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Niagara-on-the-Lake
Monday, September 26, 2022
Solemn celebration marks cenotaph centennial
Coun. Gary Burroughs and a cadet. Burroughs is working to raise funds to repair the cenotaph.
Members of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 124.
Councillors greet Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell at the cenotaph parade commemorating the monuments 100th anniversary.
Lord Mayor Betty Disero delivers the opening remarks.
Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell spoke about the important place the cenotaph holds in NOTL, a reminder of the staggering impact of the World Wars.
Lord Mayor Betty Disero shares some words with Lt.-Gov Elizabeth Dowdeswell
Dr. Thomas Pek, the town crier. Lt.-Gov Elizabeth Dowdeswell was particularly fond of Pek's turn as the town crier. w
Town historian Ron Dale.

Lt.-gov. says war memorial ensures ‘they will not be forgotten’

 

Niagara-on-the-Lake’s iconic clocktower cenotaph marked its 100th birthday last weekend and, ever true to form, NOTLers came out in the hundreds to be a part of the celebration.

“One hundred years ago this month this monument was unveiled by my predecessor, the Hon. Henry Cockshutt, who himself had served in the Great War,” Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell told the crowd in front of the clocktower on Saturday morning.

Dowdeswell was one of several speakers who commemorated the occasion, including Lord Mayor Betty Disero, Coun. Gary Burroughs, who is also the chair of the cenotaph committee, and Ron Dale, the town historian.

“It’s actually difficult for us now to imagine the impact of the war on this community and this province and this country. But the fact that this monument occupies such a prominent place in your community is telling us how important it really was,” Dowdeswell said.

“There would be later conflicts, more names inscribed for relatives, friends, neighbours and countrymen who, as the inscription on this cenotaph reminds us, laid down their lives for our freedom.”

Dowdeswell, who was also on hand to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth, repeated a quote from the then-princess in a 1940 address when she was only 13 years old and related it to the challenges that lie ahead for younger generations.

“When peace comes, remember it will be for us, the children of today, to make the world a better and happier place,” she said, quoting Princess Elizabeth.

The lieutenant-governor noted, “In some senses the world is, perhaps, indeed, a happier place. But we know there are also many dark clouds.”

“When we reflect on her majesty’s words we might consider just how much responsibility the adults of today are leaving for the children of tomorrow and what we can do to lessen that burden.”

Before Dowdeswell’s address, the Lincoln and Welland Regiment Association Band marched down King and Queen streets, playing fanfare for the crowds before stoically lining up in front of the clocktower along with members from Royal Canadian Legion Branch 124.

In his turn at the podium, Dale sought to impart some of what he has learned knowledge about the history of the cenotaph along with some light-hearted humour.

Dale is also a contributor to The Lake Report whose extensively researched series “The Monuments Men” documents the lives of those whose names have been immortalized on the cenotaph.

“The election (to choose a cenotaph monument) was the busiest day Niagara has seen for many years,” Dale said, quoting a newspaper from the time.

“‘A political election is tame compared with the election (for the cenotaph).’ Which is rather interesting. More people came out to vote on what sort of monument they should have than had voted in provincial elections and that may still ring true,” Dale said to some laughter.

He noted two of the options for a memorial structure were a school and a hospital.

“Perhaps it was prophetic. Perhaps they foresaw that eventually the high school would be closed and the hospital would be closed as well, but the cenotaph would remain.”

Dale celebrated the many men and women who served during the two world wars, as well as Indigenous people in Canada who chose to fight alongside their neighbours.

The clocktower “is a monument commemorating all who served and all who currently serve, in whatever capacity, for the people of Canada and for a better world.”

He then called attention to the cenotaph’s need for repairs before handing the podium over to Burroughs.

The cenotaph’s centennial “is something that some of us have looked forward to for many years,” Burroughs said.

“Our enthusiasm for this event comes from a love and appreciation of the cenotaph, a landmark that’s so unique to this town that it separates us from nearly everywhere else in Canada and puts us on a map with some of the greatest towns in the world,” he said.

While the cenotaph has been well preserved, “still, the persistence of weather and time have begun to leave their marks,” he said.

“Today, I would like to invite those who have not yet (donated to the restoration project) to do so in whatever way you and your family are comfortable with. It’s my hope that this important work can be accomplished through the efforts of our whole community.”

“No contribution is too small and we truly appreciate you all for your support.”

Dowdeswell ended her address with some stirring words.

“This clocktower is a place of solemnity but also a place of beauty. The flowers arranged around it every spring signify and embody continual renewal,” she said.

“In honour of those who came before us and with their stories in our minds and their names in our hearts, let us commit to upholding the values of loyalty and courage that they fought for.”

“Let us work to heal the divisions between us so that we may build a better society upon foundations they have laid,” Dowdeswell said.

“They will not be forgotten.”

Donations for the cenotaph restoration project can be made directly to the Legion Branch 124 in cash or cheque form. Online donations can be made through the town at notl.com/recreation-events/community-initiatives-events.