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Sir John A arrives for larger-than-life Canada Day celebration

He’s larger-than-life and the celebration of Sir John A Macdonald’s arrival to downtown Picton was equally grand.

Canada Day celebrations in Picton kicked off with the unveiling of the 1,400-pound bronze statue of Canada’s first prime minister – created by renowned Canadian artist Ruth Abernethy – on the grounds of the Armoury, next to the library.

Entitled ‘Holding Court’, it includes a prisoner’s dock and chair and depicts Macdonald as a young lawyer addressing a jury at his first court case in Picton, in 1834. He won the case, successfully defending himself against an assault charge occasioned by a practical joke. Four months later, at age 20, he graduated from the Law Society of Upper Canada as an attorney – the beginning of his career in law and politics. He was prime minister from 1867 to 1873 and 1878 to 1891.

Sir-John-Throughout his life, he often referred to himself as a “Quinte Boy” and reflected fondly upon these years as some of the best of his life.

David Warrick, chairman of The Macdonald Project, was pleased to see the culmination of five years of planning.

“The first gathering of the steering committee and friends was November 22, 2009 to find a way to honour the 200th birthday of John A.

“If we had not got the $300,000 Canadian Heritage grant through Daryl Kramp, this wouldn’t have happened. We would have lost the sculpture to Kitchener Waterloo. They were willing to buy it and we didn’t have the money.”

The ceremony initiated from a hay wagon in the middle of the street, provided by Greg and Sharon Elliott. It was to be a reminder of the many speeches Macdonald delivered during his 47-year career as a member of parliament.

George-WrightMaster of ceremonies Patrice Dutil paid special tribute to George Wright, 94, of Picton, who attended as a representative of all those from the Quinte area who served in the two world wars. The audience responded with a standing ovation for Wright, a member of the First Special Forces Devil’s Brigade, honoured earlier this year with a U.S.  Congressional Gold medal.


Macdonald, looking good for 200, was pleased to address the crowd about his days in the County, hob-nobbed and posed for photographs. He is also-known-as Brian Porter, historical re-enactor, with his wife Renee, as Lady Agnes Macdonald.

gift-to-museumA replica bust was also presented to Nancy Woods, of Museums of Prince Edward County. A second bust is to be donated to the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board in the fall.  Both are gifts from The Parrot Foundation.

When the country was in mourning following the death of Macdonald on June 2, 1891. Wilfried Laurier delivered a now famous tribute in the House of Commons. Actor RH Thomson re-enacted the address.

“His actions always displayed great originality of views, unbounded fertility of resources, a high level of intellectual conceptions, and, above all, a far-reaching vision beyond the event of the day, and still higher, permeating the whole, a broad patriotism—a devotion to Canada’s welfare, Canada’s advancement, and Canada’s glory,” he said.

Thomson and Porter (Laurier and Macdonald) ham it up at the sculpture.

Thomson and Porter (Laurier and Macdonald) ham it up at the sculpture.

Warrick officially presented the transfer of ownership of the sculpture to Mayor Robert Quaiff, with a $10,000 cheque for perpetual care.

Jeanette-singingFollowing the singing of ‘This is My Canada’ by Jeanette Arsenault, the crowd was welcomed to share Canada Day cake and dispersed to enjoy festivities along Main Street and a children’s carnival in Benson Park.







* * *

accident3Late afternoon, a quick rain storm caused pedestrians to run for shelter and a gust of wind blew over a children’s area entrance sign, injuring a woman. Her child was not injured. St. John Ambulance volunteers nearby secured the scene for first responders and paramedics. She was taken to hospital by ambulance. No further details are available.

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  1. Snowman says:

    The naysayers can pan Sir John’s political record, but it’s hard to dispute his record as a community builder in Picton and Napanee, or his Nation Building. Canada owes it’s very existence to his ability to find common ground with others in the years leading up to 1867.
    Let’s celebrate that, while admitting that no one is without faults of one kind or another.

  2. Doris Lane says:

    Great sculpture but not sure the back drop does anything for it. Is there any way of blocking out the armoury front behind it–maybe a lot of emerald cedars

  3. Paul Cole says:

    I agree ADJ the Indian Act was a mean spirited piece of legislation when implemented and although it has been amended it still stands to control Aboriginal right and freedoms it should be withdrawn. ALL land claims should be settled immediately all treaties, agreements guaranteed rights and freedoms should be honored as agreed in Section 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982..

    Section 35 of the Constitution Act states:

    35. (1) The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.

