Cairn honouring war dead added to Courtenay heritage register

A tribute to those who have sacrificed their lives for their country is the 21st place on the Courtenay Heritage Register.

A tribute to those who have sacrificed their lives for their country is the 21st place on the Courtenay Heritage Register.

Council approved the addition of the Sandwick War Memorial Cairn to the city’s Heritage Register Monday.

The Heritage Register, adopted in 2009, is a list of properties identified as having heritage value or character. It is used as a planning tool to raise awareness of and provide information to property owner and citizens on historic places within the community, and to monitor or manage change to these places through the licensing and permitting process, planning technician Erin Ferguson and development services director Peter Crawford explained in their report to council.

Courtenay’s Heritage Advisory Commission was involved in the creation of the Heritage Register — which had 20 historic places including residences, commercial buildings, roadways, places of assembly, parks and natural features before Monday — and is working to update it.

A stone monument located at the intersection of Dingwall Road and Highway 19A, the Sanwick War Memorial Cairn was erected to honour those who sacrificed their lives during the First World War and was built with stones brought from the farms of their families.

The Cairn now commemorates those who have lost their lives in the First World War, the Second World War, the Korean War and peacekeeping services.

The statement of significance prepared by the Heritage Advisory Commission for the Sandwick War Memorial Cairn identifies the historic place as the stone cairn, commemorative plaques and adjacent landscaped grounds, and a “Quercus Robur” oak tree.

“Dedicated in 1922, the historical value of the Sandwick War Memorial Cairn lies in the efforts of residents in the Comox Valley to honour those who sacrificed their lives during the Great War of 1914-1918,” according to the statement. “Formally designated as the City of Courtenay’s first Municipal Heritage Site in 1985, the Sandwick War Memorial Cairn is significant for the community’s early stewardship and concern to preserve its most valuable heritage. The Sandwick War Memorial Cairn is valued culturally as the place that symbolizes Courtenay’s past and continual commitment to honour those who have lost their lives in war and peacekeeping action. Aesthetically, the Sandwick War Memorial Cairn is valued for its visual prominence, as seen in its significant use of local stones and various commemorative plaques and its adjacency to the manicured grounds and its proximity to St. Andrews Comox District Anglican Church and Cemetery grounds, providing a tangible link to Courtenay’s earliest history.”

The land was donated by Barbara Dingwall, daughter of Oliver Duncan, one of the earliest pioneers in the Valley, according to the statement of significance.

Stones to build the cairn were brought from the farms of those men whose names were listed on the World War I plaque.

The oak tree at the southwest corner of the cairn was planted in June of 1937 to commemorate the Coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. This “Royal Oak” was sent from Windsor Park (Windsor Castle), one of many such oak seedlings planted in the countries of the Empire. The oak was planted by J.B. Holmes, who had lost his son in the First World War.

Councillors were pleased to include the Cairn in the Heritage Register.

“I happen to live in this area, and I feel pretty proud to come from Sandwick, so it’s really exciting for me to see we’re moving forward on really giving this the status it deserves,” said Coun. Ronna-Rae Leonard.

Coun. Larry Jangula thought it was nice to see the city identify some of the people involved in building the cairn and the history of how it was built.

“It’s very nicely done, and it’s really withstood the ravages of time very well,” he said.

Coun. Doug Hillian acknowledged the importance of the community’s heritage.

“I’ve lived here for 32 years and consider myself a relative newcomer,” he said. “I want to honour the people who’ve built this community, the pioneers, some of whom have been involved in the Heritage Commission. Just as we’re celebrating the redesign of our City Hall, which is a sign that we’re looking to the future, it’s vitally important that we acknowledge and honour our community heritage and the sacrifice of those who went before.”

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