The morn­ing the guns stopped

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - BY SCOTT CARMICHAEL News Staff

One hun­dred years ago this Sun­day, there was cause for ju­bi­la­tion across the coun­try as the guns were si­lenced across Europe, sig­nalling the end of the Great War.

And de­spite the news reach­ing this side of the At­lantic Ocean in the wee hours of the morn­ing, Alexan­dria res­i­dents nonethe­less took to the streets to revel in the Al­lied Pow­ers’ vic­tory af­ter four bloody years of fight­ing.

“About half past three Mon­day (Novem­ber 11) morn­ing, the news was flashed over the wire that the Ger­mans had signed the ar­mistice and ac­cepted all the al­lied terms,” stated a front page story in the Nov. 15, 1918 edi­tion of The News en­ti­tled ‘Gen­uine Glen­garry Demon­stra­tion.’

“A few mo­ments later the fire alarm com­menced ring­ing and shortly af­ter­wards the chimes at the (St. Fin­nan’s) Cathe­dral and the bells of the other churches joined in the cho­rus of sound.”

But the cel­e­bra­tion was just be­gin­ning, as Alexan­dri­ans be­gan pour­ing out of their homes and gath­er­ing in Mill Square, where a large bon­fire “was hastily ar­ranged,” and the build­ings lin­ing the nearby streets were be­decked with bunting, flags, and other “hol­i­day at­tire... trans­form­ing the town be­fore six in the morn­ing.”

As the day un­folded, im­promptu bands and choirs joined in the fes­tiv­i­ties, Mayor Ge­orge Si­mon de­clared a pub­lic hol­i­day, schools were closed, “and ev­ery­one who could do so par­tic­i­pated” in the rev­elry.

By mid-af­ter­noon – com­menc­ing around 2:30 – a pa­rade formed, snaking down the town’s prin­ci­pal streets and pick­ing up steam along the way, be­fore end­ing up back at Mill Square.

The pro­ces­sion, “headed by one of our lo­cal boys, ar­rayed as Gen­eral (Fer­di­nand) Foch (Supreme Al­lied Com­man­der) and mounted on a spir­ited charger,” in­cluded the town po­lice chief, the High­land Pipe and Drum Band, the Alexan­dria fire brigade, re­turned lo­cal soldiers and nurs­ing sis­ters, and Mayor Si­mon. It was aug­mented by “a num­ber of beau­ti­fully dec­o­rated au­to­mo­biles and car­riages fol­lowed by nu­mer­ous pedes­tri­ans.” Ac­cord­ing to The News ar­ti­cle, fes­tiv­i­ties – which also fea­tured spe­cial thanks­giv­ing church ser­vices – con­tin­ued un­til shortly af­ter 11 p.m., when “the crowds dis­persed af­ter a day of gen­eral re­joic­ing.”

Glen­garry County sent an es­ti­mated 1,600 of its young men to fight in the trenches of France dur­ing the First World War, with more than 170 of them, plus Nurs­ing Sis­ter Janet McIn­tosh, pay­ing the ul­ti­mate price. Given the de­gree of sac­ri­fice and suf­fer­ing en­dured by county fam­i­lies dur­ing the war, one could hardly blame the lo­cal pop­u­lace for the un­bri­dled ex­ul­ta­tion and re­lief that erupted in the pre-dawn hours of Nov. 11, 1918 in Alexan­dria.

“The un­con­di­tional sur­ren­der of Ger­many... pro­duced a wave of en­thu­si­asm among young and old such as we have sel­dom, if ever, wit­nessed,” stated The News.

“Mon­day... was a red let­ter day in Alexan­dria, a day which will not soon be for­got­ten by those who par­tic­i­pated in the ac­tiv­i­ties.”

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