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Bronze bust added to Fleming exhibition

[Alvan Bregman and Sir Sandford Fleming]
Alvan Bregman, curator, W.D. Jordan Special Collections and Music Library, is excited about the recent addition of a bronze bust to the ehibition marking the 100th anniversary of the death of Sir Sandford Fleming. (University Communications)

A bronze bust of Sir Sandford Fleming may be a late arrival to the exhibition at Queen’s University marking the centenary of his death but it is a welcome addition nonetheless.

The piece was originally unveiled in 1907 during convocation and was created by Hamilton MacCarthy, a prominent sculptor of the day. The bust had been commissioned to mark Fleming’s 80th birthday.

From the curls of his beard to the medals that adorn his chest, the bust clearly captures the grandeur of the man who served as chancellor of Queen’s from 1880 to his death in 1915.

The bust was created, after students raised the tidy sum of $700, as a “graceful commemoration of his eminent service” and was installed in Grant Hall.

Already well-known for his work on standard time, the Canadian Pacific Railroad as well as surveying and mapping large swathes of the nascent nation, Fleming also was warmly regarded by the students at the university, as was detailed in an account of the unveiling printed in the Queen’s Journal.

“As years pass Chancellor Fleming becomes more deeply endeared to the students and members of the governing bodies. His memory will long be kept fresh at Queen’s. But it is well that there should be about the halls some object to remind the students of the future of the wonderful man who did so much for Queen’s, for Canada and the whole British Empire,” the passage reads.

However, over the years the bust was removed from Grant Hall and was not included in the register of the university’s holdings.

It was brought to the attention of Alvan Bregman, curator, W.D. Jordan Special Collections and Music Library, by reference assistant Pam Manders and services coordinator Kim Bell who found it tucked away in a corner of Fleming Hall.

It is now on the register and is on recurring loan at Douglas Library.

“We think he’s great,” says Dr. Bregman. “It’s a great piece by one of the leading Canadian sculptors of monumental sculptures. And it’s large. It’s quite a splendid piece.”

The exhibition marking the 100th anniversary of Fleming’s death features a multitude of items from collections at Queen’s. It continues through to the end of August. The W.D. Jordan Special Collections and Music Library is located on the third floor of the Douglas Library.