Crowd Welcomes Kilties at Union Depot/Thornton Park

CVA 99-1170.1 – Seaforth Highlanders returning to Vancouver from WW1. The gents in the automobile appear to be Lt-Gov. Ballard and General Leckie. In this image, the camera seems to be pointing northeast. 1919. Stuart Thomson photo.

The photos above and below are identified by the City of Vancouver Archives as being a “large crowd gathered around automobile, men in military uniforms” and the date shown for the photos is “ca1915.”

I had doubts about the attributed date when I saw the Great Northern Freight warehouse in the scene. Vancouver’s Union Depot, of which the GNR Freight Warehouse was part, was not completed until June 1917. The site of the photo is confirmed in the first photo with the presence of the Ivanhoe Hotel: the crowd clearly is gathered on what would be known within a couple of years as Thornton Park (the green space that is in front of what today is known as Pacific Central Station (originally the Canadian Northern Railway depot, which was adjacent and south of Union Depot; Union Depot was demolished in 1965).

I was able to pin down the date the photos were made a little more accurately by consulting local newspapers. An article describing the event appeared in the June 20, 1919 edition of the Daily World, reporting that “an immense crowd” gathered at Union Depot to welcome Seaforth Highlanders (aka, “Kilties”) who had rolled into the city after serving in the Great War:

And such a rush there was when the gates were opened! Such a hurrying in search of the son, the father, the brother or the lover! Everywhere were anxious, eager, expectant faces, searching, searching, searching for the face and the form they knew was there. Glad cries, little screams of joy, even tears of keenest pleasure were heard and seen on every hand. The scene was a most affecting one, and even the most unemotional could not help but be affected.

Vancouver Daily World, 20 Jun 1919

There were VIPs present, as well: Lieutenant Governor Francis Stillman Barnard (1856-1936) was there (I think that he is the hatless gent being helped from the automobile in the middle of the crowd), Mayor Harry Gale (1878-1950), and Brigadier-General R.G.E. Leckie (1869-1923) (the gent who is standing behind Barnard, still in the car).

CVA 99-1170.2 – Seaforth Highlanders returning to Vancouver from WW1. The gents in the automobile appear to be Lt-Gov. Ballard and General Leckie. The camera, in this case, seems to be pointing northward. 1919. Stuart Thomson photo.
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2 Responses to Crowd Welcomes Kilties at Union Depot/Thornton Park

  1. W Michael Patience says:

    Michael here from the Seaforth Association. You can read a little more about the return of the 72nd Bn CEF here on pp. 190-191 https://archive.org/details/72seaforthhigh00mcevuoft/page/n321/mode/2up

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