in the questions children might ask when they pass his statue as they play freely in the park.
SHAWNADITHIT (Nancy, Nance April),Beothuk; b. c. 1801, daughter of Doodebewshet; d. 6 June 1829 in St John’s.
Shawnadithit was the last known survivor of the Beothuks or Red Indians, the aboriginals of Newfoundland. A member of one of their small and rapidly dwindling family groups, she was the niece of Demasduwit*’s husband, Nonosbawsut. As a child and young girl she witnessed several of the final documented encounters between her people and expeditions dispatched or authorized by the British and colonial officials to establish friendly relations; as herself a captive, she was the source of much of what is known about the customs, language, and last days of her people.
In January 1811 she was present at the meeting on the shore of Red Indian Lake with Lieutenant David Buchan* and his party which ended in tragic misunderstanding. In the summer of 1818 she was with the Indians who pilfered John Peyton Jr’s salmon boat and cargo at Lower Sandy Point, on the Bay of Exploits. She observed the capture of Demasduwit and the killing of Nonosbawsut by Peyton’s party in March 1819 and witnessed the return by Buchan of her aunt’s body to the deserted encampment at Red Indian Lake in February 1820. In the spring of 1823 Shawnadithit, her sister, and their mother, Doodebewshet, in a weakened and starving condition, were taken by the furrier William Cull at Badger Bay, her father falling through the ice and drowning after a desperate attempt at rescue. Cull brought the three women to magistrate Peyton’s establishment at Exploits, on the more northerly of the two Exploits Islands, and Peyton himself sailed with them to St John’s by schooner in June. It was quickly decided by Buchan, acting in the absence but with the authority of the governor, Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Hamilton*, that the women should be returned to their people with presents as speedily as possible; and in July Peyton left them at the mouth of Charles Brook with provisions and a small boat to make their way back to any survivors of their group. Unsuccessful, the three later returned on foot to the coast; the mother and sister, desperately ill, died within a few days of one another, and Shawnadithit was taken into Peyton’s household.
For the ensuing five years, Shawnadithit remained with his household at Exploits (not, as sometimes assumed, at Twillingate to which he removed at a later date); she seems to have been kindly treated. With the founding of the Boeothick Institution by prominent citizens of St John’s and Twillingate, supported by interested patrons outside Newfoundland, she was brought to St John’s under the auspices of that organization in September 1828. There she resided with the president of the institution, William Eppes Cormack*, the peripatetic explorer, merchant, and philanthropist. It is to her that we owe much of the data written down by Cormack: she is one of the prime witnesses to the Beothuk language, the customs of her people, and the events and general condition of the tribe in the final years when their numbers had fallen to perhaps less than a score. She was gifted with pencil and sketch-book, and her drawings (frequently reproduced) are especially valuable. Moreover, as the last of her people, Shawnadithit has naturally figured largely in popular accounts, the steady stream of which shows little sign of either abating or improving.
Insight into the historical truth about the Beothuks and their relationship with Europeans must start with the recognition that this small branch of the Algonkian people probably numbered less than 2,000 when they were first encountered in the 16th and 17th centuries. They were hunters and fishers who depended largely upon the caribou of the interior in winter, and the fish and marine mammals of the coast in the warmer months. Aside from an account of their tentative meeting with John Guy*’s colonists in 1612, little is known about their relations with Europeans until the last half of the 18th century. Before that time, the Beothuks seldom caught the attention of record-keeping white men, for the Europeans who went to Newfoundland did so to fish, not to convert Indians to Christianity, or to enlist their support in colonial wars, or to trade with them for furs. Indeed, the Beothuks were unusual among the native peoples in North America in that it was not always necessary for them to exchange furs or skins for highly valued manufactured goods. Newfoundland was a fishing colony above all else, and this fact meant that the seasonally vacant premises of migratory English fishermen were a rich source of iron tools, canvas sails, and the like. By the latter part of the 18th century, however, an increasingly permanent English resident fishery made it difficult to carry out this sort of pilferage without retaliation.
