Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Opening of Dundurn May 1881


May 3rd was the date selected for the reopening of the grounds of Dundurn for public events for the summer season of 1881.
          The headlights of the reopening day's festivities were to be a personal appearance by Edward Hanlon, a world champion oarsman, and a grand pyrotechnic display in the evening by Hamilton's own Professor Jesse Gant. A crowd of at least 5,000 paid entrants was anticipated if the weather was fair.
          The popular world champion rower, Hanlon, arrived in Hamilton from Toronto on the five o'clock afternoon express train. After disembarking onto the platform of the Grand Trunk railway station, Hanlon was officially greeted by Hamilton mayor     O'Reilly, who was accompanied by Professor Hand and a number of other prominent citizens. The famous athlete was then driven to George Lee's popular restaurant on   street for a hearty meal before his appearance at Dundurn.
          Beginning at 7 p.m., Hanlon was formally driven through Hamilton's principal streets to the grounds of Dundurn :
          “On the arrival of the procession at York street, it was met by a lorry illuminated with Bengal lights and other fireworks which threw a light on the proceedings by no means unpleasant to the immense throng of people who lined the street.”
          “Hand and Hanlon : Successful and Brilliant Opening of Dundurn Park”
          Spectator. May 4, 1881.
          After arriving at the grounds, the mayor and Hanlon were then driven to the amphitheater stage where the Sportsman Cup was displayed.
          Mayor O'Reilly in introducing the world champion, told the crowd that “not only was Mr. Hanlon a skilled oarsman, but he had so modestly and honourably conducted himself that he was also entitled to their esteem as a gentleman.”
          When Hanlon was introduced, a storm of applause greeted his appearance on the stage. Thanking the crowd for their welcome, Hanlon said that he found it difficult to express his gratitude, but that he would always do his best to uphold the aquatic honour of Canada against the world.
          Saying that he was a man of deeds, not words, Hanlon ended his speech with the announcement of his impending retirement from competitive rowing.
          After three rousing cheers and a tiger for the the famed oarsman, there were three more delivered with enthusiasm for Mayor O'Reilly and Professor Hand, who then proceeded with his fireworks display :
          “Beside innumerable Bengal lights, rockets, mines, shells, maroons, balloons, etc., the following set pieces were given: Niagara Falls, cascade and wheel, united diamonds, equilateral triangle, double turning pieces, Maltese cross, ship and fort, tree pieces with double side wings and batteries, and a revolving globe with a crown in the center.”
          After the fireworks, the dancing became very well-patronized, as was the concert given by the Independent band.
          The evening's proceedings being so well-attended and well-organized augured well for a successful 1881 season at Dundurn Park.

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