Thousands of Pictou County residents gathered on November 11 at cenotaphs and memorials to honour those who gave their lives for our freedom …
In Sunny Brae, three more names were added to the cenotaph list and the unveiling of a new interpretive panel were among highlights of the annual Remembrance Day service.
The weather was sunny and raw as Bridgeville resident John Ashton, who designed the panel, was joined by Pictou County Roots Society member Lloyd Tattrie, guest speaker Dr. John Hamm and James Grant, former lieutenant governor, to unveil the panel. It commemorates military service by those who lived in the East River Valley going back to when soldiers were given land grants in the valley in 1784.
Emily Macdonald, daughter of Clyde Macdonald who organized the service, read the biographies of Edna (Hattie) Fairfield, Bert MacIntosh Hattie and Robert Gerard Hattie — all of Caledonia — whose names are the latest to be added to the memorial.
Pictou East MLA Tim Houston read the names of those who died in the First World War and the Second World War.
Hamm shared a history of responsible government in Nova Scotia that began nearly 260 years ago and was the model for Parliament when Canada’s Confederation was marked in 1867.
“It is a story that needs retelling,” he said. “Parliament governs our freedoms. Our military has protected them.”
Meanwhile, the weather was so frigid Saturday morning that it was decided in Thorburn to move the service from the cenotaph to the Presbyterian church and the reception that followed to the Thorburn Fire Hall. A small group remained at the cenotaph to pay their respects during the service time.
At the Northumberland Veterans Unit in Pictou, Central Nova MP Sean Fraser stressed the importance of fighting for Canadian values of justice, peace, equality and democracy.
Fraser was one of several people to share remarks with the residents, their families and community members in attendance for the event, which also included music, a presentation from Fraser of cards of thanks to veterans and the laying of wreaths.
“If we stand up for these values at home and ensure everyone has a chance to live a full life, then we will have not only remembered the sacrifice of the veterans who fought for these values, but we will have honoured their legacy in a meaningful way,” Fraser said.
Along with noting the battles Canadians have fought in, Fraser spoke briefly about the “serious crisis of mental health with those who are serving” and suicide. “This is a problem that we need to address because if we can afford to send our citizens to war, we can afford to take care of them when they come home.”
Dennis Chipman led the service and spoke about the sacrifices of veterans who fought in the first and second world wars, the Korean War, Afghanistan, and who served Canada in other military missions.
“Every one in this room knows of a loved one who served our great nation. Today keep them close to your heart. They defended the Canadian way of life. It’s all of our duty to ensure that their memories are never forgotten. As Canadians, we’re appreciative of your sacrifice, a sacrifice that never came free.”
Among the speakers was Mike Simmons, who has been chaplain for the veterans in the unit for 15 years. The residents humble him every day, he said.
“Each one of these people gave something. They gave their life so you and I could have the freedoms we have. That’s what we thank them for.”
Simmons also spoke about the 100th anniversary of the battles of Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele.
“I think I can tell you that they suffered more than any citizen of this country has ever suffered as they fought the battles in those two conflicts that we had. They lived in trenches with water, rats, snow, cold weather, warm weather. And each one never complained because they had a vision, a vision of a country that would be free for each and every single individual, a country that would have equality for all.”
In Pictou, First Presbyterian Church was packed on Saturday morning, with many more people waiting outside, for the Remembrance Day service, moved inside on account of the wind and cold.
William Echlin, Zone 6 Commander for the Royal Canadian Legion, said attendance was on par with previous years and noted the presence of a girls’ hockey team.
“It was nice to see the young people involved.”
He said there weren’t as many veterans there as he’d like to see, but suggested the cold weather may have been a factor in that.
The service included words from Rev. Mary Beth Moriarty, who spoke about the moment of silence that happens each Remembrance Day morning.
“At the 11th hour on the 11th day in the 11th month, thoughts turn to long ago. Yet for some, it just seems like yesterday. Two short minutes, but they can never be enough to acknowledge the sacrifice, to fill up the emptiness, to comfort the pain and the grief, and to teach this world that there’s a much better way.”
She said the “world has not yet learned its lesson … unwilling to embrace the road of peace, the way of love.”
From left: James Grant, former lieutenant governor, with Pictou County Roots Society member Lloyd Tattrie, guest speaker Dr. John Hamm and John Ashton stand beside the interpretive panel that Ashton designed and that was officially commemorated on Saturday during the annual Remembrance Day service in Sunny Brae. (Goodwin photo)
INSET: Robert Bronson, a veteran who served in the Korean War, stands outside the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 16 in Pictou after the Remembrance Day service. Bronson laid the Government of Canada wreath during the service. (Jess photo)