Cairn of Peace marks 60th anniversary

September 14, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Anne Thompson

Each and every day, thousands of motorists travel through Caledon Village on Highway 10 and there are probably very few alive today who know or remember that it was along this busy stretch of highway that the World once flocked.

They came by the thousands for a plowing trifecta—an International Plowing Match, a Canadian Plowing Match and a World Plowing Match.

150,000 in fact, according to the newspaper clippings reporting on the success of the World Plowing Match held on the 1,700-acre farm of Conn Smythe’s, one of the Caledon Walk of Fame recipients.

And today, tucked ever so discreetly off to the side of this busy thoroughfare in the heart of the Village is the only remaining reminder of that remarkable event that put Caledon on the world stage—a Cairn of Peace.

Ten years earlier, the very first world Plowing Match was held in Cobourg and the organizing committee wanted to establish a permanent means of commemorating the important event. 

The idea of a cairn dedicated to peace was the brainchild of Imperial Oil Limited’s J.D. Thomas, who made the suggestion with the hope the idea would be continued by each successive host country. 

While the very first cairn was unveiled in Cobourg about two years after the event it was crafted in a traditional design of local stone affixed with a cast iron plough on top. At that time the hope was that all successive cairns would be fashioned in the same design, but instead each host country has developed their own unique design to personalize and commemorate their site. 

However, one design feature introduced by Great Britain the following year in 1956 did find favour among successive hosts.

That particular cairn included a block of native stone from each of the competing countries, a concept that has become a permanent feature for all future Cairn designs.

According to God Speed the Plow, a historical account written by John Fennell, a former Secretary Manager of the Ontario Plowmen’s Association (OPA), a tablet of granite measuring 16 cm by 8 cm and engraved with the name of their country on it is brought each year to the contest to be built into the host cairn.

In this way, an actual physical part of every competing country is left behind on the host nation’s soil, “to remain there forever in a single structure emblematic of the fellowship of common interest symbolized by the humble plow.”

Since then, the unveiling of the Cairn of Peace has been an important part of each annual World Plowing Match.

In 1963 the World Plowing Match made a return appearance to Canadian soil and it was the design by the Swiss team of Alfred Knecht and John Berchtold of Brampton that was chosen by the Canadian Plowing Council from amongst the six designs under consideration.

The eight-foot, two-ton concrete globe was backgrounded by the beautiful Credit stone with the 18 native stone insignias supplied by the 18 competition nations and the insignia of the World Plowing Organization (WPO) embedded on the surface. All of the other materials were from within the then County of Peel.

The Cairn of Peace was unveiled in Caledon on Saturday, October 12, 1963, but at the suggestion of Conn Smythe after the match it was moved by its designers and builders Knecht and Berchtold from its initial installation site in the centre of Tented City to its permanent site in front of the then-new Caledon Township offices.

The inscription reads: This Cairn of Peace commemorates the 11th World Ploughing Contest held on the Conn Smythe Farms, Caledon, October 10 & 11, 1963. Similar Cairns arising around the world promote peace and plenty. May this Cairn truly be a memorial to peace and goodwill among nations.

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