Candlelight tours showcase Fort Malden in new “light”

 

 

By Jolene Perron

 

Guests had a chance to see Fort Malden by candlelight Saturday evening, a new tour idea, which their interpretation officer hopes will continue.

“We decided to do the candlelight tour this year to really showcase some of the evening stories of the history of The Fort,” explained Alex Dale, interpretation officer at Fort Malden Historic Site. “Not just the military history but some of the other stories, from the lunatic asylum period, to the establishment of the historic site itself, a lot of the stories that we really don’t talk about during the day. We focus more on the actions and the battles and events of the War of 1812 or the Rebellions of 1837 and the daily lifestyle of the soldiers, we don’t really talk about a lot of the evening aspects.”

Fort Malden National Historic Site of Canada offered a candlelight tour last Saturday night. Their next event is this week’s Haunted Fort, run in conjunction with the House Youth Centre.

Dale explained, the tour didn’t just involve storytelling but there were even re-enactors on the grounds in period uniforms playing games, cooking in the cookhouse, and on guard duty. He said it’s very different from what they’re doing next week, which is the Haunted House Tours with The House Youth Centre. While that is more of a spooky, jump out at you sort of thing, this weekend’s events were more educational while still casting a new “light” on the stories of Fort Malden.

One of the stories Dale shared was the mass desertion of soldiers from the 89th regiment. He explained, soldiers were on guard duty, which was a standard, 24-hour shift. Their job was two-fold – to watch out for anybody who might be approaching The Fort and also to try to stop any soldiers who might desire to run away from deserting.

“Little did anybody think the guards themselves would be doing the deserting,” Dale said.

At quarter to one in the morning Feb. 24, one of the guards, shouted “all is well.” It was repeated all the way along. Then the next 15-minute interval he shouted “all is well” and there was nothing. There was no return, so he then shouted “all is not well” and the sergeant of the guard came running. A total of 12 soldiers had deserted that night, and as far as they have found with any documents they have tried to research, they were never found.

“I enjoy storytelling,” said Dale. “It’s my passion, as an interpreter. It also helps me with my own learning and my own passion in historical research because now I can find other stories and share them in a different light than some of the more normal stories we tell. For me it’s a new and exciting, and fairly enjoyable event. I’m hoping that it’s something we can carry on and do in the future as well.”

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