Much has been said about the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. In New Westminster there have been many events to mark this auspicious occasion from teas and luncheons to tree plantings and a "21-gun" salute by the Ancient and Honourable Hyack Anvil Battery.
A diamond jubilee for a British monarch has occurred only twice: once this year for Elizabeth II and back in 1897 for Victoria. New Westminster, called the "Royal City" because it was named by Queen Victoria, has proudly marked all the regal anniversaries whether silver, gold or diamond, of all the reigning sovereigns. A connection to royalty is a significant part of this city's heritage.
One hundred and twenty-five years ago in 1887, the city marked the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria with all kinds of festivities and an unusual occasion added to all the other events - it opened a new park and gave it a name.
A newspaper account from the middle of June 1887 noted that the City of New Westminster had many events to mark the jubilee. There was horse racing, boat racing a royal salute at noon, and a band playing God Save the Queen. In the afternoon they all headed off to a special ceremony in the "public park" that was of great importance to the town.
The paper noted "the whole military force, including artillery and rifles, headed by the band, marched to the park, where quite a number of citizens had assembled." The mayor of the day, Robert Dickinson, "addressed a few appropriate remarks to those present" and then he formally declared the park open. This park, Queen's Park, was "dedicated to the City of New Westminster in honour of Queen Victoria."
We are told that another royal salute was fired with "much enthusiasm and many congratulations." The members of the militia were invited to take part in the refreshments at Holbrook House downtown, there was a bazaar at the drill shed, and a "grand torchlight procession" on the Fraser River during the evening. "The whole affair passed off most successfully."
Further research has shown that this was a rather low-key event, but the city did proudly honour Queen Victoria and her jubilee as it opened, dedicated and named its public park.
Next year, the city will formally mark the anniversary of Queen's Park. This year a lot of information is being gathered about the master plan and future of the park as envisaged by those who use it on a regular or occasional basis.
A final note to think about - this coming weekend, on June 16, New Westminster will formally open and dedicate its newest park area, Westminster Pier Park, as it joins our other waterfront amenities - roughly 125 years after a small citizen ceremony in the bush on the hill opened and named its newest park as well.