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Sir John visit highlights anniversary of canal opening

Event organizers and officials pose with Sir John and Lady Agnes at the 125th celebration of the Murray Canal

Event organizers and officials pose with Sir John and Lady Agnes at the 125th celebration of the Murray Canal

Michele Walkau of Brighton takes a selfie with Sir John and Lady Agnes

Michele Walkau of Brighton takes a selfie with Sir John and Lady Agnes

The story of the official opening of the Murray Canal in 1889 by Sir John A Macdonald was brought to life through re-enactment – without the official guests’ platform breaking and sinking out of sight, as it had done 125 years ago.

The drop was only about five feet and none who went in the hole were hurt, although there was alarm for the safety of Canada’s first prime minister. When he was pulled out from among the fallen timbers  Macdonald pointed to the audience and remarked “I have been in worse holes than that. This indicates to you folks the strength of the liberal platforms. It takes more than a Grit to keep me down.”

SirJohnA1Macdonald, looking no worse for wear at age 199, continued to joke and poke during the 125th anniversary celebration of the opening of the link to Prince Edward County through noted historical re-enactors Brian Porter, and Renee Porter, as Lady Agnes MacDonald.

In April, 1889, the canal was open and 100 boats would pass through in the first season. The official opening was held in October though work on the canal would not be completed until 1890 – nearly 100 years after it was first proposed.

Re-enactment, historical tours and local tales were offeredto community members and guests gathered at the ceremony at Twelve O’Clock Point.

“Reconnecting the community with the historical aspect of the canal is a key step to elevating the prominence of the Murray Canal in our time and ensuring the preservation and enhancement of the waterway and its trail system for future generations,” said David Dingle, founder of the Murray Canal District Organization. “Our organization is looking forward to building on this first MCDO heritage event to work with Parks Canada on the Murray Canal initiatives in the future.”

Working with the Prince Edward County’s Sir John A. Macdonald Bicentennial Project, the event showcased Macdonald’s involvement – in advance of the national celebration of his bicentennial in 2015.

County historian Peter Lockyer, and David Warrick, chairman of the Macdonald Project, were among area residents who provided historical information, displays and interpretation to the event.

A Macdonald Heritage Trail is also in development as a heritage tourism asset.

A Macdonald Heritage Trail is also in development as a heritage tourism asset.

A Macdonald Heritage Trail is also in development as a heritage tourism asset. It would link key sites of historical significance to Macdonald’s life from Bellevue House, his home in Kingston and now a national historic site, to Napanee and along the Loyalist Parkway to Bath where he was a frequent speaker during election campaigns and to Hay Bay where he lived as a boy.
The trail would continue into Prince Edward County for significant stops including the Grist Mill at Glenora and The Armoury, downtown Picton, where The Macdonald Project on Canada Day, 2015 is to officially unveil the bronze work of a young John A practising law for the first time here. It is titled ‘Holding Court’ and includes a prisoner’s dock and chair. The work, by internationally recognized sculptor Ruth Abernethy, commemorates Macdonald winning his first trial in Picton in 1834 and marks his “coming of age” and the beginning of his career.

The trail would continue to Glenwood Cemetery and on to Belleville, a major political base for his Conservative Party and Glanmore House, home to many of the effects of his close ally, Sir Mackenzie Bowell, and to the Murray Canal.

Meanwhile, the gathering also drew attention to the swing bridge several kilometres away linking County Road 64 just outside Brighton.

Parks Canada plans to replace the aging structure with a single lane bridge. Local governments and citizens continue to rally to support a two-lane bridge necessary for use by residents, business people and tourists who use both the bridges on the canal.

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  1. MI says:

    A single lane bridge on the Murray Canal at Carrying Place is the most unbelievably stupid plan our governments could possibly consider. The economic considerations to the whole area is immense. I hope all of the candidates in P.E.C., municipally, provincially, and federally have a plan on addressing this. Yes it is in your hands to press the right buttons. Why spend any money on tourism if you are going to shoot yourself in the foot by allowing this to happen. Wake up everyone. You politicians are all accountable for this.
    Do not deflect it saying it is out of your hands.




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