About John McCrae

Statues often signify an important historical moment or person. Each statue is sculpted in a unique way to represent something or someone special and some statues may have rituals associated with them. In Guelph, there are eight different statues that are located around the city. John McCrae is in front of the Guelph Civic Museum.

John McCrae was a doctor, a soldier, an artist, a scholar, and a poet. He was honored with a statue sculpted by the talented artist, Ruth Abernethy, and commissioned by The Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery. The statue was unveiled on June 25th, 2015.  It is located in front of the Guelph Civic Museum.

McCrae is depicted sitting on a tree log while writing his very famous poem, “In Flanders Fields”. The statue symbolizes the battles and struggles that people have been through while fighting in the second battle of Ypres in Belgium in 1915. The statue is made of bronze featuring a medic’s kit, his officer’s cap, and 23 bronze red poppies for each of Canada’s Regiments.

Ruth Abernethy sculpted a hollow statue because the material used would crumble and decrease in size if it was solid from the inside. It was then coated with bronze to protect it and give it a nicer finish. Ruth chose to sculpt McCrae without showing all the signs of struggle and stresses of the battle as a sign of respect. She wanted to show McCrae as someone who was hard-working, and therefore, pleasant to look at, rather than someone who looks disrespected. His uniform appears to be a moderate level of cleanliness to maintain the theme of the battle, yet clean enough to show honour.

A very frequent question that the Stationary Crew had towards the statue was why McCrae seems to be smiling and happy while writing the sad poem. Although people were having a rough time during the war and John McCrae was not happy, Ruth wanted to sculpt him as a person, rather than as a soldier fighting in the war and looking messy. Making him appear happy in the statue is also a form of respect for him.

Sara Issa

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