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Is ‘Big Tom’ on the move again?

Published on

Journal Staff

Now that the mystery of the old cannon in Canatara Park has finally been solved a scheme is afoot to move it.

City council has endorsed a tentative plan to relocate “Big Tom” from the central field at Canatara to Veteran’s Park, beside Sarnia Library.

A citizen group researching its history has confirmed the massive gun – long a subject of speculation – is of vintage British stock from the Crimean War (1853 to 1856).

But it turns out the iconic old cannon is more than a showpiece from a distant conflict. The nine-footer was later fitted to a colonial gunboat built in Port Sarnia called the “Prince Alfred” to defend the community in the Fenian War.

Though the St. Clair River never did become an invasion point from the U.S. the threat was taken seriously. A garrison of militia was stationed in town and the Prince Alfred’s crew trained to use the cannon to repel any foreign aggression.

Big Tom was stored in Point Edward for a time and in 1869 moved to a market square that today is known as Veteran’s Park, researcher Randy Evan noted in a report to city hall.

The greenspace near the foot of Wellington Street has been a traditional marshaling ground and send-off point for troops.

And there the cannon remained on display until around 1961 when it was moved during the library’s construction.

The century that Big Tom stood in Veteran’s Park makes that its rightful home, Evans argues.

“Being that the cannon was put into use in defence of our city it can be rightfully considered a war veteran of this community.”

Before the cannon is moved, however, city hall is seeking feedback from the Royal Canadian Legion and other military and heritage groups.

Evans and his fellow researchers – Tom Slater, Lou Giancarlo and Tom St. Amand – became interested in the old cannon while working on the City of Sarnia War Remembrance Project, a record and tribute to the city’s fallen soldiers.








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