Union Cemetery – Calgary: Part Four

I know, I know.  I can just imagine you looking at the blog post title, throwing up your arms in despair and saying, “She’s talking about graves. Again!’  But this is the last time, I promise. At least from Union Cemetery. (I still have to take the tours of Burnsland and St Mary’s cemeteries.)

VIEWAlthough not all of the people buried in Union Cemetery have grave markers, they all have a story. As a writer, here are a few of the stories I learned on the cemetery tour which – while not about the great and the good – really piqued my interest.

The first I found really touching – because I pass by this place every day when I walk my dog – was the story of a young engaged couple who were killed on the corner of Prospect Ave and 10th Street SW. Apparently he went to pick up his fiancée, who lived in a rooming house on Prospect Ave, to go for a walk one day. Mount Royal is – not surprisingly given its name – on a hill. When they were caught in a thunderstorm, a bolt of lightning ended their lives. Their grave is unmarked and their story leaves me with so many unanswered questions. What were their names? Where did they come from? What ages were they? What were their dreams? How soon did they plan to marry? What were their occupations? Such a tragic loss.

SMITHI love the story of Jimmy Smith who emigrated to Calgary from China. Determined to become ‘Canadian’, he dressed in western clothes and was known only by his ‘English’ name. A cook at the Grand Hotel in Calgary, he died of TB but left $1,500 to go towards the building of Calgary’s first hospital, the Calgary General Hospital. His marker was provided by both the Nurses Union of Alberta and the Chinese Community of Calgary. What was his ‘real Chinese name?’ someone on the tour asked. A couple who spoke Chinese looked at the  Chinese characters and smiled.  ‘Jimmy Smith,’ they  replied.

I’ve talked about Peter Prince – a lumber merchant from Quebec – before in my blog. His house can be found at Heritage Park and his office still serves as a restaurant – 1886 Cafe – in Eau Claire. After Prince’s first wife Marguerite died of diabetes (he is buried alongside her in St Mary’s Cemetery) he married three more times. Hmmm, I can hear you thinking. Sounds a bit dodgy. But remember, those were different times. You could not have a single woman in your home unless you were married to her. He married Emma – who had been a invalid for some time – who died in 1902. His third wife, Rosa, died of cancer in 1907. Emily, his fourth wife, outlived him by 19 years. Her grave is unmarked, but she is buried with Rosa and Emily in Union Cemetery.

There are so many other graves and so many stories: Sam Livingstone who brought fruit trees to Alberta and fed the NWMP through their first hard winter in Calgary; Maude Riley, who made a pact with God after she almost died in childbirth, brought in laws to protect children and is commemorated by Riley Park; Fred Collings, a runner for the telegraph office, who died when he and another boy were cleaning their revolvers. Thinking the chambers empty, they fought a ‘duel’.

What a rich and colourful tapestry.

TREEI learned other things about the symbols to be found in graveyards. We know that children are often represented by lambs or little shoes, but a grave marked by a tree stump also represents a life cut short.

What about an anchor? – The symbol of faith.

Or what about this grave? Given the name and lack of dates… what story does it conceal?



Prince’s Island Park – Calgary

There are two kinds of emigrants/immigrants; those who are pulled to their new country and those who are pushed from their old. I definitely belonged in the latter category. I was perfectly happy living in Scotland, but then my husband got offered a great job opportunity in Canada so we packed up and moved across the Pond.

It took me a long time to settle here. Getting used to the long – long – winters was a challenge. But over the years Canada, and this city of Calgary where we’ve made our home, have burrowed deep into my heart and now I truly love them both. We are fortunate to live here. When we arrived in Calgary, the population of the city sat at just under half a million. Now it is well over one million, and we’ve seen tremendous changes over those years.

For the next few Wednesdays, I’d like to show you some of my favourite places in this city. Some are well-known while others, like the Reader’s Garden Cafe I spotlighted last week, are unfamiliar to most Calgarians. backendFirst up is Prince’s Island Park. Named after Peter Prince who owned a lumber company nearby, the park is located immediately north of the downtown core on an island donated by the Prince family (according to Wikipedia) to the city in 1947. His original office building remains close by. Now known as the 1886 Cafe, it is a popular restaurant serving breakfast and lunch. Peter Prince’s home can been visited in Heritage Park.

Completely surrounded by the Bow River, Prince’s Island Park boasts all the facilities – and more – you could wish for in an urban park. Each year, it hosts the Calgary Folk Festival, Shakespeare in the Park and the Canada Day Celebrations every July 1st. Or enjoy a meal at the trendy River Cafe with its great food and wonderful location. You’ll find plenty of well laid out trails lined with beautiful hanging baskets for bikers, walkers and runners, but there are also off the beaten tracks where you can get up close to the fast-flowing river.

river2 If you love flowers, there are plenty of displays to enjoy. If you fancy a picnic you can bring your own blanket and spread it out on the grass or use one of the many picnic benches dotted around the park. downtownWhen our kids were young, we used to like to come down on a Sunday morning for a picnic breakfast. After we’d eaten, they’d play for ages at the extensive children’s play park.

Although there are spots in the park where the city can feel a million miles away, there are others where you can see the beautiful glass buildings rising above you, sparkling in the sunlight. It’s a lovely place to visit, whether for a quiet stroll or an ad hoc soccer match or game of frisbee. And if you fancy a coffee, nip in to Eau Claire market on the south side of the park, or stroll across the Peace Bridge and walk along Memorial Drive to Kensington.


One of the hanging baskets you can find on the lamp posts around the park.



River cafe

The River Cafe


The Peace Bridge linking Prince’s Island Park to Kensington on the north side.