Church bells to ring 100 times to mark 100 years

Veterans gather at the Prince Albert Armoury during the 2017 Remembrance Day ceremony. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald.

Several Prince Albert churches and the arts centre set to participate in Canada-wide, Legion-led initiative

Marie Mathers expects chills will come over the people of Prince Albert on Sunday, not once, but twice.

The longtime Prince Albert Legion member has been involved organizing not one, but two, celebrations to mark 100 years since the end of the First World War, which came to a halt at 11 a.m. on November 11, 1918 — making Sunday the 100th anniversary of the armistice.

At sunset Sunday, churches and institutions with bell towers from across Canada and the UK will toll their bells 100 times, five seconds apart, to celebrate 100 years of peace and freedom.

The initiative is called ‘Bells of Peace: a remembrance of those who served in the First World War.’

Prince Albert is one of the communities participating, with several local churches, including all the Catholic churches with bells, the Ukrainian Catholic Church, the Orthodox church, Prince Albert Baptist Church, the YWCA (formerly Wesley United) and the Arts Centre planning to ring bells starting at 4:30 p.m. Sunday.

The driving force behind that celebration is Mathers. She was pleased that everyone she approached agreed to participate.

“When you read the act of remembrance, it says, ‘At the going down of the sun
and in the morning, we will remember them.’”

The ringing of the bells is being held to echo what happened on November 11, 1918, where the ringing of church bells erupted spontaneously as an outpouring of relief that four years of war had come to an end.

Mathers expects people in the Prince Albert community will be struck by the moment.

“It should really be something,” she said. “From Newfoundland to Vancouver Island it will be ringing.

“It will move not only the older people but also some of the younger people. I hope that when the bells ring, they think ‘yes, we have freedom, we have peace.’”

But before the bells can ring out, other organizations across Prince Albert will do their part to mark the occasion.

The Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans Association (ANAVETS) is holding a 4:30 p.m. supper, while the Legion is hosting a Remembrance Day luncheon. The Prince Albert

Historical Society is also marking the centennial of the armistice. The museum will be open from 1-4 p.m. Sunday, and admission will be free. At 2 p.m. Connie Gerwing and Lorraine Brassard will lead a presentation about Prince Albert in the First World War.

Then there is, of course, the annual Remembrance Day ceremony, scheduled for a 10:45 a.m. start at the Prince Albert Armouries.

Like in previous years, the ceremony will include music from the pipe and drums band and from the city concert band, as well as the ceremonial laying of the wreaths, prayers, hymns and reflections. Residents are asked to start arriving at about 10:15 a.m. as it is always a well-attended event.

The ceremony will feature another moving moment — when those attending the Remembrance Day ceremony at the armouries will stand for two minutes of silence — broken by the soaring trumpet melody of the Reveille. According to Mathers, 1,005 chairs have been set up at the armouries in preparation for Sunday’s ceremonies, which begin at 10:45 a.m.

“The reservists have been really helping me,” she said. “They’re really, really great.”
As usual, Mathers expects a full house for the city’s Remembrance Day ceremony, even though it coincides with many people’s Sunday church services. Many churches will be marking the moment of silence on their own at 11 a.m.

“A lot of people I spoke to didn’t realize it was 100 years since people shed their blood for our country, for peace and freedom,” Mathers said.

“We have freedom. The freedom we have, money can’t buy. I’m sure when we come to the two minutes of silence, everybody is going to have goosebumps when they think 100 years ago, we started this.”