June 15th, 2024

New society helping British-Canadians to deepen roots

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on May 30, 2024.

Herald photo by Alejandra Pulido-Guzman Connor Shaw, president of the British-Canadian Society of Lethbridge, raises awareness about forgotten holidays by handing out oak leaf pins to celebrate Royal Oak Day on Wednesday at Henderson Lake Park.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

A small but mighty new society is hoping to help British-Canadians to deepen their roots – like an oak tree – back to their home country and resurrect some forgotten holidays such as Royal Oak Day, also known as Restoration Day.

What started as a social media group where British-Canadians had the opportunity to join and share their heritage, has evolved into a society, led by a young 18-year-old president whose goal is to bring back forgotten holidays.

To celebrate Royal Oak Day, Connor Shaw, president of the British-Canadian Society of Lethbridge, was at Henderson Lake Park on Wednesday distributing oak leaf lapel pins to those who helped him raise funds for the society.

“Today is Royal Oak Day, also known as Restoration Day. It’s a very forgotten holiday. It gets its origins from the restoration of King Charles II in 1660, May 29 and basically, it’s a celebration of the history and the victory over the Cromwellians in the English Civil War,” said Shaw.

He said the holiday was celebrated by wearing an oak leaf pin close to one’s heart. This is why society members handcrafted 55 oak leaf felt pins to be distributed when receiving a minimum $1 donation.

After the event was over, Shaw said he was able to connect with 40 people and 33 of them received pins from donating to the society.

“We are trying to raise awareness for this forgotten holiday. It’s still celebrated in places in England where they decorate statues of Charles II. In Castleton for example, they have a Garland king who dresses head to toe in oak leaves and rides around the city,” said Shaw.

As the society is in its inception, Shaw and other members are trying to “get it off the ground,” and in the spirit of doing everything in the most formal way possible, they are collecting funds to incorporate the society, pay for the fees that come along with it and the nuance report.

“We’re just trying to make a name for ourselves here in Lethbridge and try to encourage cultural participation amongst British-Canadians because you don’t see a lot of British Canadians active in their culture and in their cultural community,” said Shaw.

He said one of their goals to facilitate that for those who want to be more involved in their culture, to create a community where members can get to know one another, share their stories and celebrate their heritage.

Royal Oak Day was their second event and Shaw said they will continue to celebrate British holidays, those that are forgotten as well as those fresh in everyone’s mind.

“St. George’s Day last month was great. We had 60 people out here. Saint George is the patron saint of England and it was his day on April 23,” said Shaw.

For that day, as well as Royal Oak Day, Shaw was handing out pamphlets with information about British history, why Canada keeps ties with the Crown, why it is important to get to know your roots if you are British-Canadian among other information.

Shaw decided to create the society because he realized Lethbridge did not have one specifically for British-Canadians.

“There’s German-Canadians, Indian-Canadians, Chinese-Canadians, etc. There’s all these other clubs and societies and there really isn’t one for British-Canadians. And in Canada, a staggeringly, 46 per cent of the Canadian population is self-identified as British Canadian,” said Shaw.

He said at the moment they are formalizing a board. So far, he is the president and they are hoping to establish a treasurer, secretary and other roles soon.

“We’ve talked with the Army, Navy, Air Force Veterans Hall and we’ve had a lot of great connections with them. We’re going to be working together to provide space for proper informal meetings,” said Shaw.

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I agree, if every other group can celebrate their heritage, we also should celebrate it. Perhaps next year, you could arrange to have the British Flag flown at City Hall, as other groups do during their celebrations?
I classify myself as being Canadian, being the 4th generation here, but many of the early pioneers in this area were British which included my relatives who have had a presence here since the 1870’s.
We should celebrate our heritage, which should include traditional foods served during these events. Great idea!

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