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Guelph marks 150 years since birth of ‘In Flanders Fields’ author John McCrae

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Guelph, Ont., is marking the 150th anniversary of the birth of Lt. Col. John McCrae whose famous poem In Flanders Fields and the red poppies depicted have become a prominent symbol of remembrance for Canada’s war veterans.

A doctor, soldier and poet, McCrae was born in Guelph on Nov. 30, 1872, and served in the First World War, including in the Second Battle of Ypres where he wrote the famous poem on May 3, 1915.

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To commemorate McCrae’s birth, the Guelph Civic Museum has launched a new exhibition called Witnessing War.

“McCrae was a keen observer of people and places. In addition to his letters and poetry, he created many sketches over his lifetime,” said museum spokesperson Julia Busatto.

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“Although the poet McCrae is often celebrated, Witnessing War takes a closer look at his drawings, in graphite and ink, many of which are held in Guelph Museums’ collection. Considered together, McCrae’s poems and drawings offer an impression of his inner solitude.”

The exhibition will be open until Dec. 4.

The museum is also leading a guided tour through Europe in August, tracing McCrae’s footsteps in Belgium and France.

In addition to visiting key sites including Essex Field Dressing Station, Canadian National Vimy Memorial, In Flanders Fields Museum and Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery, the tour will include a memorial event at McCrae’s gravesite at Wimereux Communal Cemetery.

Read more: ‘It’s really a hometown story’: John McCrae honoured in Guelph

This is the second time Guelph Museums has led a McCrae-inspired tour through Europe. In 2018, the museum guided 30 travellers to mark the 100th anniversary of his death.

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McCrae House, his birthplace and now a museum, is also launching a city-wide poppy planting campaign to commemorate his legacy.

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The museum has partnered with the City of Guelph’s Horticulture Greenhouse team to plant poppies in 150 different locations around town.

They are also giving away complimentary bundles May 13-14.

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