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Sculpture of First World War soldier Pte. Hugh McWhirter still being planned for Danger Tree site at Grenfell Campus in Corner Brook

This maquette of a First World War soldier was used temporarily during the unveiling of The Danger Tree bronze sculpture at Grenfell campus, Memorial University in June 2016. A permanent bronze version will be installed there next July.
This maquette of a First World War soldier was used temporarily during the unveiling of The Danger Tree bronze sculpture at Grenfell campus, Memorial University in June 2016. A permanent bronze version will be installed there next July. - Star file photo

It’s been missing in action for more than two years, but plans are in the works to give the statue of a First World War soldier from Corner Brook a homecoming to remember.

When Princess Anne made her royal visit to Corner Brook in late June 2016, she helped unveil the bronze sculpture of the infamous Danger Tree on the grounds of Grenfell Campus, Memorial University.

Near the iconic symbol of the Battle of Beaumont Hamel, in which hundreds of young men from the Royal Newfoundland Regiment were killed, there had been an image of one of those First World War soldiers making his way towards the tree.

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Unlike The Danger Tree, the soldier was actually not a finished work. It was a clay maquette made by sculptor Morgan MacDonald that was placed there only temporarily.

It was removed after the royal visit. In the following days, MacDonald explained that the bronze sculpture of the soldier was not yet finished and, at the time, he expected it would be installed by Remembrance Day later that fall.

Higdon
Higdon

The sculpture is still not there. MacDonald told The Western Star this week that it is only now undergoing mould-making at his foundry and he will be working on it throughout the coming winter.

The plan is to have it installed in time for an unveiling July 19.

Dave Higdon is chairman of the Forget-Me-Not Campaign, the organization which is behind this project and the refurbishment of the Remembrance Square site in downtown Corner Brook.

Higdon said the delay is all due to securing the funding to pay for the work. Ongoing efforts to raise the roughly $100,000 to pay for it are about halfway towards the goal, he said.

He noted the July 19 date was selected so the unveiling will coincide with the Come Home Year celebrations being planned for Corner Brook next summer.

He said that is appropriate because the sculpture is being forged in the image of Pte. Hugh McWhirter, the first soldier from the Royal Newfoundland Regiment to lose his life in battle during the First World War.

McWhirter was from Corner Brook.

“We thought it would be nice and fitting to unveil the sculpture as a sort of coming home for Pte. McWhirter,” said Higdon.

The soldier sculpture isn’t the only component of the site on the Grenfell Campus grounds left to be done. Higdon said there is still a plan to incorporate an installation that will name every one of the 1,612 members of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment killed during the First World War.

“That will have to come later,” said Higdon, who declined to give an estimated cost of that element of the overall project.

While the fundraising effort includes applying to government sources, the Forget-Me-Not Campaign is also continuing to solicit private donations and sponsorships, along with hosting events to raise money.

One of those events is happening this Saturday with a Christmas craft fair at Corner Brook Regional High School from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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