Visiting Waterloo Park, Waterloo, Ontario: remembering the solemn history of the Baby Cannon
How a desire to honour Queen Victoria went tragically wrong
It all started in the last quarter of the 19th century. In these years leading up to the turn of the 20th century when the weapon known as the Baby Cannon was finally put on display in Waterloo Park, a series of dramatic events occurred.
First of all, a foundry in Waterloo, Ontario, cast what became known as the 'Baby' Cannon in 1876. 19th century Canadians tended to be tenaciously assertive of their British identity and, on May 24 every year, it became the custom of civic dignitaries and Waterloo citizens to witness a gun salute, sometimes given on Albert Street, in tribute to Queen Victoria (1). The common loading device was a ramrod, which was made of hardwood. This could be rather hazardous at times. On repeated occasions the Baby Cannon discharged prematurely and carried the ramrod afar. On one occasion the ramrod was carried through the air for several hundred metres, hitting a distillery; on another, the ramrod was propelled towards Huether's Hotel, killing a man instantly.
So: what to do next with the Baby Cannon?
After one incident, the annual salute was suspended, but it was later resumed.
But after too many incidents had been deemed to have occurred with this troublesome gun, it was eventually discreetly mounted on permanent display in Waterloo Park.
At first, its mount was made of wood. In due course, the mount was converted into breeze blocks, on which the Baby Cannon has now stood for several decades, established as a seemingly innocent part of the scenery not far from the Young Street entrance to Waterloo Park, off Albert Street, where the gun salutes used to take place well over a century ago.
One can only wonder how many of the families that picnic in its vicinity, with the lake nearby, or the immaculate brides in their finery that pose for photographs in the garden close to the Baby Cannon's mount, are actually aware of the somewhat macabre past of their silent, inanimate witness.
But not to worry: the Baby Cannon has not fired — whether in anger or by accident — for more than a century!
July 6, 2012
(1) May 24 was, in fact, Queen Victoria's birthday.
Also worth seeing
In Waterloo Park, Waterloo , a few hundred metres from the Baby Cannon, the Old Schoolhouse dates from 1820.
Elora (distance: 31.1 kilometres); gracing the Grand River are the Elora Mill and the picturesque Tooth of Time Waterfall; the Elora Gorge is nearby.
How to get there: Air Canada, flies to Toronto Pearson Airport, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available. (Distance from Toronto Pearson to Waterloo : 91.9 kilometres.) WestJet and Bearskin Airlines fly to Region of Waterloo International Airport, from where car rental is available, from Calgary and Ottawa respectively. Access by road to Waterloo Park is via entrances at Westmount Road North, Young Street, Central Street or Seagram Drive. Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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