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Sir Sanford Fleming (1827-1915)

Sir Sandford Fleming Park, on the North West Arm in Halifax, Nova Scotia, commemorates a notable Canadian.

Fleming was born on July 7, 1827, probably in Kirkaldy, Fife (Scotland), and emigrated to Quebec on the ship "Brilliant," leaving Glasgow, Scotland, on April 24, 1845, at age 17 years. He settled, for a time, in Montreal and Ottawa.

He came to Canada as a surveyor, and later became one of the foremost railway engineers of his time. He was in charge of the initial survey for the Canadian Pacific Railway, the first Canadian railway to span the continent.

Fleming also designed the first Canadian postage stamp. Issued in 1851, it cost three pennies and depicted the beaver, now the national animal of Canada.

Fleming's contribution to the adoption of the present system of time zones earned him the title of "Father of Standard Time."

Sir Sandford lived in Halifax in the 1880's when he was engineer- in-chief for construction of the Intercolonial Railway between the Maritimes and Quebec. He established a summer retreat, known as the Dingle, on the western side of Halifax's North West Arm. The house and stable still stand by the driveway to the park.

Fleming took an active part in the intellectual and scientific life of Canada, throughout his long career and received many honours. He was knighted in 1897 on the occasion of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. He died in Halifax in 1915.

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the establishment of representative government in Nova Scotia in 1758, Fleming offered 95 acres of land at the Dingle as a park for the people of Halifax. An ardent imperialist, he proposed construction of a tower within the park to serve as a memorial to the development of parliamentary institutions in the British Empire, now the Commonwealth.

Fleming's plan was endorsed by the City of Halifax. The local Canadian Club immediately undertook to raise money for the tower. Donations were received from many parts of the Empire. Plaques commemorating these gifts as well as stone from the countries of the Empire were placed on the interior walls.

The tower was formally dedicated by Governor-General the Duke of Connaught, Queen Victoria's son, in an impressive ceremony in August 1912. The presence of members of the royal family and dignitaries from other parts of the Empire emphasized the importance of the occasion.

The bronze lions at the foot of the tower were donated by the Royal Colonial Institute of London in 1913. Designed by the British sculptor, Albert Bruce-Joy, they are similar to Sir Edwin Landseer's lions at Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square.

The small stone church, built around 1896 on land donated by Sir Sanford Fleming, once served as the parish church for the village of Jollimore. Today it houses the Outdoor Recreation Centre for the City of Halifax.

For decades, Haligonians have enjoyed attractions of Fleming Park: a stroll along the seawall, a swim at the beach in Fairy Cove, ice cream and treats at the canteens. Picture hats and parasols are gone now but the charm of the park remains.

Sir Sandford Fleming, C.M.G., served as Chancellor of Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Sir Sandford Fleming College, with campuses in many Ontario locations, was named in his honour.

Books About Sir Sandford Fleming

Bowley, R. E.
Sir Sandford Fleming and the Unfolding of Canada (1845-1915): A Philatelic Study. [Peterborough, Ontario]: Peterborough Historical Society, 1983.
Burpee, Lawrence J.
Sanford Fleming: Empire Builder. Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms International, 1980.
Cole, Jean Murray.
Sandford Fleming: No Better Inheritance. Peterborough, Ontario: Peterborough Historical Society, 1990.
Grant, George M.
Ocean to Ocean: Sandford Fleming's Expedition through Canada in 1872: Being a Diary Kept During a Journey from the Atlantic to the Pacific with the Expedition of the Engineer-in-Chief of the Canadian Pacific and Intercolonial Railways. [Toronto: Coles Pub. Co, c1970]. First published in 1873.
Green, Lorne Edmond.
Chief Engineer: Life of a Nation Builder  --  Sandford Fleming. Toronto: Dundurn Press, c1993.
Maclean, Hugh.
Man of Steel; the Story of Sir Sandford Fleming. Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1969.
Masse, Denis.
Le castor de Fleming et ses descendants. Montreal : D. Masse, [1993?].
Reeves, Geoffrey H.
Sir Sandford Fleming and Imperialism. Ottawa: Carleton University, 1971.
Shortreed, Marcia, ed.
Sandford Fleming, Pioneer Engineer: Inaugural Lectures, Sandford Fleming Foundation, Delivered at University of Waterloo, March 1977. Waterloo, Ontario: Sandford Educational Press, 1978.
Unitt, Doris, Andrew Osler, and Edward McCoy.
Sir Sandford Fleming. Peterborough, Ontario Review Print Co., c1968.

Source: Information from Brochure, "Sir Sanford Fleming Park," prepared by the City of Halifax for distribution at Tourist Information Centres and at Fleming Park. Online link. References from National Library of Canada.

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