Wednesday, 5 December 2012

on the theme of Heroes and monuments

Here are some more photos of monuments in Ottawa, by far not all of the numerous monuments which has sprung up in the last few years. The most recent one inaugurated just 3 weeks ago is at the corner of the Western Parkway now renamed Sir John A. MacDonald after our first Prime Minister (1867) and Island Park Drive. It is to honour a Military Attaché of the Turkish Embassy in Ottawa who was shot to death on that spot while waiting for a light to change. I remember that day well, I drove past his car about 3 minutes after the incident, the assassins had just fled on foot and the police stopped me to ask if I had seen anything. I was so surprised that I told the police that I thought this was an exercise and the body was a dummy. I got a very good look at the poor fellow and I remember the Officer saying to me, as you can see Sir this is not an exercise. The assassins belonged to an Armenian group and were never found.

We also have on Sussex Drive which is part of the Ceremonial road somewhat like Pall Mall in London a monument to our Peace Keeping Soldiers, Canada proposed the creation of a peace keeping corps for the UN and we have participated in all missions since. It is surrounded by oak trees, thought quite an interesting monument it is mostly ignored. The same for the War Memorial to Aboriginal Canadians which stands on Elgin Street, very interesting and full of symbolism, that too is mostly ignored.

There is another monument to the great jazz pianist Oscar Peterson which was inaugurated by the Queen a few years ago. This monument is at the National Arts Centre and it plays jazz piano music 24-7. People like to sit on the piano bench to have their picture taken with Oscar who smiles for eternity.

Probably the most intriguing monument in Ottawa stands in front of Parliament by the Sovereign's Gate on Wellington Street, it is dedicated to a young man, who appears in the form of Sir Galahad. It took me almost 35 years to find out who he was. His statue it says was put up by the public, in fact the statue was paid for by our late Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King (1885-1950) who was very fond of the Arthurian Legend. At the time the only real official entertainment for high society in Ottawa came from the Governor General's House at Rideau Hall. Lord Minto (1898-1904) and his wife had arranged for a skating party on December 7, 1901 on the Ottawa river and had invited many socialites, amongst them was Bessie Blair the daughter of the Minister of Transport and Henry Albert Harper a personal friend of Mackenzie King. By late afternoon while every one left the river Bessie Blair continued skating and as darkness fell she went through the ice, young Harper jump in but the current of the Ottawa river is very strong and both drowned. Harper today is mostly forgotten and most people have no idea who he is or why this chivalrous statue. His statue is opposite that of Terry Fox who is seen by most Canadian as a real hero.

A very dear friend of ours Henriette Bourque, who W and I met some 35 years ago has a park dedicated to her. She died in the early 1990's at the grand old age of 94. She belonged to a well known family of medical doctors in Ottawa. She was the first women in Canada to be hired to work as a lawyer at the Department of Justice in Ottawa, for that reason she is remembered in this little park between St-Andrew Presbyterian Church and the Old Commemorative Building on Wellington Street. Her monument faces the Supreme Court Building.

There many more monuments in Ottawa and it pays to investigate because if you ask, most people will not know what it is about.

1 comment:

  1. We saw the Aboriginal War Memorial and Oscar Peterson the last time we were in Ottawa and were impressed by both.