Forget-me-not: Memorial Day in Newfoundland & Labrador

This is part of an article written by my Dad, Barry D. Thom. He often writes educational articles about Freemasonry, the historical significance of holidays, he is a great lover of puns, has traveled the globe at least twice and can be found most often enjoying a good book or time with family and friends. 

Today in Canada, most of us are celebrating a happy day, but in Newfoundland they also remember soldiers today. There, this is Memorial Day. I’d like to share this piece of an article written by my Dad that explains the significance of the forget-me-not flower in today’s remembrance.

Folklore and Legend about the Forget-Me-Not

In a German legend, God named all the plants. When a tiny unnamed one cried out, “Forget-me-not, O Lord!” God replied, “That shall be your name.” During exile in 1398, Henry IV adopted this flower as his symbol and retained it upon his return to England the following year. In 15th-century Germany, it was supposed that the wearers of the flower would not be forgotten by their lovers. Legend has it that in medieval times, a knight and his lady were walking along the side of a river. The knight picked a bunch of flowers, but because of the weight of his armour he fell into the river. As he was drowning he threw the flowers to his loved one and shouted “Forget-me-not.”  Ladies often wore it as a sign of faithfulness and enduring love.

The flower as a token of remembrance in Newfoundland

During WWI, on July 1st, 1916 at the battle of Beaumont Hamel in France, 733 of 801 men in the 1st Newfoundland Regiment were killed (and some were only wounded). These Newfoundlanders lost their lives within the period of one hour. It was a devastating blow to their families back home. (Prior to that, on July 1st, 1867 the Dominion of Canada was formed but it wasn’t until 1949 that Newfoundland and Labrador entered Confederation.)

Today, July 1st, is a day of mixed emotions as it is Canada Day as well. July 1st in Newfoundland and Labrador is still held as Memorial Day, not only for those lives lost in the First World War but all wars and conflicts, as well as those Canadians lost in Peace keeping missions.

After WWI the Forget-me-not flower was used as the symbol of Remembrance, in Newfoundland and Labrador but the poppy slowly displaced it on July 1st as well as November 11th.

This year in Newfoundland and Labrador the Provincial Command of the Royal Canadian Legion met and it was agreed that there would be a return to the Forget-Me-Not flower on Memorial Day. A member of Bay Robert’s Legion Branch # 32 was approached and asked to design a pin using silk Forget-Me-Not flowers. Legions from as far west as Goose Bay, Labrador and as far east as Conception Bay South all placed orders for the pin.

In a time when many things are mass produced in developing countries, this pin was designed and hand crafted in Port de Grave, NL by Florence Morgan-Thom. Florence was born here when this country was still under the British flag, grew up in Toronto, Ontario and then returned home to retire. It is with great pride that our family participates in today’s remembrance in such a significant way.

Thousands of these delicate pins were hand-crafted with great love and admiration for those who lost their lives on July 1st for the country we are also proud to celebrate today. Happy Birthday, Canada, and thank you to the soldiers who bravely fought at Beaumont Hamel.

handmade forget-me-not pins, Florence Morgan-Thom

 *** I have had many emails regarding the availability of these Forget-me-not pins, and am happy to share with you the contact information to place orders. In 2013, letters were sent to different legion locations across Newfoundland about the availability of the pins, and many placed orders with my parents. In late 2014, Downhome Magazine featured my mother and her beautiful pins in a recent issue. You can read even more about the pins HERE.

If you would like to place an order, please contact: Florence at flowersbyflorence@gmail.com ***

MARCH 2016 UPDATE:

I can personally attest to how hard my parents work at creating these pins by the many, many thousands. 2016 marks 100 years since Newfoundland’s great sacrifices at Beaumont Hamel (http://honour100.ca/) and the province has many initiatives in the works to mark this occasion. My parents have been busy trying to fill orders, and if you would like a pin to commemorate the day, you can reach out to them at the email address above.

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Alex

16 thoughts on “Forget-me-not: Memorial Day in Newfoundland & Labrador

  1. Thank you for posting this Alex! And thanks to your Dad for writing it.
    It’s easy to forget the significance of this day for Newfoundland when one’s been living in Ontario for so long!

    1. I am living in Dunville, P. Bay NL and would love to have a few of the light blue forget-me-not pins in Honor of Remberance Day. It looks like a simple light blue …very small bouquet of Forget-Me-Nots …to pin on with your Poppy! I first saw it at a funeral of a Dear War Vet and would love to have some!! I was told it was a part of the Honor Guard given to The Fire Dept. Please guide me to the right person so I can buy some! It is very special!! Thank you in advance!!!

      1. Hi Maggie, Thanks for your interest. The contact info is flowersbyflorence@gmail.com. They are made to be worn alongside the poppy, as detailed above. They are not at all related to a fire department, although that is also a lovely idea.

  2. Are those pins still available for purchase today. I worked with the Legion Command Office in Newfoundland for many years and have never heard of or seen the pins. I would love to be able to purchase if possible.

      1. Great piece. I found it searching for information about wearing Forget Me Nots on Memorial Day (a cloudy memory that came back to me on Memorial Day Morning). I’d also like to know where to get these pins. Could you send me the info or post it for everyone please.

      2. Hi Tony, thanks for stopping by. I am absolutely happy to share the contact details. I’ll post an update to this blog post so people can contact my Mom regarding the pins.

  3. I checked at the Legion in St. John’s and they don’t know anything about the Forget Me Not program or where I could buy them.

    1. I will email you the contact information. I believe all the Legions received letters this year about the pins, so maybe the person you asked just was not aware.

  4. I’ve been after the Legion and the Royal Newfoundland Regiment (RNR) since 2013 trying to acquire Forget-me-not pins. I did get some from Florence Thom and wore one for Remembrance Day and will wear it again on 1 July. However, you and I both would hope that the Legion and the RNR would have something on the go for the 100th Anniversary of our loss. Then again, I spoke with Memorial Grads from the 60’s, 70’s & 80’s and they didn’t know why the University was named “Memorial”. We have to do better.

    1. Hello! Legions across the province as well as numerous government department have ordered my parents’ forget-me-not pins by the many thousands for the upcoming 100th anniversary, so they are very available now. Other provinces are also ordering them to remember Newfoundland’s great sacrifices.

      It is so important to remember.

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