As Mississippi Mills celebrates it’s Bicentennial this year, Branch 240 would like to acknowledge the Centennial Anniversary this year of the Volunteer War Memorial was sculpted by R. Tait McKenzie was dedicated on September 11, 1923.
The monument was constructed in memory of the men of Almonte who fell for freedom in the First and Second World Wars and the Korean War. The memorial was requested by Alexander Rosamond in a letter he wrote to his family in July 1916. He was a lieutenant in the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry who had taken over leadership of the Rosamond Woolen Company from Bennett Rosamond. He noted that, if he did not return, he hoped a memorial could be built in a central place in Almonte, “to the men of Almonte who fell for freedom.”
Lt. Alex Rosamond was killed in action at Courcelette during the battle of the Somme on September 15, 1916. His widow made sure his wishes were carried out and asked Dr. Robert Tait McKenzie, a local boy, to create the memorial. Although Dr. McKenzie was a full professor at the University of Pennsylvania, he returned to his native town of Almonte, after an absence of nearly forty years to construct this monument. Most of the work was done in the garage at Pinehurst on Union Street, the home of Mrs. Alex Rosamond. This formerly was the carriage house of the Bennett Rosamond estate. Mrs. Rosamond wanted the memorial to have a likeness to her late husband, based on photographs. The finished work looked so much like her late husband that she had it changed. Mrs. Rosamond also left $1000.00 for its upkeep. The memorial was redone in 1967.
It is said that “The Volunteer” recalls the spirit of adventure of Dr. McKenzie’s own early days in Almonte.
He watches – in a little northern town,
Through winter cold and parching summer heat,
Where quiet folk go simply up and down,
O’er stony bridge and narrow crooked street.
He guards – alone – alert, with clenched hand,
In readiness with his young manhood’s might,
To spring to action at a word’s command,
Uphold his honour and defend his right.
He watches – while the children leave their play.
To lay their garlands clustered at his feet,
Zinnias and asters from home gardens gay,
In little hands held close and warm and sweet.
He smiles – he leans – and every winsome maid
Feels in her heart this joyous chivalry,
And lads look starry – eyed and unafraid
To grow to manhood strong and brave as he.
He watches. Oh, ye men with him who fell!
Mighty of valour, bold, unflinching free!
Here, in this place, your spirits seem to dwell,
Drawn to the home of your mortality.
He waits! Nor shall his vigil be in vain,
Men like to him shall ever pay the price;
Shun all dishonour, scorn the thought of pain,
And make the great immortal sacrifice!
This poem called “The Volunteer” was written by Ethel McKenzie, Dr. McKenzie’s wife.