Monday, March 12, 2007

Islands Heritage Returns To Islands Hospital

On Tuesday, February 27th, 2007, the bell from the original Islands hospital, Hôpital Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde chapel was donated to the Islands Center for Health and Social Services (CSSS), by Gilbert Cormier. In a grand unveiling event, held at the reception area in the hospital, an audience of about fifty people, including the hospital administration, watched while the sheet fell, revealing the piece of work. The bell’s value was greatly increased by the exceptional work that had been done to restore it to it's original splendor.

The restoration work on the bell was a collaboration of three island artists. Jacques Charest, who conceived the idea. He is known for his work on the new, permanent exposition hall at the Museum de la Mer. Cabinet maker Germain Bourgeois has generiously donated his time and efforts to the project because, “if it is for the hospital, it’s free. I have had good health care at the Islands hospital.” Metal smith Henry Bourque is well known on the islands for his detailed work, in the ‘yellow’ metals.

This bell is a bronze instrument that weighs 225 pounds, has a diameter of 23 inches and is 19 inches tall. It rings clear, loud and resonating, in the musical “fa” note. Mr. Cormier rang the bell, which could be heard clearly at great distances. It has the raised number ‘225', near its crown and the words, ‘Hôpital, Notre Dame de la Garde, Cap aux Meules’, the figure of Mary and a crucifix placed on its shell. A brass plaque is attached to the frame work, explaining the donation by Mr. Cormier. "Cloche du premier hopital inaugure en 1939. Un don de Gilbert Cormier. Assiste de Jacques Charest, concept, Germain Bourgeois, ebenisterie, Henry Bourque, ferronnerie." ("Bell of the first hospital, inaugurated in 1939. A donation of Gilbert Cormier. Assisted by Jacques Charest, conception, Germain Bourgeois, cabinetmaker, Henry Bourque, metalsmith")

The bell also carries the mark of the company, Willis of Montreal and the stamp of the casting company, ‘Paccard d’Annecy-le-Vieux’ in France. This last company has been in existence since 1796, has been known to run the world’s largest bell, a piece that weighs 33 tons and has placed more than 100,000 bells world wide.

The recovery of the bell from the original hospital is accredited to Denis Laporte, who dug it out of the truck box, that was removing the scrap, after the old hospital was torn down, in 1993. He kept the bell in his basement until he decided to move his family to Montreal in 1995, at which time he offered the bell to his neighbour, Gilbert Cormier, on the condition that it never leaves the Magdalen Islands. Mr. Cormier accepted the bell, swearing that, “one day I will improve its value and return it to it’s rightful place, where everyone can admire it.”

“I have been interested in collecting utilitarian marine objects such as compasses, wheels, clocks, barometers and bronze bells, which hold a significance in navigation, whether they serve to determine direction or the changing of work shifts,” Mr. Cormier said. “When my neighbour offered me the bell, I said that a bell from the hospital or from a boat, it made no difference, because it was an object that was a sign of excellence.”

“A bell is a ‘sign’ which accompanies man in his daily life, in the birth of death, in joy and well and suffering.... It (the bell) is now without doubt in the hospital where it will have the greatest significance,” Mr. Cormier said.

“The day has finally arrived and I am proud to see that it (the bell) is welcomed,” concluded Gilbert Cormier, in his speech to the gathering.

“The CSSS Administration very sincerely and warmly thanks Mr. Cormier, who has permitted the invaluable return,” said Celine Lafrance.


jadey said...

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jadey said...

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jadey said...

Hi, Love your blog and the pics and articles.

Magdalen Islands said...

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