Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Maple Leaf Forever

Pre-July 2013

Post-July 2013

The other day was Flag Day in Canada and it seems serendipitous that The Maple Leaf Forever popped up on the news at the same time. People of my generation remember with fondness The Maple Leaf Forever, an anthem written by Alexander Muir in 1867, the year of Confederation. He was supposedly inspired by a large Maple Tree in Toronto at the intersection of Memory Lane and Lang Street.

The original lyrics had a definite pro-British ring about them.

The Maple Leaf Forever Tree's photo.     The Maple Leaf Forever Tree's photo.

In Days of yore, 
From Britain's shore
Wolfe the dauntless hero came
And planted firm Britannia's flag
On Canada's fair domain.
Here may it wave,
Our boast, our pride
And joined in love together, 
The thistle, shamrock, rose entwined,
The Maple Leaf Forever.

The Maple Leaf
Our Emblem Dear,
The Maple Leaf Forever.
God save our Queen and heaven bless,
The Maple Leaf Forever.

At Queenston Heights and Lundy's Lane
Our brave fathers side by side 
For freedom's home and loved ones dear,
Firmly stood and nobly died.
And so their rights which they maintained,
We swear to yeild them never.
Our watchword ever more shall be
The Maple Leaf Forever


Our fair Dominion now extends
From Cape Race to Nootka Sound
May peace forever be our lot
And plenty a store abound
And may those ties of love be ours
Which discord cannot sever
And flourish green for freedom's home
The Maple Leaf Forever


It's easy to see why the song did not end up as the official Canadian anthem. Through the years alternative lyrics have been put forth, but never seemed to catch on. Pity, since the tune itself is very stirring.

Here's Anne Murray in 2010 (just before she retired) lip-syncing the song at the very last hockey game held in Maple Leaf Gardens. She is using modified alternative lyrics written by Romanian immigrant Vladimir Radian, who won a CBC Radio contest to find new lyrics for the song in 1997.
This version was also used by Michel Bublé during the closing ceremony of the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, BC

His lyrics are quite lovely I think:

O, land of blue unending skies,
Mountains strong and sparkling snow,
A scent of freedom in the wind,
O'er the emerald fields below.

To thee we brought our hopes, our dreams,
For thee we stand together,
Our land of peace, where proudly flies,
The Maple Leaf forever.

Long may it wave, and grace our own,
Blue skies and stormy weather,
Within my heart, above my home,
The Maple Leaf forever!

O, Maple Leaf around the world,
You speak as you rise high above,
Of courage, peace and quiet strength,
Of the Canada that I love.

Remind us all, our union bound
By ties we cannot sever,
Bright flag revered on every ground,
The Maple Leaf forever!


Sadly in July 2013 during one of the many terrible storms in Toronto that summer, the iconic maple tree cracked and fell. It was reputedly 160-170 years old.

People from all over came to visit the tree's remains, taking small mementos of it for themselves. 

The City of Toronto made the wise decision to save the historic wood and has been offering it to artists and woodworkers for commemorative projects.

A public Facebook page (the source of many of these photos) has been set up for the tree and there is also a website you can visit to view more pictures of both the large and small pieces of the tree, as well as a complete inventory of all the pieces, their condition and their dimensions. As you would expect in such an old tree, much of the wood was rotted/hollow (it had housed some raccoons)
and it was probably just a matter of time/storm severity as to when it would fall. (Something to think about if you have large/old trees on or near your property) Even some of the sawdust and shavings were kept.

Some of the commemorative items produced will be available to the public for purchase. A large piece is being carved into a totem by volunteers of the Ontario Woodcarvers' Association at the Ontario Science Centre where it will remain on permanent display. Council gavels for the City of Toronto have been made out of some of the wood and there are plans to make a new City Council Speaker's Podium. Toronto Zoo was the beneficiary of the wood shavings to use as animal bedding.

There will be clocks,benches, plaques, paddles, spoons and walking sticks. A flagpole, a table for Canada House in London, UK, Maple Leaf Forever Pens for Canadian Peacekeepers, wig stands for cancer patients, a guitar and a baseball bat are a few of the other proposed projects. All, both public and private, are listed here.

Finally, The City of Toronto is working with the Green Living Show, Ontario Wood and LEAF* on an exciting opportunity to promote urban wood designs and support urban forestry initiatives in Toronto. Designs using wood from the Maple Leaf Forever tree will be exhibited at the entrance of the Green Living Show. These pieces will be auctioned off during the show with the proceeds used to support LEAF's urban forestry initiatives in Toronto. March 27-29 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Click here for more information on the project.

* LEAF is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the protection and improvement of the urban forest.  They work to engage citizens in urban forest stewardship through planting, education and training programs.