Ahead of the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion, St. John’s Anglican Church and Veith House are partnering to honour the lives of the children and staff lost at the Halifax Protestant Orphanage.
24 children, along with three matrons of the orphanage were among the 2000 people killed when two ships collided in Halifax Harbour on the morning of Dec. 6, 1917.
“Most of those would have descendants, children or great- grandchildren that can remember them. Especially on the anniversary of the Halifax Explosion,” said Pastor Randy Townsend.
Townsend said the memorial service is his parish’s way of honouring the children who may otherwise have been forgotten.
Their grave site at St. John’s Cemetery has recently been cleaned with new memorial installed alongside the old ones.
“As a parish, we look at it and say what could we do but honour them? Remind ourselves and others that may join us that they’re children of God just like everyone and they deserve our love and our care and respect even after their passing,” he said.
Built as a replacement for the destroyed orphanage in 1924, the building now known as Veith House sits about a half block away from the original site.
Given that the Halifax Explosion took place during the First World War, it’s believed the matrons of the orphanage thought the city was under attack and decided to seek shelter for themselves and the children.
“With the 27 children they had the mindset to bring them down into the basement, which would have been the safest part of the building,” said Gail Gardiner, executive director of Veith House.
“Sadly, 24 children were lost and three matrons were lost. But there were three children who survived and a matron so I think we have to remember them for that heroism.”
When orphanages became a thing of the past in the 1970s, Veith House began serving the North End as a community centre, continuing a legacy of helping children.
Gardiner said she believes they have a responsibility to honour the lives of the children and the women who tried to save them.
“It’s important for all of us to remember the Halifax Explosion in terms of how it impacted the city of Halifax, how so many people came forward to help at that time and really step up and be caring and try to manage something that was just a significant tragedy,” she said.
The memorial service is planned for Sunday, Dec. 3 at 2 p.m. at St. John’s Cemetery on the Bedford Highway.