On my August 8th stroll, I turned right down South Street, then left onto South Park Street (not to be confused with the South Park Street TV show! lol).
It was hot and humid, and I was really hoping for a bit of a breeze to cool me...but alas, it was not meant to be, so I walked on. I heard from some people that it's not normally really humid in Halifax, so I just chalked it up to the unusually hot summer we were experiencing. Nevertheless, despite the humidity, I never realized how much excitement my morning walk would bring me.
As I turned onto South Park Street, on my right I noticed a cemetery. Now, I normally don't make it a habit to wander through cemeteries (sudden thoughts of creepy, scary movies come to mind), but the sign on the entry fence invited me to check it out, so in I went. The entry was via a driveway, which wound its way up to a church (which was under renovations) on the upper right of the hilly property.
Cemeteries in Halifax are huge! I mean really, really huge! They take up blocks and blocks worth of real estate. I'm not used to seeing so many cemeteries, so this one made my eyes bug out! Old stones with markings, long worn, greeted visitors...aching for someone to strain and read their names again, to give them life once more. Others were tall, regal, well marbled with age. There were granite stones, cement stones, and some even had stone borders around their individual gravesites. The cemetery's residents' loved ones made it personalized, to their own taste, it seemed.
I knew I didn't have a lot of time to walk through the whole cemetery, so I just kept walking straight. Then, I came upon a beautiful above-ground crypt that made me stand rock-still. I could not just walk past it. I was in total awe of what lie in front of me...I stepped forward and knew that this was a special grave...for this was not just another resting spot, but the crypt of Canada's 4th Prime Minister, Sir John Sparrow David Thompson.
Sir Thompson was just 47 when he became Prime Minister in 1892 (although the website I researched indicates he was 48). He was the first Roman Catholic and Maritimer to become Prime Minister.
According to the website https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/sir-john-sparrow-david-thompson, Sir Thompson was a lawyer, judge and politician, who for a brief time in 1882, was also the Premier of Nova Scotia.
Sir Thompson was part of Sir John A. MacDonald's government, as Minister of Justice. When MacDonald passed away, JJC Abbott took office as there would have been issues with Thompson taking over as Prime Minister, due to his religion. However, Thompson acted as House Leader. When Abbott retired in 1892, Thompson became Prime Minister and gained much support from his party. One notable mention was that Thompson created the Criminal Code of 1892.
Thompson passed away in 1894, at Windsor Castle, only an hour after being sworn in as a member of the Imperial Privy Council by Queen Victoria. Such a shock! His body was then sent back to Canada for burial.
After reading about Sir Thompson and walking around his beautiful, ornate crypt, I felt I needed to walk on just a bit...and what I saw was equally astounding. From the huge crypt to a single granite memorial stone, I read the names of the Halifax explosion victims that were buried in unmarked graves in the cemetery. I wanted to cry, for I knew most of those victims were women and children.
Last year, our family went on holidays to Halifax and Cape Breton, and while in Halifax, visited the Maritime Museum https://maritimemuseum.novascotia.ca/ where we learned about the explosion. It was a sobering experience seeing the blown-apart bits of ships, clothing, personal effects, and reading about the victims and survivors.
The Halifax explosion happened on December 6, 1917. It was devastating to the city. Two ships (one them a munitions ship) collided in Halifax Harbour. The result was one of the largest explosions prior to 1945's detonation of the atomic bomb. The website "Canadian Encyclopedia" has some great articles about it: https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/search?search=halifax+explosion
It took me a while to digest all of the information I learned about Sir Thompson - and I'm so glad I took the time to stop and look closer at his gravesite. I'm also very humbled by the single stone I saw that marked the victims of the Halifax explosion. Such sadness, but at the same time, makes you think about history and how it shaped the country. I noticed that my 20 minutes was coming to end, so I headed back to the office, with deep thoughts running through my mind. I would have to come back another day.
The next time you're by a graveyard, shrug off the spooky feelings and step inside. You never know what lies inside!
Until next time...