Princess Margriet of The Netherlands visits Goderich - May 18, 2017
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
After months of planning, Princess Margriet of the Netherlands took part in several events in Goderich on Sunday, speaking to thousands who came out to see her.
The Dutch-Canadians Remember as One committee had worked for nearly two years on Sunday’s event, speaking to local councillors and co-ordinating the royal visit with the Dutch government before receiving official word several weeks ago that the princess would be visiting Goderich.
After spending time in Stratford Sunday morning, the princess arrived in Goderich just after 3 p.m. in front of well over 2,000 people, greeting local organizers and veterans and taking her spot on the event stage.
Greetings were brought from Goderich Mayor Kevin Morrison and Huron-Bruce MP Ben Lobb before Princess Margriet addressed the adoring crowd.
Morrison said that May 14, 2017 would be a landmark day in Goderich’s history, while Lobb thanked the millions of Dutch immigrants to Canada who have helped make the country greater.
Princess Margriet then spoke about the Canadian soldiers who gave their lives to liberate Holland in World War II and the special relationship between the two countries.
Princess Margriet also discussed the current state of freedom in many countries throughout the world and said that it isn’t a given that that state will continue, so vigilance is necessary.
To finish the outdoor ceremony, the princess and her husband Professor Pieter van Vollenhoven, unveiled a commemorative plaque at the town’s Liberation Park to memorialize the event.
The couple then attended Goderich’s Trinity Christian Reformed Church for a special concert and the signing of a scroll of remembrance.
Organizer Jim Rutledge said he felt the day couldn’t have gone any better.
“It was so successful. I think it went really well,” Rutledge said.
When Rutledge and his fellow event organizers arrived at Liberation Park for the first time after hosting a pre-event reception for families of fallen soldiers at the church, Rutledge said he was amazed to see how many people had turned up.
While Rutledge was impressed and blown away, he said he wasn’t exactly surprised. He said he know a royal visit, especially from Princess Margriet, would result in a lot of people from Huron County and beyond wanting to attend.
Princess Margriet, he said, is very connected to children and veterans, so he said he could tell she was especially interested to spend time with both veterans and children. Rutledge also said the princess was very down-to-earth in dealing with everyone at the Goderich event.
While it has been a long road and it’s taken a lot of work to host the event and organize the royal visit, Rutledge said it was worth every second to see how successful the event was. It was covered by Canadian national news outlets as well as a number of Dutch journalists who travelled to Canada to cover the royal tour, which continued throughout the week towards Hamilton and the Greater Toronto Area.
The work of the committee is not yet done, however, Rutledge says. While one plaque has already been placed at the park, there are plans for a second, larger plaque that will honour the Huron County soldiers who died liberating Holland in World War II, but the committee wants to wait until all of the families have been located.
Below are the names of the fallen along with their regiments and homes in Huron County: Robert James Elliott of Blyth/Teeswater of the Sherbrooke Fusiliers; Lyle Alexander Evans of Brussels of the South Alberta Regiment; Clifford Roy Fawcett of Dublin of the Lincoln and Welland Regiment; Roderick Alexander Finlayson of Lucknow of the Governor General’s Foot Guards; James Fraser of Clinton/Goderich of the RCAF 424 “Tiger” Squadron; Wilburt Carl Hart of Wingham of the Black Watch Regiment; Leonard Theodore Hoffman of Zurich of the Highland Light Infantry; Lloyd Hood of Brussels of the Lincoln and Welland Regiment; James Jamieson of the Carleton and York Regiment; Kelso James Johnston of Goderich of the Royal Canadian Army Pay Corps; George Francis Kelly of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders; John Earl McSpadden of Walton of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles; Robert James Montgomery of Dungannon of the Lincoln and Welland Regiment; Earl Robert Mugford of Auburn of the Royal Canadian Regiment; Donald McLennan Murray of Seaforth of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry; Thomas Joseph Ryan of Grand Bend of the Highland Light Infantry; Robert Henry Sallows of Goderich of the Essex Scottish Regiment; George Melville Straughn of Auburn of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders; Melvin Taylor of Kippen of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion; and Richard Kenneth Young of Goderich of the Calgary Highlanders.
Anyone with information on these soldiers or their families is encouraged to contact the committee.
For more information on the event or the committee’s continued work in the Huron County community, visit the organization’s website at dutch-canadiansremember.ca