There is little doubt that such retaliation, both justified and otherwise, did contribute to the eventual extinction of these unfortunate people. Yet a more important factor was the growth of a white population along the coast which denied the Beothuks easy access to the marine resources upon which they were seasonally dependent. Archaeological work has suggested that by the end of the 18th century the Beothuks had been forced to rely too much upon the resources of the interior, a difficult place to live, especially without firearms. If the Beothuks were malnourished as a result of enforced dependence upon the meagre wildlife of the island’s interior, they would have been that much more vulnerable to European diseases, the great killers of all New World peoples. It is quite possible that this susceptibility, more than any other factor, was responsible for their doom. Indeed, historian Leslie Francis Stokes Upton has calculated that if the Beothuks experienced anything like the population decline suffered by native groups elsewhere, their extinction could be explained solely as a result of loss through disease.
Nonosbawsut (died March 1819) was a leader of the Beothuk people. Family head of and partner of Demasduwit, born on the island of Newfoundland (present-day Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada). Sometimes referred to as Chief Nonosbawsut, his stature within the last remaining Beothuk would better be described as that of a headman or leader.
Nonosbawsut was one of a group of Beothuk who was encountered by David Buchan on January 24, 1811 at Red Indian Lake. Buchan had left two marines at the native camp while he, Nonosbawsut and three other Beothuk went to retrieve a cache of presents Buchan had left behind. Fearing the worst, Nonosbawsut became suspicious of being captured; he and the two Beothuks fled. While back at the camp they had convinced the rest of the group that the intentions of Buchan and his marines were hostile. The two marines were beheaded and the camp was then dispersed.
Another expedition authorized by Governor Charles Hamilton to recover stolen property was led by John Peyton Jr. in March 1819. Apparently some items were stolen by the Beothuk from nearby fishing stations in the Bay of Exploits. The fate of the last remaining Beothuk was very much a concern at that time and the expedition was also requested to establish friendly relations with them. On March 5 the party of Peyton's armed soldiers had surprised a small party of Beothuk at Red Indian Lake who attempted to escape. Peyton captured Demasduwit, the wife of Nonosbawsut. Nonosbawsut approached the party of armed men holding the tip of a pine branch, a symbol of peace, and through words and gestures asked Peyton to release the Demasduwit. A scuffle broke out when Peyton had refused to release her, and Nonosbawsut was shot and killed.
Later, Peyton and his men were absolved of Nonosbawsut's murder by a grand jury in St. John's, the judge concluding that, ".. (there was) no malice on the part of Peyton's party to get possession of any of (the Indians) by such violence as would occasion bloodshed."
Nonosbawsut's body was placed in a sepulchre, later to be joined by his infant son and eventually Demasduwit herself.
In 1828, the sepulchre was found by William Cormack, who at that time removed the skulls and some of the grave goods. Among the items taken by Cormack was Nonosbawsut's skull which was sent to the Royal Museum, Edinburgh, Scotland. WIKIPEDIA
She was born near the end of the 18th century. The Beothuk were defending themselves from Europeans, and violent conflicts between them were common. The conflicts usually took more Beothuks than Europeans, which led to their decline. These new settlers also had taken up residence in the coastal areas, which hindered the Beothuks' access to food resources near the coast.
In the fall of 1818, a small group of Beothuks had taken a boat and some fishing equipment at the mouth of the Exploits River. The governor of the colony, Charles Hamilton, authorized an attempt to recover the stolen property. On March 1, 1819, John Peyton Jr. and eight armed men went up the Exploits River to Red Indian Lake in search of Beothuks and their equipment. A dozen Beothuk fled the campsite, Demasduit among them. Bogged down in the snow, she exposed her breasts, a nursing mother, begging for mercy. Demasduit was captured; Nonosbawsut, her husband and the leader of the group, was killed while attempting to prevent her capture. Her infant son died a few days after she was taken.
