Special to The Journal
Lou Giancarlo had a feeling something was out of place. He couldn’t help wondering what the cannon known to generations of Sarnians as “Big Tom” was doing in Canatara Park.
Eight months later, thanks to the efforts of Giancarlo and a group of local military historians, Big Tom was returned to its former home in Veterans’ Park, just in time for Remembrance Day.
The cannon was cast in England prior to 1820 and according to local legion was used during the Crimean War (1853-1856).
After being shipped to Sarnia, the gun became part of the armaments of the 288-ton gunboat Prince Alfred, which patrolled the Great Lakes during the Fenian Raids around 1866.
In June of 1869, Big Tom was retired and relocated to Port Sarnia’s Market Square (now Veterans’ Park).
The park was the traditional site of ceremonies for departing troops and victory celebrations. Now home to Sarnia’s Cenotaph and the location of Remembrance Day
ceremonies, Veterans’ Park, under its various names, was Big Tom’s home for 90 years.
The cannon was moved to Canatara Park some time around 1959 when the old Carnegie library was demolished and the current building was being erected.
The committee assembled to return Big Tom home was led by Giancarlo and included Mike Banovsky of MPB Industrial; Tom Slater, Randy Evans and Tom St. Amand, the architects of Sarnia’s massive War Remembrance Project, which records the stories of Sarnia’s fallen soldiers; and Mike Atkinson of Atko Cranes, who donated the time and equipment that made the physical move possible.
With the support of Mayor Mike Bradley and council, the encouragement of the city’s Heritage Committee and the Royal Canadian Legion, and with a contribution from the Sarnia Historical Society, Big Tom has returned to Veterans’ Park and placed atop a new concrete pad.
In a park named to honour Sarnia’s veterans and the city’s proud military heritage, Big Tom is one more reminder of the sacrifices made by the thousands who fell or served in wartime.
Lest we forget.
Phil Egan is a freelance writer and Secretary-Treasurer of the Sarnia Historical Society.
For more on Big Tom and other local history stories visit www.sarniahistoricalsociety.com