The Port Arthur Cenotaph

The Port Arthur Cenotaph | Alex Inspired

Did you know…

The Port Arthur Cenotaph , located in Waverly Park is all thanks to women?

Yes women –  The Women’s Canadian Club of Port Arthur, to be precise. They not only advocated for a Cenotaph, they formed a search committee to find a granite company and designer.

Here’s one of the ads they placed in the The Ottawa Journal, 17 July 1924.

 The Ottawa Journal ad for a Cenotaph Design from the Women's Canadian Club of Port Arthur | Alex Inspired

It reads:

Competitive Designs Wanted for a Soldiers’ Cenotaph
Designs and specifications are asked by the Cenotaph Fund Committee of the Women’s Canadian Club, Port Arthur Ontario. for the erection of a suitable cenotaph at Port Arthur.

All designs submitted are to be competitive, the design accepted to be only one paid for.

The total must not exceed $8,000 and all designs and specifications must be in the hands of the Committee by Sept. 1, 1924.

Address – (Mrs.) Lucretia B. Shaver, secretary Cenotaph Fund Committee of the Women’s Canadian Club, care of the News-Chronicle, Port Arthur Ont.

This monument would roughly be the equivalent of $112,312.79 today.

Did you know…

The Cenotaph was unveiled by John Woodside, who was the owner of the Algoma Hotel, located on Cumberland Street.

The Algoma Hotel of Port Arthur | Photo courtesy of The Thunder Bay Museum | Alex Inspired

Sadly, John lost his sons in the Great War; Allen Ray Woodside and John Morris Woodside.

Allen Ray was only 25 when he died, and John Morris only 23. They both served in The Signals Section, 28th (North-west) Battalion. Both died June 6, 1917. Because their bodies were never recovered, their names are inscribed at the Menin Gate (Ypres) Memorial, in the Province of West Flanders. The Memorial is in dedication to the British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the Ypres Salient of World War I and whose graves are unknown.

Private Allen Ray Woodside Photograph , Courtesy of http://www.nwbattalion.com | Alex Inspired

Thanks to the 8th (North-west) Battalion Headquarters (via Robert Lindsay) website, I found a photograph of Private Allen Ray Woodside – I believe he is 5th from the left, back row.

The original Newspaper Article (typed below), details John Woodside as losing three sons, I however have been unable to track down the third.

Here’s the historic Unveiling Day – as per the News Chronicle, Sept. 15th 1925

The Cenotaph at Port Arthur | Picture Courtesy of the Thunder Bay Museum | Alex Inspired

5000 Attend Unveiling of the Cenotaph
The News Chronicle – Sept. 15th 1925

Father, whose three sons gave lives, uncovers The Memorial

Public Bodies, Patriotic Societies and Schools represented in Gathering

Many Flowers Placed

People Embrace Another Opportunity to do Honour to those who gave lives

At 3:45 o’clock this afternoon, in the presence of 5,000 citizens, including 2,200 school children, representatives of the Port Arthur City Council, delegates to the convention of the Association of Canadian Clubs, Daughters of the Empire, Great War Veteran’s Association, Women’s Auxiliary to the War Veterans and the Sea Cadets, John Woodside, patriarch, and father of three sons who gave up their lives in the Great War, pulled the rope attached to the huge Union Jack, unveiling the Cenotaph erected in Waverly Park by the Women’s Canadian Club of Port Arthur.

Order of Service

The various societies and organizations took up positions surrounding the Cenotaph plot assigned them by Chief Taylor, who was in charge of ceremonies. The service was set to commence at 2:30 and at that hour, Mayor Crooks, who was the principal speaker; Rev. J. A. Tuer and Jon Woodside ascended the steps leading to the white stoned pathway surrounding the granite column.

School children representing every public and separate school of Port Arthur, with the students of the Collegiate Institute, formed in a square at the rear of the organizations. Children of Central School bore bouquets of flowers in one hand and carried a small ensign in the other.

Placing of Wreaths

When the unveiling was completed, Mrs. Hugh Raney, on behalf of the Women’s Canadian Club of Port Arthur, deposited at the base of the column a beautiful laurel crown. In turn, she was followed by the Sea Cadets who placed a floral anchor on the memorial. Frank Flanagen for the War Veterans deposited a laurel wreath and was in turn followed by a representative of the Women’s Auxiliary to the War Veterans with a similar offering. Central School Children all filed past the memorial, each one with flowers, placing them on the stepped base of the column.

The Port Arthur Cenotaph | Alex Inspired

Citizens were then invited to bestow their gifts of flowers. It was estimated that upwards of 1,000 bouquets etc, were placed on the cenotaph or in the awarded plot, which, is surrounded by ornamental posts and iron railing, surround it.

A guard of honour of four men from the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment, one posted at each corner of the plot, stood with dram rifles at the slope. The First Lake Superior Regiment Band, under the direction of Bandmaster Guttridge, was drawn up on the Collegiate side of the memorial and played for the hymns and the finale march. A bugler sounded The Last Post while the guard was at salute.

The service of unveiling opened with the band playing God Save the King. Rev. J.A. Tuer, of St. Paul’s Presbyterian church read the scripture lesson, followed by the chanting of prayer by the assembly from a printed orders of service. This was followed by the actual unveiling. Mr. Woodside, standing at the South end of the memorial, pulled a light rope and the Union Jack, so large that it hid every bit of the memorial, fell to the base. There it was left, encircling the entire column.

Mayor’s Address

Mayor Crooks, who was the only speaker, referred to the importance and the solemnity of the occasion and the oft-repeated story of the heroism and valour of the Canadian soldiers. Today the people were met to pay their tribute to the fallen, the history of whom in records and in documents of value will be told again and again in song and story.

That story was written in the hearts of all the people of Port Arthur. For the splendid memorial unveiled, the citizens owned a debt of gratitude to the Women’s Canadian Club of Port Arthur and he wished to pay them a tribute of praise. Had it not been for their initiative it is not likely that Port Arthur would have had a memorial to its dead soldiers today, he said.

St. Paul's United Church Port Arthur - Across from the Cenotaph | Alex Inspired

In dedicating the memorial to the dead, said the Mayor, people must not forget the living and the service rendered by the, in the war. The memorial had another significance to him, the dedication of the people to the service of the country in carrying out the wishes of the soldiers who had paid the supreme sacrifice, that there be no more war and by doing so see to it that those who died did not do so in vain.

Many Pass By

There was a stream of humanity past the cenotaph for twenty minutes or more as with the dispersing of the assembly to martial music those who wished to, deposited their offerings of flowers.

Inscribed on the memorial on both the North and South faces is the following:

Erected in the commemoration of the men of this city who died on the field of honour in the Great War that Canada might maintain her heritage of freedom. 1914-1918

No names are inscribed thereon.

I hope on Remembrance Day, you reflect on our brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice, and thank a veteran for their service.

I hope you consider the women who made our beautiful Cenotaph a reality; a monument we gather around together each year, to honour and remember our soldiers.

And lastly, I  hope you take a moment to honour the memory of our Woodside Soldiers and their Father who most likely, had an extremely difficult time unveiling a tribute, that not only honoured the memory of his sons, but the memories of all Port Arthur Soldiers, past and present.

The Lake Superior Regiment Marching in Port Arthur | Alex Inspired

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  • Reply Ian Pattison September 20, 2020 at 11:43 am

    Thanks for this, Alex. My grandmother, Georgia (Mrs. W. Russell) Brown was president of the Women’s Canadian Club at the time. Did you happen to come across her name in your research? She was never one to seek recognition and I’ve never been able to locate a reference to her concerning the cenotaph.

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