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.
*** 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 firstname.lastname@example.org ***
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.