Peyton and his men were absolved of their murder by a grand jury in St. John's, the judge concluding that, "..[there was] no malice on the part of Peyton's party to get possession of any of [the Indians] by such violence as would occasion bloodshed."
Demasduit was taken to Twillingate and for a time lived with the Church of England priest, the Reverend John Leigh. He learned that she was also called Shendoreth and Waunathoake, but he renamed her Mary March, after the Virgin Mary and the month in which she was kidnapped. Demasduit was brought to St. John's and spent much of the spring of 1819 in St. John's, brought there by Leigh and John Peyton Jr. While there, Lady Hamilton painted her portrait.
During the summer of 1819, a number of attempts were made to return her to her people, without success. Captain David Buchan was to go overland to Red Indian Lake with Demasduit in November, the people of St. John's and Notre Dame Bay having raised the money to return the Beothuk to her home. She died of tuberculosis at Ship Cove (now Botwood) aboard Buchan's vessel Grasshopper, on 8 January 1820. Her body was left in a coffin on the lakeshore, where it was found by members of her tribe and returned to her village in February. She was placed in a burial hut beside her husband and child. There were only thirty-one of the Beothuk remaining at that time.WIKIPEDIA
It has often been said that in difficult and dire times our character and our worth is tested. When we are faced with the most difficult challenges our true colours show and we find out what we are really made of. In May 2016 RMWB battled a foe so ferocious it threatened the very existence of the municipality, a fire so large it created its own weather and a heat so intense it melted metal. It was the largest prolonged mass evacuation of a city in Canadian history. It was a wildfire causing the devastation of an area of approximately 365,500 football fields and at its height having a perimeter of 1080 kilometers. It has been termed the costliest disaster in Canadian history. These are numbers that are difficult to comprehend. Despite the staggering cirumstances the most moving part of this story is how the community came together and responded in this time of need. This story is about the harrowing escape, the great exodus of residents through the fire and about those who decided to selflessly stay and fight . It is the story of those who in a time of great peril willingly sacrificed their time at great personal risk and it is the story of humble simple acts performed by everyday people. Despite the devastation this is the thing that the fire laid bare and is worth celebrating. With a fire termed "The Beast" it is a testament to the character of the community that more was not lost. Many communities were destroyed, homes lost and lives upeneded and what matters most is family and the people that make the community the place that it is. We must also keep in our hearts that there are those who weren’t so fortunate and did not make it to safety. RMWB will rebuild, is rebuilding and despite the overwhelming challenges it is because of the outstanding character of these residents that the community is standing again on its feet.
WATERLOO REGION — By the time this country celebrates its 150th birthday on July 1, two more statues will be unveiled at the Prime Minister's Walk on the historic grounds of Castle Kilbride in Baden.
The next two figures will join the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada's first prime minister, which was placed on the national historic site in Baden last year. Another statue, the fourth in the series, will be installed on the site around Remembrance Day.
"We wanted people to know we are moving ahead, that the collection is going to grow in the sesquicentennial year," said Jim Rodger, co-ordinator of the Prime Ministers Statue and Educational Resource Project.
The identity of the prime ministers to be immortalized in bronze this year will be made public closer to the unveilings. The statue project announced Monday it signed agreements with five sculptors from across Canada who will do the work, and create the statues as funds are raised.
Ruth Abernethy of Wellesley Township, who created the Sir John A. Macdonald statue called "A Conversation," is among the stable of artists selected for the project. Abernethy's previous works include statues of Oscar Peterson, Glenn Gould and Al Waxman.
The other artists are Darren Byers and Fred Harrison of New Brunswick, Alan Henderson of Alberta, Morgan Macdonald of Newfoundland and Nathan Scott of British Columbia.
"And three of them, Ruth, Nathan Scott in Victoria and Morgan McDonald in St. John's are all actively, as we speak, working on commissions," said Rodger.
"It is going to take us several years to finish it," Rodger said.
