A Visit to Mount Pleasant Cemetery

Dear Readers, my father-in-law, Richard Bolitho, is laid to rest in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto, and so we always make a point of visiting his memorial when we come to Canada. It will be ten years since he died on 11th May – he was run down by a car on his way home from an appointment with his cardiologist, who had just given him a clean bill of health. He was an engineer, and had stopped to chat with the builders who were working on some condominiums close to where he lived. Realising that he was running late he turned to cross the road, and was knocked down. The builders apparently scaled a six foot fence to see if they could help, but it was too late. We still miss his wry sense of humour, his old-world charm and his fund of knowledge about all things to do with energy and construction.

Mount  Pleasant is a haven for wildlife and is a fine arboretum. We saw a fox run past (too quickly for me to get a photograph), but the squirrels are everywhere, and very tame they are too. I have a sneaking suspicion that someone feeds them. The fellow below leaves us in no doubt that it’s the breeding season. Apologies to anyone of a sensitive disposition.

And then there’s this American Red Squirrel(Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) – what a little charmer! These animals defend a year round territory, and primarily eat the seeds of spruce trees – the fallen scales and cones fall and form something known as a midden. If I’d known this in advance of my encounter, I’d have kept my eyes open to see if I could see such a thing. In the breeding season, the female, who only comes into oestrus for one day, is hotly pursued by males, and will mate with any that are fast enough to catch her – it’s the act of mating that stimulates ovulation. The female will give birth to three or four young, and will move these between nests that she creates in trees in her territory. But apart from mating and rearing young, these are very asocial rodents, who spend less than 1% of their time with other squirrels (and most of that is chasing rivals who’ve encroached on their territory).

American Red Squirrel

We also found the grave of William Lyon Mackenzie, who was Prime Minister of Canada several times. What a modest grave, and somehow very Canadian.

I was very moved by this memorial to Jason Edward Winston Churchill, a firefighter for over 30 years who died of cancer aged only 50 years old. His colleagues described him as a man who was ahead of his time – he was thinking about using drones to assess the extent of fires before anyone had even heard of them. Inscribed on the statue are the words ‘Brothers Who Stand Together Cannot Fall Alone’.

And the cherries are coming into blossom. Apparently the cherry trees in High Park in Toronto are expected to peak this weekend, and there will be crazy amounts of traffic in the area. By that time, we will be heading back to London, but it was lovely to see some blossom in much quieter surroundings here.

And  finally, here are a few graves that caught my eye while I was wandering through the cemetery. The one below has a most unusual design.

George Pears established Toronto’s first spice and coffee mill at Yonge and Alexander Street in the 1850s, and, after retiring from this business in the 1880s, embarked on a second career in real estate, at which he was evidently also very successful.

The design of headstones in Toronto is very different from those back in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery – they are lower and somehow stockier, maybe to survive the extremes of temperature and the snow. I love the way that this tombstone is nestled between the trunks of the tree, almost as if it’s being embraced.

And finally, just a quick shot showing the variety of trees and gravestones in the cemetery – in this photo there are three different fonts, two different materials and yet the whole scene  is harmonious. Mount Pleasant is such an interesting place, and well worth a visit if you’re in Toronto.



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