Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Heritage: Remembrance Day at Swansea Library

A portion of the mural outside Swansea Memorial Library in Toronto unveiled on Remembrance Day 2008

TORONTO, ONTARIO - Shortly before the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, people gather together in various places across the world in ceremonies originally intended to celebrate the armistice that ended the Great War on at 11:00 on 11-November-1918. The Great War is now called World War I, the day now celebrates sacrifice in all wars, and the day is now called Remembrance Day in Canada and Veteran's Day in the United States.

While larger ceremonies take place in Ottawa for the nation, at Queen's Park for the province, and at the cenotaph outside Old City Hall for Toronto, the neighborhood of Swansea still holds its own event. It was this event that I chose to attend, and I was far from alone--more than one hundred people gathered for the event.

Toronto city councilperson Bill Saundercook spoke at the 2008 Swansea Remembrance Day ceremony

Amongst those laying wreaths at the ceremony were newly-elected Member of Parliament Gerard Kennedy, Member of Provincial Parliament Cheri DiNovo, and city councilperson Bill Saundercook, as well as representatives of the Canadian Legion, Swansea Town Hall, and--my favorite--the Memorial Library itself. Saundercook gave the most memorable speech, briefly touching on three of his previous Remembrance Day experiences and noting that there was always more to learn about the experience of those who had served their country.

Rather than creating a physical memorial after the Great War, the then-independent Village of Swansea chose to create a Memorial Library, located since 1959 in the present Town Hall Building. Thus, the library is always a part of Remembrance Day in Swansea, but this year was something special.

The Swansea Historical Society had been working on a mural to make it more clear what had led to the establishment of the Memorial Library. After the completion of the traditional Remembrance Day ceremony outside, most attendees crowded into the lobby of the Town Hall to watch the unveiling of the mural.

The new mural outside the Swansea Memorial Library was revealed on Remembrance Day 2008

At the top of the mural, twenty-two crosses pay tribute to the twenty-two Swansea residents whose lives were lost during World War I. Below that are scenes from the war, including photos with some of the 150 men that served and did return to the village. Below that are painted scenes of the Village of Swansea as it existed in that era. On hand for the unveiling were the some of the descendants of those who had fallen. The always-energetic former mayor of Toronto, David Crombie, stood next to me as the cross bearing the name of George Crombie was revealed.

Remembrance Day 2008 was truly something special in the Toronto neighborhood of Swansea.

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