  4. ADJ says:

    Yah,,just messin with you Marnie.Don’t mean to gang up on you but history don’t lie. Who knighted him and when to make him a Sir? My history books are stored away in the basement lol My point being in my mind the man doesn’t deserve to be fawned over like he was some kind of hero. What he actually passed into law was a racist law then and now and I’d bet it was recognized as such even then.
    Who can say if he was in a sober state when he was holding Parliament. Perhaps his judgement was a bit cloudy so I’ll give you that. Perhaps a nice statue of Wilfred Laurier is in order to balance out the “focal” point. Then there’s Trudeau,,Diefenbaker(both visited the County) There’s dirt on both of them too.

  5. Paul says:

    We learn from mistakes if we forget those mistakes or make excuses for them we’re doomed to repeat them. Sir John A Macdonald was our very first Prime Minister and should be remembered as such.

  6. Susan says:

    So a lesser number of lossed lives is ok Marnie? It is just the way it was?

  7. Marnie says:

    To compare Sir John with Hitler or Hussein is extreme if not plain stupid. Name a politician who to some extent has not had an agenda of his own. As for the cenotaph being a focal point,yes,it is but only for the west end of town. Most of the pedestrian traffic is to the east. It is interesting to note that there have been few if any complaints about the statue from the aboriginals. I’m part Mohawk and I’m not complaining.

  8. ADJ says:

    “Harping on the wrongs of a century ago”
    then why should we celebrate the man? He was a racist no better than what the South plantation owners were.No better than a man named Hussein and even Hitler. Both had a hidden agenda.This County was always Tory blue and some of those “dignitarys” pictured have deep roots and won’t vote any other way.Odd that we see so much red for the old tory.
    And Marnie….two “focal” points? Really? Not in my book but to each his own.

  9. Susan says:

    The good it does is that the wrongs are not sluffed off and thus risk being repeated.

  10. Marnie says:

    What possible good can it do to keep harping on the wrongs of more than a century ago? Our American neighbours kept slaves. There were even a few in this area in early times. People today think differently, feel differently and hopefully have a more enlightened way of dealing with these matters. What do you achieve by sniping at what Sir John did wrong? Presumably he did a few things right as well. And if you want to bring Jesus into it, I seem to recall that He asked forgiveness for the Roman soldiers who crucified Him. I doubt He is still holding a grudge. The turnout at the unveiling of the statue would indicate that your views are not generally supported in our community.

  11. Paul says:

    The fact of the matter is Marnie, Sir John A and the government of the day knew exactly what they were doing along with the Crown. They were trying to negate open ended treaties with Aboriginals. Assimilation is a nice way to put it and may have consoled some guilty feelings back then but it was as wrong back then as it is today. But you keep pretending….

  12. Paul says:

    So the persecution of Jesus and Christians was ok back then “people thought differently back then”

  13. Marnie says:

    Sir John’s era was a far different one from ours. Gay marriage was recently approved in the United States. In 1867 people were unenlightened and this never would have happened. It would have been regarded as an abomination Sir John’s treatment of the aboriginals and Chinese may be deserving of harsh criticism today but in the 180O’s people lived and thought differently. If you recall, the American army reportedly impregnated blankets with small pox then gave them to the Indians. Yes the cenotaph is a focal point for the west end of town but in the main downtown shopping area there has been nothing of consequence.

  14. ADJ says:

    Really just another politician warts and all. Yeah,,,first PM but somebody was going to be first.And the real “focal point” of Picton main street is not MacDonald… it’s the Veterans monument and always will be.Somebody out there can refresh our memory of how MacDonald mishandled the investments of some Picton residents in his attempt to finance the railroad…I sort have forgotten the story. The man was not as pure as driven snow.Of course this has been whitewashed over by history along with his treatment of the aboriginals and Chinese laborers.

  15. Marnie says:

    The new sculpture is very impressive and provides a sorely needed focal point for Picton’s Main Street. The town is fortunate to have it and those who worked so diligently on this project deserve congratulations for making it a reality.

  16. Emily says:

    I am not convinced that aboriginals without safe drinking water and appropriate housing would agree on such a lavvious expense. Particularly given the history of treatment.

  17. Paul Wallace says:

    It was a fabulous day! The Sir John A. dedication was top notch, very professionally done and made us proud to be living in the County. The actors were wonderful and the sculpture is beautiful. Thank you to all who made this possible.

  18. R. Richman says:

    Great day, we need more of our PMs honoured so our history will be known and preserved

  19. Chuck says:

    A lot of money spent on this Quinte boy.

  20. Marnie says:

    Great coverage of a great day!

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