What’s in the database right now?

Number of schools: 120
Other organizations: 3
Names on memorials: 47,679
Latest additions:
St. Michael’s College
Newman Club of the University of Toronto

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University of Toronto Centres for Roman Catholic Students

Two facilities on the University of Toronto’s St. George campus were founded specifically for Roman Catholic students: St. Michael’s College and the Newman Centre. Together they offer academic, spiritual, and social services to those studying away from home.

St. Michael’s College—officially the University of St. Michael’s College—is a liberal arts and sciences undergraduate college of the University of Toronto, with a postgraduate Roman Catholic theology faculty. The college church is St. Basil’s, at 50 St. Joseph Street. Designed by William Hay; completed in 1856; it is a parish church for the surrounding community as well as a spiritual centre for students. It is also the oldest building on the U of T campus in continuous use.

Drawing of St Basil's Church, showing fields and forest in the background
St. Basil’s Church and administration offices—the oldest U of T buildings still in their original location (from an 1855 engraving, Toronto Public Library E 8-130 small)

The Newman Club (or Newman Centre) on the corner of Hoskin Avenue and St. George Street, is a social centre for Roman Catholic students. St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel—opened next door in 1927—welcomes the public, but was built specifically as a chapel for the centre.

The war memorials of these two institutions make them relevant to “For King and Country.” St. Michael’s College (158 names) honours those who died in the two World Wars and the Korean War. The memorial was unveiled in November 1988—the 90th anniversary of the end of the Great War. On Remembrance Day, Mass at St. Basil’s is followed by a service at the memorial

The memorial for the Newman Club of the University of Toronto (289 names of those who trained for World War II service) was dedicated and blessed on Sunday, May 20, 1945.

Elsewhere on our website—listed under Independent Schools—is St. Michael’s College School, the high school that prepares students for the University of St. Michael’s College. (Until 1950, the school was situated on the campus.) The school has its own war memorials honouring former students who gave their lives in the two World Wars, the Korean War, and in peace time.

Rev. Edward Jackman showed us the location of the St. Michael’s College memorial. Brian Horgan first made us aware of the Newman memorial in St. Thomas Aquinas Church. Brian’s father Gerald Horgan started as a boarder in Grade 9 at St. Michael’s College School; graduated from St. Michael’s College in 1940; and attended the Newman Club.

Thank you to our volunteers who indexed the names: Margaret Hurst transcribed St. Michael’s College; Tracy Owens transcribed the Newman memorial.

Memorials Moved but Remembered: Etobicoke’s Lakeshore Communities

Our 2018 fall collection consists of four memorials from three Lakeshore communities of Etobicoke.

The southwest boundary of Etobicoke sits along the north shore of Lake Ontario. A few miles east of “the Lakeshore,” concrete roadways and condo canyons hide the lake, except for occasional glimpses. Mimico, New Toronto, and Long Branch still have traces of their historic reasons for developing along the water.

The 1998 amalgamation of Toronto sometimes blurred, but did not bury, Toronto’s distinctive neighbourhoods. As you walk, drive, or TTC-it through the megacity, traces—often strong—of older communities are visible. If you live in Mimico, you know you are in Mimico. Step onto side streets and you pick up the sense of a settled neighbourhood; architecture that developed gradually over time, rather than being imposed overnight by developers.

Many Mimico Avenue businesses have moved to busier streets.

Thus we are featuring memorial lists from former villages that had a strong sense of self, long before the spreading metropolis of Toronto was even a political dream.

Mimico High School:(896 names)
Although the school closed in 1988, many records not only survive, but are available for online searching. A sincere thank you to Susan Murphy of Parry Sound who indexed Mimico’s Second World War names for us.

David Hornell Junior School: (8 names)
This post-war school was named for Flight- Lieutenant David Hornell, a World War II recipient of the Victoria Cross, and Mimico resident, who attended Mimico High and nearby John English elementary schools.

Wesley Mimico United Church: (226 names)
We do not usually include church memorials, but this church building dating from 1862 is now used as a Montessori school. The congregation is currently (2018) meeting in Mimico Public Library, with a future that seems unsettled. We have not been able to find the current location of the two (WWI and WWII) memorials, but photos were forwarded to Mimico resident and local history buff, Sharon Stewart Kettlewell who indexed them for us.

New Toronto Soldiers’ Comforts Association: (19 names)
New Toronto is the middle Lakeshore municipality, between Mimico on the east and Long Branch of the west. The delightfully-named sponsors of this memorial chose a practical fountain to remember those who died in the Great War. The fountain has moved a number of times. We want to give the names of those who died a permanent home on our website.

Vimy Ridge Parkette recalls 300 or more who served in the Great War.

