John McCrae’s descendant, Liz Turner, reading 'In Flanders Fields' (© Jillian Davidson)

New York event commemorates 'In Flanders Fields'

Posted on on 13 May 2015
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Flanders House in New York held an event on 12 May 2015 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of John McCrae writing his poem 'In Flanders Fields'. Jillian Davidson attended the event for Centenary News.

It has become an annual rite of May in Manhattan for Flanders House to commemorate the fallen in World War One. On a day, proclaimed each year by the city’s mayor as Flanders Field Memorial Day, this year Tuesday May 12th marked the occasion when Flanders House convened its wreath-laying service at the Clinton War Memorial, also known as the In Flanders Fields Doughboy.

Since this May also marked the 100th anniversary of John McCrae’s poem, the last verse of which is inscribed upon the pedestal of the park’s sculpture, it was fitting that the theme of this gathering was the poem itself.

Representatives from Flanders, the US Centennial Commission and Canada spoke at the event.

Geert De Proost, General Representative of the Government of Flanders to the US, said that here in New York, partly because of the poem, the poppy became a symbol of remembrance.

Minister President of the Government of Flanders, Geert Bourgeois, explained how the life and work of John McCrae were inextricably linked with Flanders.

The US WW1 Centennial Commission member, Dr. Libby O’Connell, remarked that even though America would remain neutral for two more years, McCrae’s poem stuck a powerful chord at the time.

And Ambassador Guillermo Rishchynski said he felt honored as the representative of the Canadian government marking the poem’s centenary: “For Canadians, the poem In Flanders Fields is iconic. It is part of our identity and who we are as a people.”

Ambassador Rishchynski’s then introduced Elizabeth Turner, a great-great niece of John McCrae, also the daughter of Canada’s 17th Prime Minister, John Turner, and a lawyer in NY, to recite her ancestor’s poem towards the close of the service (see photo above).

Read more about the anniversary of John McCrae's peom here