Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Sepia Saturday 350: At the Window

My match for today's Sepia Saturday centers on the window frame. I can't even guess at what the man in the window is doing...coordinating with the activity on the street? cleaning the window? or just getting a bird's eye view of things. 

I found this photo of myself and my sister sitting on the Bank of Canada window ledge in Winnipeg. Fortunately, Dad wrote that we were waiting for the Decoration Day parade and it was June 8th, 1947. I was so excited, I fell asleep—the only sensible thing for a 5-year-old to do at a parade of Veterans. The second picture is of my Dad scooping me up before I slid off the sill and landed on the concrete. Unfortunately, I harbored this disinterested attitude toward my Dad's military experiences throughout my youth. I've wished a thousand times since that I'd listened to his stories. 
"Waiting for the Parade 8/6/47"

"June 8/47 Waiting for the Decoration day parade"

Sepia Saturday always drives me to Google something! This week it was the origin of Decoration Day in Canada. I have to admit I knew little of the Fenian raids. It's quite a story. 

Decoration Day in Canada:

On June 1, 1866, after nearly fifty years of peace since the War of 1812, Canada was invaded from the United States by an insurgent army of Irish-American Fenians determined to expel British rule from Ireland by taking Canada hostage. A 1,000 man heavily armed vanguard of battle hardened Civil War veterans from the US and former Confederate army seized the town of Fort Erie and began moving towards the Welland Canal next, threatening to destroy it. On the morning of June 2, near the village of Ridgeway west of Fort Erie, they were intercepted by a brigade of Canadian militia from the Queen’s Own Rifles (QOR) of Toronto and 13th Battalion of Hamilton (today the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (RHLI) in what became Canada’s first modern battle to be fought exclusively by Canadian troops and led entirely by Canadian officers: the Battle of Ridgeway.

Nine riflemen from the Queen's Own Rifles, three of them University of Toronto student volunteers hastily called out from their final exams on the day before, were killed in the battle before the Canadian forces were forced to fall back by the more experienced and better armed Fenian insurgents. Twenty-two more Canadians would die of either wounds or disease sustained during the fighting or on frontier duty during the Fenian Raids that would also extend into Quebec in the following week. Beginning with the first casualty, Ensign Malcolm McEachern killed in the early minutes of the battle on June 2, these thirty-one casualties were the first 31 of nearly 120,000 Canadian servicemen to fall in military service from the South African War to Afghanistan.

Except for miniscule payments to those severely wounded in the battle, or to the widows and orphans of those killed, the veterans received from the government no acknowledgement, honours, decorations, pensions or awards for their service in the defence of Canada during the Fenian Raids. The Canadian Volunteers Monument, raised in 1870 near Queens Park (Toronto's currently oldest standing public monument) was paid for entirely by private donations. As Canadian-American relations warmed towards the mutual "undefended border" further public discourse or commemoration of a battle defending against an invasion from across the U.S. border became unpolitic, inconvenient and impolite. The more than eight hundred veterans who fought at Ridgeway were forgotten and ignored for twenty-five years following the battle.

Following the First World War, Decoration Day in late May or early June (and even as late as August in some communities) had continued to be Canada’s national memorial day for all veterans until an Act of Parliament in 1931, in order to "harmonize it with Commonwealth practice" transformed November 11 "Armistice Day" into "Remembrance Day" while Thanksgiving Day was moved back a month to October. The Ridgeway veterans, of whom those still living were aged men, were forgotten and excluded from the new Remembrance Day, the honour extended by Veterans Affairs Canada only as far back as 1899, to those who fought in the South African War. At this writing, the fallen of Ridgeway are not listed in Canada’s National Books of Remembrance and their graves scattered across Ontario, the land they defended with their lives, remain forgotten and uncared for by the government, abandoned without national historic monument status or as Canadian war graves.

"Look out" for more Sepia Saturday stories HERE.


  1. love the photo of your father scooping you off your sleeping ledge.

  2. A lovely photograph and memory of your father - thank goodness he caught you in time before you fell off the ledge! Thank you, too, for the information on Decoration Day. I did not know at all about the invasion of Canada by Irish-American insurgents. What a great shame that the fallen at Ridgeway are now forgotten.

  3. Great pix of you and your sister sitting on the bank's window ledge, and of your father catching you in the nick of time! Also interesting message about Canada's Decoration Day. Many things I didn't know. Sepia Saturday is always an enjoyable learning experience!

  4. Fascinating detail about the invasion of Canada and a lovely picture of you and your father.

  5. Oh how cute is this. I never expected any of the Sepians to actually have a picture IN a window. And now here you are, first out of the box. Delightful story and photos.

  6. Super photos that match the meme prompt! And I'm so glad to know about the Fenian raids, Irish Americans into Canada...and the Canadian losses from it. I guess I shouldn't say glad, but it surely is something I'd never heard of either. Thank you for sharing.

  7. "taking Canada hostage..." =Drinking Canada Dry?:)

  8. Great photos and also somewhat alarming since we can't see where the ground is in the first photo. The Fenian "invasion" ought to be better known in the US. It's a bit like the Cuban Bay of Pigs invasion. Americans have short memories for history and rarely learn from mistakes.