The inspiration for the statue project is found in Rapid City, S.D., where bronze statues of every U.S. president from George Washington to George W. Bush can be found. That project was started in 1980.
Since Wilmot Township council voted last April to have all of the statues permanently installed on the grounds of Castle Kilbride, the organizers continued to raise funds and sign contracts with sculptors.
For many who survived that fateful morning on July 1, 1916, the Danger Tree, the lone reference point on a battle-scarred ground, garnered a place of reverence. Located roughly half-way between German and British Front Lines, it was one of the areas where the wire had been cut, prior to the battle, for the British soldiers to pass through. More than eighty soldiers were cut to pieces near this tree on July 1. The Danger Tree stands as a natural monument to the fallen of the Newfoundland Regiment, and is considered just as important a memorial to the fallen as the Caribou and the Newfoundland War memorial Park itself. The First World Artifacts that are incorporated into the Danger Tree are items sourced from the Somme battlefields near Beaumont-Hamel and were found in farmers barns after it was turned over in the plowed fields. This is known as the “Iron Harvest.” It is estimated that it will take another 300 years to clean all the ordinance and debris from the Western Front in France.
First, a few Facts about Quidi Vidi Lake: a part of the municipality of St. John’s Newfoundland, it lies just north of some of the more historic bits of the city; it’s longer than it is wide; a penitentiary overlooks it; there’s a park atone end; and midway along its shores sits a large boathouse that is some pertinence here, for Quidi Vidi Lake is the site of what is in all probability the oldest continuously run sporting event in North America: the Royal St. John’s Regatta, officially deemed to have been founded in 1818 but likely dating back to the eighteenth century.
The first Wednesday of August is the provincial holiday in Newfoundland: Regatta Day. It’s a holiday, that is, if the weather is just right, for Regatta Day is the only Civic holiday in Canada determined by weather conditions and decided upon by a committee of non-elected officials. On Regatta Day, tens of thousands of Newfoundlanders converge at Quidi Vidi Lake to watch rowing crews-Male female, six rowers and a coxswain to a rowing shell-compete in heats throughout the day (unlike most rowing competitions, the teams race down to one end of the lake, turn around, and race back again), all of which culminates in the championship races held in the early evening.
Despite its significance to and place in Newfoundland history and culture, the regatta (like so much else in our society) has never been commemorated with a public piece of art. In August of 2005, that all changed when The Rower was installed on a site near the regatta starting line. It’s a cast bronze sculpture depicting a rower in mid-stroke, his oar sweeping out a large arc of water. The Rower is the creation of Morgan MacDonald, a 24 year-old native Newfoundlander with a degree in Business Administration and a year’s worth of formal art education that whet his appetite for bronze casting and led to a three year apprenticeship with sculptor Luban Boykov in St. John’s. The Rower is MacDonald’s creation in every possible sense; its origin isn’t traced back to an open call for proposals for a public work of art, but was entirely self-generated. Of his own volition, MacDonald sculpted a maquette and assembled a supporting proposal with which he approached the city of St. John’s and the Grand Concourse Authority, the organization responsible for urban beautification projects. Final costs of the work (which was cast at Artcast in Georgetown, Ontario) were evenly split between the municipality and Elinor Gill Ratcliffe, a philanthropist in Newfoundland with a keen interest in public art.
That’s the short version of the facts of the matter. The poetics of The Rower begin with an inevitable cultural stereotype: specifically, that cartoonish image of Newfoundland as little more than a place of fishing boats and sturdy dorys-certainly not one that might be home to sophisticated rowing events involving sleek racing shells, coxswains, and the kind of competition they involve, all courtesy the province’s colonial British heritage.
