Two hundred and nine years after they first left the King Brother’s Woolich foundry in 1810, Westmount’s two 12-pound cannon were back in the city in time for next Sunday’s Memorial Day ceremony in front of the city’s cenotaph.
Former Westmount city councillor Patrick Martin said, “Those cannon happen to be two of the most important historical artifacts in the nation, and it’s time we understand just how lucky we are to have them in this city.”
As one of the leading figures behind the now decades – old cannon restoration project, Martin had a lot to say about what the men in Montreal’s 3eme Batterie d’Artillerie de Campagne did to restore the two cannon back to their original glory. Although more than a decade has come and gone since their rotting timber forced the city to pull the cannon off their steles in Westmount Park, very little was done until both Martin and Montreal’s 2nd Field Artillery regiment led the charge to fix the cannon. Aside from the city’s initial investment ($30 000) in five new, made to order, gun carriage wheels, Martin told The Suburban how the 3rd Battery’s restoration activists spent the last two years working on two custom – made gun carriages that are (as far as they know) exact replicas of the original carriages that supported the guns when they first left the King Brother’s foundry four years before the Battle of Waterloo.
“They are very serious people,” said Martin. “And they were very serious about both their work and the cannon’s history.”
As British Army records were destroyed when Germany’s Luftwaffe bombed a Portsmouth warehouse during World War II, it’s difficult to know exactly what was done with the cannon when they were the property of the British army. However, as experts from the Canadian artillery museum in Shiloh (Manitoba) are now looking into the matter, Martin believes that it won’t be long before they establish what happened to the guns after they were shipped over to Lower Canada to arm the colony’s militias in the mid 19th century.
“We’re starting to take a serious look at what Lt. Alexander Stevenson did with those guns,” said Martin.
As Stevenson was one of the founders of the Montreal Field Battery – later to become the city’s 2nd Field Artillery regiment, the city’s archives indicate that he was also an active city councillor who possibly used the cannon to help convince the city’s leaders that Montreal’s massive mountain could be purchased and transformed into city parkland. According to newspaper reports published in 1862, Stevenson and the Montreal Field Battery hauled four guns up to the top of Mount Royal where the battery was used to fire a loud and colorful New Year’s salute for the benefit of the entire city. While Stevenson’s salute proved that the mountain was accessible to anyone who wanted to go there, it remains to be seen if anyone can prove that Westmount’s two cannon are now part of Colonel Stevenson’s legacy to the city he served so well.