The Dundas Soldiers' Memorial

In this blog post we introduce to our readers more details about life in Dundas just after World War I. A series of these posts will appear in commemoration of the centenary of  World War I.

 

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Plans for the Soldiers Memorial began in earnest in 1919.

On Sunday December 21th, 1921, at precisely 2.30 in the afternoon, the Town of Dundas unveiled the magnificent Soldiers’ Memorial. The monument was erected to honour the dead of the South African War as well as the First World War. It features the figure of a soldier in bronze on top of a stone base with steps. Three sides of the memorial monument base also feature plaques with the names of those who valiantly fought in the war and lost their lives. The actual figure itself was completed by the popular renowned sculptor, Hamilton MacCarthy. But, like many public works, the completion of such a wonderful memorial had its fair share of bumps along the way.

Before a memorial could be made, a committee must first be struck. The Dundas War Memorial Committee consisted of men from around the town, and included William Larson, Lt. Col. H.G Gwyn, William A. Lunn, George Quackenbush, John S. Fry, and Edward A.L. Clarke. These men were to be in charge of hiring a sculptor, hiring companies to provide the raw materials for the base of the sculpture, coming up with an accurate budget, and a slew of other tasks. The problem, however, was that these men were all from Dundas, and communicating with people from other cities via mail often took days to get a reply.

One of the main concerns when building the memorial was the overall cost of such a large monument. The final cost was roughly $6,700; however it was believed that the work which was completed should have cost nearly $10,000! The committee members wanted to get the best possible deal they could work out, and it most definitely paid off. However, the problem seemed to be that many contractors would agree upon a cheaper price, then cut corners and took short cuts when it was time to complete their work. After examining the correspondence letters kept in the Archives, it was clear that it was extremely difficult to get work done and agreed upon when there were so many different opinions and parties involved. Delays were also frequent, and came in the form of bad weather conditions or unclear instructions. Unfortunately, there were to be many delays and even more misunderstandings occurring on a weekly basis.

Regardless of the difficulties, the final product which was released was extraordinary. There were people from places such as Paris, Ontario who requested a copy of the blue prints and names of the contractors to erect a monument identical in style!

The date of the official reveal was the 21st of December. And of course, what is an unveiling event without a ceremony? The unveiling was led by His Honor Lieut. Governor Cockshutt and Major Mahony, and the ceremony was led by various officiants. They included Rev. (Capt.) A.D. Robb, Rev. Caleb Harris, Rev. C.E. Riley, Rev. J.M. MacDonald, and Rev. Dean Kelly. In subsequent years as the citizens of Dundas met to remember, the Order of Ceremony remained the same, with only minor changes in those leading the ceremony and the hymns.

Overall, the funding for the Soldiers’ Memorial Monument came from the donations graciously made by the town’s people. There were subscription lists floating around so that each person could sign up their family and include a donation amount. Even the 77th Wentworth Regiment band played a benefit show, where all the proceeds went to the Soldiers’ Memorial Fund.

To learn more about the Soldiers’ Memorial, visit the Dundas Museum and Archives!

 

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Unveiling the Dundas Soldiers’ Memorial in 1921 at its original location in Memorial (previously Market) Square at King and Sydenham.

 

This post was written by Claudia Palermo, our Curatorial Assistant, a position made possible by a grant from Young Canada Works in 2014.

We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada (Youth Employment Strategy) through the Department of Canadian Heritage for the Young Canada Works Program. Nous reconnaissons l’appui financier du gouvernement du Canada (Stratégie emploi jeunesse) par l’entremise du ministère du Patrimoine canadien pour le programme Jeunesse Canada au travail.

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