Thursday, July 29, 2010

iPhone Diaries #200: "The Cannon: Old Jeremiah"

The Cannon is one of the most revered sites on the University of Guelph campus. If you're a student at Guelph, you've painted the cannon or you will be painting the cannon at some point during your university career. It sits in the centre of campus, outside of the Univerity Centre, in Branion Plaza. Even on a cold January night, mighty Gryphons will brave the ice to paint a message on the cannon. Here's a little history about "Old Jeremiah":
"The cannon itself is a British naval gun, most probably used in the War of 1812, although there's no concrete proof of that. It was likely made around 1800, during the reign of George III. In fact, if it weren’t the target of repeated painting, it would probably rank as a valuable antique. Sometime between 1878 and 1879, the cannon arrived on the campus, though no one really knows how. During its early years, it was used as a training gun for the Guelph Field Battery. Lieutenant John McCrae, author of "In Flanders Fields" was the commander of the Battery for a while.
Since the cannon arrived here, it has been moved several times. It has been beside the old gardens in front of Johnston Hall, beside Creelman Hall, guarding the old reservoir that used to sit on campus, in front of the Johnston University Centre and in front of the Engineering Building. The last time it was successfully moved was 1973, when engineering students concreted it into Branion Plaza. The last time it was fired was 1914 with a blast so loud that all windows in the area were shattered."
-Tej Gidda, Engineering Alumni Association Newsletter 1998

In 1998, possibly one of the biggest pranks on the Univerity of Guelph campus was pulled off by some creative Engineering students. Here's an account from the Engineering Alumni Association Newsletter:

"One of the biggest pranks in recent memory occurred in 1998. Members of the classes of 95, 97, 98, 99, 00, and 01 combined their skills to relive an old tradition - moving the cannon. While Old Jeremiah had historically been re-located around campus on occasion, this practice became significantly more onerous in 1973 when it was concreted into its current position in Branion Plaza. Onerous, yes, but not impossible to a group of imaginative engineers. Applying the principles of mechanics as learned in their studies, the group constructed a sturdy wooden cart complete with car axle and pivoting castor wheel. On a cold March night, the cannon barrel (weighing in at 6000 lbs!) was slid from its existing base to this new base using only two hydraulic jacks, several hundred feet of rope, and the elbow grease of about a hundred students. Once the gun was on its new base, the cart was wheeled down to the front of the Engineering building (just outside Bill Verspagen’s shop), and the wheels were removed. At the same time, close to eighty other engineers created a snowball-fight distraction amongst the residences at the north end of campus while a second unit released fireworks on the rugby pitch, activities designed to divert the attention of any law enforcement personnel who may have desired to intervene in the Branion Plaza activities. The prank was completely successful and employed no motorized device of any kind.
The following morning, several large lecture halls were diverted to the vicinity of Engineering 100 at the same time, to show off the relocated cannon. Over the next few days, rotating teams of engineering students worked to remove the numerous layers of paint from the cannon as it sat in front of the engineering building, eventually succeeding in getting right down to the cast iron. During this time, the cannon and base were repeatedly vandalized by groups of students who were apparently of the opinion that the Engineers had no business moving the cannon as they did. This culminated about a week later, when some representatives from the OAC student body attempted to drag the cart, without its wheels, back to Branion Plaza. It is rumoured that they destroyed two truck transmissions in so doing, while leaving the cannon dangling several feet from its old home. As this situation was somewhat dangerous, the university brought in a crane to put the cannon back onto its base. It is with some degree of pride to note that the specific mechanics and design process behind the cannon prank of 1998 are annually taught to the frosh class in the first year mechanics course.”

July 28th.

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