Following on from my previous post (Wild Horses Couldn’t Drag Me Away, see below) I wanted to tell another brief story featured in Guy Maddin’s brilliant documentary My Winnipeg (2007).
The formidable circle of overcoated ladies in the picture was formed in the Spring of 1957 to prevent the Winnipeg council from felling a magnificent elm tree. The elm was deemed to be an obstacle to a planned road-building scheme.
The tree had been planted in 1860 and was known as the Wolseley Elm, after the original pioneer family who had farmed the land.
The campaign to save the tree in 1957 was led by a group of feisty women…the photograph below shows that ‘feisty’ is not just a cliché on this occasion.
Direct action like this worked initially, but it had to be backed up by human ingenuity.
The campaign to save the elm was successful when one of the women came up with a brilliant idea. She led a move to persuade the Canadian government to designate the tiny circle of kerbed earth surrounding the tree as a National Park. Tree felling is prohibited within National Park boundaries.
A tale with a happy ending. Errrr…not quite.
As per Leonard Cohen’s great song Tonight Will Be Fine, some things are only fine “for a while”.
In 1958 the head of the private company who held the contract for the road-building project was elected leader of the council. On 31st October of that year the residents of Wolseley Avenue were woken in the night by two loud explosions. The tree had been dynamited and effectively killed. No-one was ever charged let alone convicted.
Feel free to extract and run with any symbolism you may perceive in this story.