By Dawn Barger
Despite the rainy weather, over a hundred people gathered at the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald to celebrate the 199th birthday of Canada’s first prime minister.
Unfortunately, the rainy weather was too extreme to hold the event at the monument at City Park in Kingston, Ont., so they moved the event to City Hall.
Sir John Alexander Macdonald was one of the Fathers of Confederation. This dominant figure of Canadian history had a political career, which spanned almost half a century. Macdonald served 19 years as prime minister.
The Sir John A. Macdonald Bicentennial Commission is promoting events in the arts, education, tourism and other sectors locally, regionally and nationally in the countdown to the 2015 Bicentennial of Macdonald’s birth.
“This is the largest I have ever seen the turnout,” said Brian Osborne, past president of the Kingston Historical Society.
“There’s always an informal gathering around the monument, but this is a major reception,” he said.
Osborne was attending the event to propose a toast to Sir John A., something they have done since people started celebrating his birthday. He was one of many taking part in the ceremonies at City Hall.
There were also many immigrants attending to say the citizenship oath, something that persons new to Canada are able to take part in. A local youth group invited Odile Burume to the event.
“They invited me to say the citizenship oath along with the immigrants that came to Canada,” said Burume.
Viva Dadwal and Luke Maccaul were visiting from Ottawa. They are part of a group called Friends of Sir John A. Macdonald.
“We hope to bring to Ottawa in celebration of the bicentennial, some guided walks through the city as well as hosting our own dinner on the bicentennial in 2015,” said Maccaul.
A number of sites associated with Macdonald are preserved. His gravesite located in Kingston has been designated a National Historic Site of Canada. Bellevue House in Kingston, where the Macdonald family lived in the 1840s, is also a National Historic Site administered by Parks Canada, and has been restored to that time period. His Ottawa home, Earnscliffe, still stands and is today the official residence of the British High Commissioner to Canada.
Statues have been erected to commemorate Macdonald across Canada, with one standing on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. A statue of Macdonald stands atop a granite platform originally intended for a statue of Queen Victoria in Toronto’s Queen’s Park, looking south on University Avenue. A statue of Macdonald also stands in Kingston’s City Park.
Chris Whymen, who has been Kingston’s town crier for 30 years, said the birthday celebration started as a small gathering.
“It started off with eight people and a bottle of scotch so they could do a little toast to Sir John A. Each year, it gets bigger and bigger. As we get closer to his birthday, which is next year, there just seems to be a growing crowd of people wanting to attend the event.”