We’re into our last few days in Collingwood.
It’s been an amazing summer full of all kinds of free activities around town and, as we get ready to head south for the winter, we’ve jammed as much as we could into our last week.
We’ve eaten lunch at the local Chinese restaurant, made sure we took lots of walks around the downtown, taken in a Gilbert and Sullivan lunchtime concert, gone to an author talk, had our teeth cleaned (!) and spent as much time as possible with our grandsons. My daughter-in-law and I did the Holiday House Tour.
And we commemorated Remembrance Day in a town with a strong connection to the war effort through its shipbuilding history, lumber and coal.
Collingwood really does Remembrance Day right….. and even more-so with this being the 100th anniversary of the Armistice.
The day started at 6 a.m. with the Beinn Gorm Highlanders performing “Battle’s Over” at the Cenotaph. Imagine the skirl of the pipes in the dark before sunrise. Spine-tingling.
Later in the morning the parade of bands, vets and servicemen and women took place. As the sound of bagpipes grew and the flags came into sight, there was a collective holding of breath. Then as the vets appeared on the circle leading to the Cenotaph there was spontaneous applause from the crowd of about 400. The new commemorative WW1 wrought iron benches had been installed in the garden, and there were silk poppies in all the hedges.
After getting everyone’s attention with his cry of “oyez, oyez” our Town Crier, simultaneous with 180 other Town Criers across Canada, intoned “A Cry for Peace”, and then the pipe and drum corps played Battle’s Over one more time.
Under the statue of The Last Post a lone bugler played it, leading into our minutes of silence. Wreaths were laid, a short sermon given, and the entire crowd joined to sing O Canada, God Save the Queen and Oh God Our Help In Ages Past. You can imagine the tears in everyone’s voices.
The event continued in the evening, coordinated with events in all the Commonwealth Countries, as well as in France and Germany, with Trinity United Church tolling its bell 104 time at 5 second intervals, once for every Collingwood native who died in the war.
At 6:55, the Last Post was played in Millennium Park, which is the spit of land that juts out into the bay past the grain elevators. A Cry for Peace was recited again by the Town Crier, the Mayor and Mayor elect read the WW1 Honour Roll (the 104 names), then the Legion president recited “In Flanders Fields”. The Grey & Simcoe Foresters Regimental Pipes and Drums played Battle’s Over for the third time in the day’s program.
At the end, the Collingwood Fire Department lit the Beacon Fire of Remembrance (made of stacked bales of hay), “a tribute signifying the light of peace that emerged from the darkness of four years of war.” You could see Collingwood’s Beacon from the waterfront all the way from Thornbury to Wasaga Beach!
To add to all of this, on Friday Ted and I went to The Simcoe Theatre downtown to see a fabulous folk musical called “100 Years from Now”, written by the musicians in the Collingwood band “Shipyard Kitchen Party”, for which they’ve won awards and been given a Canada Council grant to take the show on the road. Fantastic songs and music (bodhran drum, fiddle, guitar and voice) were tied together by 2 actors reading letters to and from a real Collingwood mother (Sarah Macintyre) and her 2 sons; first before the war, and then the letters to and from the front in World War 1. The other character, described only through the letters, was real-life Canadian war nurse Mae Belle Sampson, a local girl from Duntroon Ontario, who served in army hospitals and died when the Landovery Castle en route back to Canada was torpedoed by U-boats.
Most of the letters were fiction in order to tell the story….. except the letter informing Sarah that her son had been killed (they projected a copy of the actual letter on the multimedia screen they used as the backdrop). Not a dry eye in the house, and everyone on their feet at the end.
I imagine there will also be tears when we visit Juno Beach and the Commonwealth Cemetery in France next week.
We’re expecting 5-10 cm of snow this week, and I have a nasty sinus cold (bad timing!) We’re both anxious to escape winter and head south after getting back from France, but we sure are going to miss Collingwood. Ted and I are both glad we’re coming back here next year.