Beyond such misperception, however, The Rower must be located in the context of the kind of public sculpture Canada has seen fit to provide itself; monuments to sporting events, it seems, just aren’t at the top of that list. Best known of the bunch is, in all likelihood, Michael Snow’s The Audience ,the figurative, site-specific pieces he did for Toronto’s Skydome that, while not focused on a specific sporting event per se, enact a series of representations of varied spectator responses. But as the sculptural representation of sporting events is much more typically confined to, say, the tops of things like bowling trophies, The Rower may, by default, very well end up becoming an important part of this sub-genre of public art.
All that being said, its representation of the even it commemorates is less literal than one might immediately suspect; like Michael Snow, Morgan MacDonald didn’t think it aesthetically prudent or necessary to spell out everything in a form of visual verbatim. While the life-size figure of the rower himself is true, entire and intact (and according to MacDonald, cleaves to no specific person, though the artist used himself as a model to get things properly proportioned), the sculpture as a whole is fragmentary and incomplete, suggestive as opposed to realistic. The rowing shell central to the racing event this work honours is representationally absent here; the figure of the rower –barefoot (unlike the actual rower of today) and clad in shorts and tank top- is instead sitting at a point where the bronze arc of water that sweeps out from behind the blade of the oar meets up with a highly stylized chunk of cast metal that alludes in only the loosest possible way to anything remotely akin to a vessel.
And therein lies the work’s success and strength. By not cleaving so strongly in its representation to the particulars of the action in which it finds its origins (which would allow little or no room for aesthetic manoeuvering), The Rower, instead leaves itself wide open to interpretation. What we end up with, then, is a larger monument of and to possibilities, a commemoration of the significance of elemental water and its primary role in Canadian culture: from Viking longboats rowed and sailed to Newfoundland’s shores in the first European contact with the New world, to First Nations canoes and kayaks, to the voyageurs opening up the continent, to the construction of canals and the St. Lawrence Seaway to facilitate trade settlement, to today’s recreational activities…
I know, its all a bit of a stretch, and a heavy load for any one piece of public art to bear. But The Rower is, at its very core, a monument to dreams and to human potential. The purview can’t be limited, however much one might wish it to be, to a one-day racing event, however culturally significant it might be.
“Please wear a “forget me not” the lady said
And held one forth, but I shook my head.
Then I stopped and watched as she offered them there,
And her face was old and lined with care;
But beneath the scars the years made
There remained a smile that refused to fade.
A boy came whistling down the street,
Bouncing along on care-free-feet.
His smile was full of joy and fun,
“Lady,” said he, “may I have one?”
When she pinned it on he turned to say,
“Why do you wear a forget-me-not today?”
The lady smiled in her wistful way
And answered, “This is Memorial Day,
And the forget-me-not there is a symbol for
The gallant men who died in war
And because they did, you and I are free-
That’s why we were a forget-me-not, you see.”
“I had a boy about your size,
With golden hair and big blue eyes.
He loved to play and jump and shout,
Free as a bird he would race about.
As the years went by he learned and grew
And became a man – as you will, too.
“He was fine and strong, with a boyish smile,
But he’d seemed with us such a little while
When ware broke out and he went away.
I still remember his face that day
When he smiled at me and said, “Goodbye,
I’ll be back soon mom, so please don’t cry.”
But the war went on and he had to stay,
And all I could do was wait and pray.
His letters told me of the awful fight,
(I can see it still my dreams at night),
With the tanks and guns and cruel barbed wire,
And the mines and bullets, the bombs and fire.
“Till at last, at last, the war was won –
And that’s why we wear a forget-me-not, son.”
The small boy turned as if to go,
The said, ‘Thanks, lady, I’m glad to know.
That sure did sound like an awful fight
But your son – did he come back alright?’
A tear rolled down each faded cheek,
She shook her head but didn’t speak
I moved away in a sort of shame
And if you were me you’d have done the same;
For our thanks, in giving, is oft delayed,
Through our freedom was brought – and thousands paid.
And do when you see a forget-me-not worn,
Let us reflect on the burden borne
By those who gave their very all
When asked to answer their country’s call
That we at home in peace might live
Then wear a ‘forget me not’, remember and give.