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Unveilings of Macdonald bust honour Sir John’s 199th birthday

At the unveiling of the Macdonald Bust at the Bencher’s Hall, Osgoode Hall, from left, were: Ruth Ann Onley; Treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada, Thomas Conway; Lt.-Gov. David Onley; Ruth Abernethy; David Warrick and Richard Gwyn.

At the unveiling of the Macdonald Bust at the Bencher’s Hall, Osgoode Hall, from left, were: Ruth Ann Onley; Treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada, Thomas Conway; Lt.-Gov. David Onley; Ruth Abernethy; David Warrick and Richard Gwyn.

Sir John A Macdonald’s 199th birthday Saturday, Jan. 11 was marked with unveilings of his bust and a Heritage Minute of fame.

The bust sculpte3d by Ruth Abernethy.

The bust sculpted by Ruth Abernethy.

The County’s David Warrick was on hand at the foyer of the Ontario Legislature Friday, where the Macdonald bust was placed in a specially designed case to launch a new education exhibit.

Warrick is chairman of the Macdonald Project of Prince Edward County – a non-profit organization focused on telling John A. Macdonald’s story and commissioning the creation of a public monument as part of the Macdonald Bicentennial Project in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Sir John A. Macdonald’s birth. A life-sized bronze statue, crafted by Canadian artist Ruth Abernethy, will depict Macdonald as a young lawyer presenting his first court case before a judge and jury, an event that took place in Picton, Upper Canada, on Oct. 8, 1834. The interactive work, entitled Holding Court, is to be located in a pedestrian-friendly gathering place in downtown Picton once it is completed in 2015.

“At the legislature, approximately 175,000 school children a year will pass by the exhibit on tours,” said Warrick. “They will learn about John A. Macdonald’s early life in the Quinte region and how he won his first court case in Picton and began his career there as an attorney.”

Another unveiling took place at the Great Hall, Hart House, University of Toronto where The Friends of Macdonald (Toronto) hosted a sold-out dinner to mark the 199th Birthday of Macdonald. Lt.-Gov. David Onley, sculptor Ruth Abernethy and Warrick kicked off the gala event with the unveiling of the Macdonald bust.

“Then the fun began when Steve Paikin stirred up a lively debate between Richard Gwyn (author of the recent biography of Macdonald) and John Honderich former publisher of the Toronto Star. Gwyn, playing Macdonald and Honderich playing his rival, George Brown, entertained the audience with many anecdotes about their frequent confrontations over important political issues of Confederation,” said Warrick.

“Bob Rae played the piano as guests from all political stripes mixed and mingled in period costume. Historica unveiled its latest history minutes: one on Macdonald at the Quebec Conference and the second on Cartier’s role in Confederation.”

On Saturday, a Queen’s University Conference on Sir John A. Macdonald began with the unveiling of the Macdonald bust by Queen’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Daniel Woolf; Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Chris Alexander; Arthur Milnes, Commisioner of the Macdonald Bicentennial Commission and Warrick, to start the conference and celebrations.

At each unveiling, Warrick said the Quinte Region and Prince Edward County were featured prominently in celebrations.

“It’s important to remember that Macdonald’s emotional connections with the County and the Quinte region were profound. When he returned to the Picton courthouse as Premier of Canada in 1861, he said: ‘My early associations are connected with Prince Edward—some of the happiest days of my life were spent here—I here obtained my earliest professional education, and here, in the good old town of Picton, I earned my first fee and made my first speech to a jury in this very Court House.’

“When he made that election speech in 1861 at the age of 46 he had already served as Attorney General and Co-Premier of the Province of Canada,” added Warrick. “So when he spoke in the Picton Courthouse that day, he was remembering somewhat wistfully a time when he enjoyed life and the opportunities that lay ahead. By winning his first court case and receiving a license to practice as an attorney, he actually launched his professional career in Picton.”

His career lasted a remarkable 61 years from the time he began articling to the time that he died in office as prime minister in 1891.

In social media circles, the celebrations honoured the good, the bad and the ugly surrounding Sir John under the hashtag #SirJAM. Bicentennial Commission organizers hope the conversation will continue on all platforms leading to the 200th celebrations in 2015.

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