Tribute to Katherine Maud MacDonald

As a part of the 2018 Vimy Pilgrimage Award, Jeriann Hsiao wrote a tribute to Nursing Sister Katherine Maud MacDonald, the first Canadian nurse killed in action during the First World War. Hsiao was the first of our pilgrimage participants to choose to pay homage to a Nursing Sister. Read the tribute below.

Dear Katherine,

Brantford has changed so much since you left. I thought this letter was the perfect opportunity to update you. 

Can you believe that Brantford, Brant County, and Six Nations had the highest per capita enlistment rate in the Great War? I was shocked when I heard that! I thought Brantford was the most boring town ever. You see, Brantford is no longer the economic powerhouse it was back in your day. Demand dropped, businesses left, and the city fell apart. But we have started to regain our footing, and I believe remembering our history will play a huge role in the revival of our hometown. 

The biggest testament to our history is the cenotaph across from the armoury. It was designed by Walter Allward, who later designed the Canadian National Vimy Memorial! How cool is it that the same architect of the memorial commemorating the most significant Canadian victory in the entire war also constructed a memorial for Brantford? I visited the cenotaph recently so I could take a picture to show everyone participating in the Vimy Pilgrimage Award program. And there it was – your name for all to see!

Of course, I can’t forget to mention our high school, Brantford Collegiate Institute. I walk by the plaque and portraits commemorating you and the school’s other alumni who were killed in the First World War almost daily. It’s very special that current students can remember our past students so easily. On Remembrance Day, the Grade 10 Laurier class organizes and presents a Remembrance Day assembly to the entire school. I was part of the assembly when I was in Grade 10, and that is a learning experience I will never forget. You and the many other students from our school who never returned home to Brantford will continue to be remembered at BCI. We have not forgotten you and the immense responsibility we have to preserve your legacy.

Visiting the Ring of Remembrance and seeing your name engraved on one of the many panels will be the highlight of the Vimy Pilgrimage Award program. I brought a backpack signed by many BCI staff and students, and I am taking a picture of it alongside your name to show our school that our history is real, and it cannot be dismissed, ignored, or forgotten. I also have the chance to visit a BCI soldier’s grave in Tyne Cot and locate the names of BCI soldiers on the Vimy Memorial and on Menin Gate. I am incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to honour so many BCI students within one week.

Thank you for inspiring me with your courage and selflessness. You have shown me that Brantford women can accomplish great things. Thank you for making me believe in myself and in Brantford.

Lest we forget.


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