We have previously indexed the 453 names of Long Branch Continuation School, which closed in 1951. James S. Bell (elementary) school—named for a principal of 21 years— moved into the building, staying until 1966, when it opened in a new—and current—location on Thirty-First Street in Long Branch.

These three Lakeshore communities preserve their past thorough various local history groups and memorials. Mimico’s Memorial Park recalls the Great War. Nearby Vimy Ridge Parkette proudly displays a cenotaph and two bronze honour-roll lists of about 300 names. Local historian Michael Harrison has tracked in great detail the lives of many soldiers of the Great War on these sites we recommend to researchers:

www.newtorontosoldiers.blogspot.com
www.mimicosoldiers.blogspot.com

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow— at home and far away

Finding new things to say about “In Flanders Fields” is tricky. Most Canadians can recite a line or two. Many know the whole poem off by heart; maybe pausing to ponder did the poppies “blow” or “grow.” (The answer is “blow” in the first line; “grow” in the last verse.)

On May 3, 1915, John McCrae, soldier and surgeon of the Great War, sat on the back of a field ambulance writing about what he saw around him. It was the Second Battle of Ypres—infamous for the first mass use of poison gas—and other horrors. He had just presided over the battlefield burial of friend and fellow soldier, Alexis Helmer, of Ottawa.

On the University of Toronto’s memorial wall: “In Flanders Fields” is inscribed beneath a symbolic torch—John McCrae (B.A. 1894; M.B. 1898)

The story goes that after finishing his poem, McCrae crumpled it and threw it away. Perhaps, like many writers, he believed he hadn’t got it quite right. His poetry writing began at Guelph Collegiate, and his work had been published in magazines. An accomplished student, at age 16 he was the first graduate from his home town to win a scholarship to the University of Toronto. (The university still has a John McCrae admission scholarship awarded to the Guelph C.I. student with the highest average.)

Thus, Lt.-Col J. McCrae is one of 629 names carved on the University of Toronto’s memorial wall for those who died in the Great War. Nearby on the memorial is the full text of “In Flanders Fields.” Every person on the wall left a legacy. McCrae’s legacy lives on in countless Remembrance Day observances and the school-day memories of many of us.

John McCrae attended University College from 1888 to 1898. He took one year off to return to the cleaner air of Guelph because of asthma, a life- long ailment. He worked as a resident master at Ontario Agricultural College, at the time an associate college of the University of Toronto.

The thrown-away poem, reportedly retrieved by someone who suggested it deserved a wider audience, first appeared in Punch magazine in December 1915. An immediate success, it was reprinted many times —not always accurately—to McCrae’s bemusement. Translations into many languages followed.

Literary types argue there are better poems about the Great War—more thoughtful; more sensitive; deeper in meaning—but “In Flanders Fields” is the most remembered and the most quoted. Plain words of one or two syllables; rhyme; rhythm; three short verses; “the Dead” who speak, all add to its enduring quality.

In present-day Ieper (Ypres) Belgium, visitors enjoying hearty Flemish stew and a local beer at a modest hotel can see on an opposite wall McCrae’s poem reproduced in full. Steps away in the market square stands Flanders Fields Museum. Originally called Ypres Salient Memorial Museum, the 1998 name change shows the power of a simple poem.

In Flanders Fields Museum—on the 2nd floor of Ieper’s historic Cloth Hall, rebuilt after WWI destruction (photo by Martha Jackson)

Local tour groups offer trips to John McCrae’s dressing station. “In Flanders Fields” helped to imprint poppies as a symbol of the Great War. Poppies abound on posters children decorate for the Royal Canadian Legion’s annual contests. Remembrance Day is Poppy Day to many a school child.

McCrae was 41 when he entered the Great War, older than many of his comrades. His life so far had read like a Boy’s Own adventure. After his 1898 graduation from the University of Toronto medical program, he became first resident house-officer at Toronto General Hospital, then went off to South Africa to serve in the Boer War, combining career success—in Quebec and the U.S.A. as well as Ontario—with travel and other challenges. In 1910, as expedition physician, he journeyed by canoe and ice breaker on Governor General Earl Grey’s trip from Lake Winnipeg to York Factory on Hudson Bay.

En route to England for a holiday in August 1914, McCrae cut short his trip when war broke out. He returned to enlist at Valcartier, Quebec, on September 22, 1914. He died in a British hospital in Wimereux, France, of pneumonia and meningitis on January 28, 1918. He was 45 years old. Nursing sisters found poppies for his grave.

Guelph’s famous son is remembered at home and far away from his birthplace cottage, now a museum proudly bearing his name. Toronto is honoured to have played a part in preparation for an outstanding life.

On November 11, 2018, John McCrae’s words remind us that poppies still blow—and grow—one hundred years after the Great War’s end.

A tribute left at the medical station where McCrae worked—his poem copied in English and French (photo by Martha Jackson)