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County efforts to honour Sir John highlight commemorative ceremony

Prince Edward County efforts to honour  Sir John A. Macdonald figured prominently at a service remembering Canada’s first Prime Minister.

The Kingston Historical Society hosts the annual Cataraqui Commemorative Ceremony for Sir John Alexander Macdonald on June 6, the date of his death in 1891. This 119th event combined commemoration, pageantry, history and conviviality in a special outdoor setting.

The ceremony featured members of the Fort Henry Guard, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Bellevue House staff in period dress, as well as dignitaries and representatives of local, provincial and national organizations who lay wreaths at the grave.

Dr. David Warrick

Dr. David Warrick

The guest speaker was Dr. David Warrick, chairman of the steering committee of the Macdonald Project for Prince Edward County. Macdonald won his first court case, began his career in public administration and introduced himself to politics in Picton in 1834.  He also became an attorney here before becoming a barrister in Kingston. The purpose of the Macdonald Project is to install a life-sized bronze figure portrait of John A. Macdonald in downtown Picton.

“The bicentennial of his birth is just three years away,” said Warrick. “The Steering Committee of the Macdonald Project of PEC is working to raise funds and plan for the installation of a bronze statue of the 19-year-old Picton lawyer presenting his first court case in the court house on October 8, 1834. We would like Ruth Abernethy’s work entitled “Holding Court” to be located in downtown Picton, where there will be the most public interaction with it. We would like to celebrate our history and introduce the public to the many heritage resources in PEC.”

With this as the background at the ceremony, Warrick’s addressed “The Importance of the Quinte Years in the Life of John A. Macdonald”. Ruth Abernethy, the sculptor for the commission, was in attendance for the event.

Warrick was a professor of Communications and Humanities until his retirement in 2004. In 1988, he and his wife Marilyn bought Judge Edwards Merrill’s house in Picton.
Sir John A. Macdonald knew Edwards Merrill and the Merrill family well. John A. arrived in Picton as a teenager and knew Samuel Merrill, the first lawyer in Picton. Samuel Merrill was Judge Merrill’s father.

Background Information on the Macdonald Project of Prince Edward County
John A. Macdonald called the Bay of Quinte his home for 11 years. His family lived first in Hay Bay then the Stone Mills of Glenora. He went to school in Hay Bay first then was sent to study in Kingston. At the age of 15 he began his studies in law while he apprenticed to a Kingston lawyer. When he was 17, he ran a branch law office in Napanee for a year. When he was 18, he took over his ailing cousin’s law practice in Picton for two years. It was in Picton that he first ran a law practice and became an attorney. He was well-known for his contributions to civic life but also for his pranks.
One of his pranks landed him in court in Picton in October 1834. Although the nature of the incident is still a mystery, the outcome of the trial is not. Macdonald won that first court case defending himself before a judge and jury. His success that day gave him confidence, and pride in his abilities as an aspiring lawyer. It was during this period that he also began his career in public administration and became interested in politics as a polling clerk in the Upper Canada election of 1834.
This is the John A. Macdonald at a turning point in his young life. His success in his first trial will be commemorated with the public statue to mark the 200th anniversary of his birth in 2015, two years before Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017.
Ruth Abernethy, Canada’s acclaimed bronze portrait artist has designed an interactive work, called “Holding Court.” It will be a life-size sculpture of the 19 year old Macdonald presenting his first court case before a judge and jury. It will be located in a pedestrian friendly place in downtown Picton where visitors and residents of Prince Edward County can celebrate Canada’s first prime minister, known locally as a Quinte boy.

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