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Country’s heroes remembered at Picton cenotaph ceremony

 

Hundreds of local residents, including a number of school children, turned out to the Remembrance Day service at the Picton cenotaph Friday to honour the fallen.

After two years of scaled-back public attendance, it was once again an opportunity for individuals, families and the community to come together to remember those lost to war over many years, in many countries.

The day is also one for reflection to those veterans who have gallantly served, and those actively serving in the various Canadian forces across the world.

The familiar Remembrance Day programming was overseen by Diane Kennedy, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 78, with help from Tom McCaw, the branch’s first-vice and poppy chairman.

“Remembrance Day is when we take a moment to remember the soldiers that died in World War One,” noted Kennedy, adding the day was chosen because the First World War ended on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, in 1918.

“We take two minutes to remember the soldiers that fought in these wars.”

She noted that at the end of the First World War, 67,000 Canadians died, and 250,000 were wounded. At the end of the Second World War, 45,000 Canadians died and 55,000 were wounded.

She reminded that at that time, Canada only had a population of 11 million, and 117,000 Canadians served in both world wars.

Friday morning was unseasonably warm, and everyone was grateful the forecasted heavy rainfall waited until proceedings were over before drenching the County.

Road closures in and around the cenotaph meant the sprawling crowd was easily and safely accommodated for the duration.

Kennedy noted how supportive the community had been during the recent poppy campaign.

“We are so lucky to live in a community like Prince Edward County,” said Kennedy. “Everybody takes care of everybody else. It is about communities taking care of one another and having the freedom to do that.”

“It’s very important that the young people learn and realize what Remembrance Day is all about,” she said. “It’s important the young people know what the vets did for us.”

A bugler played the Last Post, and two minutes of silence ensued, followed by the Lament.
Both the Canadian national anthem and the new royal anthem (God Save the King) were also sung.

After 11 chimes pealed from the nearby Picton United Church, padre Brian Nicholson gave his benediction.

“We honour this day holy God; all those who laid down their lives in the spirit of unselfish service,” read Nicholson. “Greater love hath no one than this”.

Prince Edward County Mayor Steve Ferguson, noted the “fantastic turnout”.

“Today, Nov. 11, Remembrance Day, is the day Canadians remember the brave men and women who have served, and continue to serve our County, in times of war, conflict and peace,” said Ferguson.

“At 11 a.m., we use the moment of silence to remember those who volunteered, served, fought and died for our freedom. We thank them, and we shall always remember them.”

Unlike in previous years, many of the wreaths had been pre-laid, leaving just a few local organizations and individuals to place wreaths at the end of the main ceremony.

Those wreaths already placed around the cenotaph included the Government of Canada, the Province of Ontario and the Municipality of Prince Edward.

The Hastings Prince Edward Regiment wreath was laid by Colonel John Inrig, with the First Special Forces previously laid, in memory of George Wright by a Legion member, and Dieppe laid in memory of Russ Burrows.

Bob Hilson and his wife, Dale, travelled from Bath to attend the Remember Day commemoration in Picton, a first time visit for the couple.

Bob had placed a small wreath at the cenotaph for his uncle (his mother’s older brother by two years), Private John J. McGinty.

Bob was also holding a large sign indicating how his uncle had served with the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment where he was killed in action on July 25, 1943.

McGinty was fighting with the Canadian Infantry in Sicily, and was just 34-years-old at the time of his death.

McGinty was born in Scotland and Bob explained how his mother came from Scotland when she was only 15 years old, on her own, with two pounds currency in her pocket, it is believed.

“Most of the family had come prior to her coming, and there was a problem was the full air fare, so this uncle came over to Canada before my mother did, along with another uncle (Frank, who served in the forces as well, but he made it through), and this gentlemen didn’t.”

Bob explains that he himself was so young (born in 1939), so he never had an opportunity to meet his uncle.

“I wanted to do this,” Bob said. “He did a lot for me I guess, and everybody else.”

He said it is very special because the regiment was from this area, the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment, often referred to as the Hasty Ps.

“It was a great turnout and I was really amazed.”

Bob has been doing the tour in the area with his sign in the past few years in Kingston and Millhaven, but it was Picton’s turn this year.

“It’s very meaningful for us,” said Dale, “It’s been a meaningful day”. “Very meaningful,” added Bob.

Before heading back home in Bath, the couple lamented about how tragic it is that wars continue throughout the world today, especially the war on Ukraine.

Other wreaths were laid by the Nursing Sisters of World War Two, 31 Gunnery and Bomber School, 415 Wing, 1st Canadian Guard, Base31 and PEC Community Partners, Afghanistan Veterans, 8 Wing CFB Trenton, 851 Air Cadets, and the Royal Canadian Legion.

Also, Correctional Services of Canada, Royal Canadian Auxiliary Ladies. Prince Edward Fire Department Division 1, Prince Edward OPP, Belleville and District Shriners Club, Salvation Army, Kiwanis Club, PECI, Prince Edward Masons, Rotary Club of Picton, PEC Memorial Hospital, Quinte Health, Order of the Eastern Star, Hospice Prince Edward, PEC Women’s Institute, St. Gregory’s Women’s League, St. Mary Magdalene, Picton United Church, Bethany Christian Reform Church, Rushnell Funeral Home, PEC Lions Club, PEC Yacht Club, Kinsmen Club, Glenwood Cemetery, Picton Elks, Community Care for Seniors, Foodland, Metro and No Frills, as well as a number of individuals .

Proceedings wrapped up with lunch and entertainment at the Legion hall for those interested.

Services were also held by local Royal Canadian Legion branches in Consecon and Wellington, returning to usual proceedings after two years of curtailed activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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