THE MCGILL REMEMBERS PROJECT

Background


In April 2005 staff members Prof. Christopher Milligan (Faculty of Education) and Wes Cross (Student Services) created a website to mark McGill’s participants in the Second World War as part of Canada’s Year of the Veteran activities. The website drew interest from the community and helped remind the campus of the richness of the University’s contribution to the war effort.

As a result the McGill Remembers Roundtable was formed, comprised of individuals with connections to both McGill and the field of history. Roundtable discussions centered on the various elements of McGill’s history that marked the era, and how best to share the information, art and architecture with the public.

Part of the McGill history included the Roll of Honour published in 1926 and the Memorial Hall & Pool opened in 1950 as a result of the fund raising campaign begun in 1944 by the University and Alumni Association. A unique building on campus containing plaques, flags, paintings and McGill’s Book of Remembrance, it served as a gathering point for various ceremonies, most notably Remembrance Day. In the current era, almost forgotten, the Hall has fallen into disuse and the inevitable deterioration has set in.

In the McGill University Archives (MUA) the individual records of over 6,000 McGill students and staff were found, compiled by R.C. Fetherstonhaugh of the McGill War Record Office during World War Two.  These files contained press clippings, photos, letters and dispatches for each of the known McGill participants, both military and civilian from World War Two. The example set by the University of Glasgow among comparable institutions indicated that there was a keen public interest in such records, and it would be an important step if McGill could make these carefully compiled files available to a wider audience.

The Roundtable agreed that the University should pursue a number of steps to rehabilitate the Memorial Hall, and increase its role in the community and, at the same time, endeavor to share the various elements of the archival records. Beyond the paper records held by the MUA, there are also paintings, stained glass windows, sculptures and other objects. The Roundtable also agreed that the range of the McGill Remembers effort should be increased to include other eras, most notably the role played by the University in the First World War, Boer War and other major events. It was also important to capture the contribution of later McGill contributors such as those alumni who participated in peace-keeping and development operations in the more recent past.

Achievements

To date the McGill Remembers Project has been quite successful. It has been an active participant in the annual Remembrance Day ceremonies on both campuses as well as the official Montreal ceremony. A number of alumni veterans have been contacted and interviewed to provide additional insight and advice. We have also provided presentations and lectures to interested groups on McGill's history.

In 2009 the stained glass windows in Memorial Hall were restored

In 2012 thousands of digitized archival records pertaining to the students, alumni, faculty and staff of McGill University who contributed to the Second World War effort. were made available and have become indispensable to researchers and teachers who continue to utilize this collection in new and interesting ways.

In 2014 the Memorial Book was removed from the Hall and sent for restoration having spent 64 years on display. Due to the environmental conditions in the Hall being less than ideal for the return of the Book to its display, a replica was made and it has been on display in the McLennan Library  since November 2014 having been re-dedicated by the Principal and Desmond Morton in a small ceremony.

°A digital version of the 1950 Memorial Book  is also available online. The original Book is now held by the Rare Books and Archives department until the future configuration of Memorial Hall is resolved.

The 1926 Roll of Honour has also been added to the digital collection of the McGill University Archives.

The regimental flags were removed from their flagpoles in the Hall, restored and were rehung in presentation cases and are on display in the James Administration building. Similarly the paintings in the Hall have also been restored and placed in the administration building. 
 
A World War I working group was established by the University to identify and promote activities related to the centennial of that conflict and the project has participated in that work. As part of that effort, Prof. Desmond Morton provided a James McGill Society lecture for the James McGill Society titled How McGill Won the First World War

In 2015  an exhibit on the No. 3 McGill General Hospital was mounted on campus.
 
 Gordon Burr of Rare Books & Archives, and a member of our advisory group did a presentation on the collection at the ACA (Association of Canadian Archivists) colloquium which was very well received. An article has been published in Fontanus (a McGill online publication) describing the development of commemoration at McGill over the decades.

The MUA   has  further developed their the site with the addition of World War I material and selected special topics such as Women in Service, Dawson College and Research and Technical Training.

 
Finally, the McGill Remembers project has been honoured with the Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation for the work we have achieved thus far.

         

      

McGill Remembers, Original  Roundtable Members

  • John Cleghorn, Board Of Governors (Honourary Chair)
  • Gordon Burr, University Archives 
  • Wes Cross. Student Services 
  • Dr. Stanley Frost, Professor Emeritus 
  • Prof. Desmond Morton,  Professor Emeritus
  • Prof. Peter McNally,   History of McGill Project
  • Prof. Carman Miller, Dept. of History
  • Pamela Miller, Osler Library
  • Dr. Chris Milligan,  Faculty of Education (
  • Thomas Thompson, Development and Alumni Relations 


Financial & Resource  Support

  • John and Pattie Cleghorn
  • Royal Canadian Legion, (Dominion Executive)
  • Howard Stutt
  • Office of the Principal and Vice-Chancellor
  • University Services, McGill University
  • McCord Museum


Project Recognition

The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada
Royal Canadian Legion