Anvil Salute Endures

The first time I was assigned to cover the Hyack Anvil Battery’s annual Victoria Day salute to the Queen, I heeded all the precautions from my photo colleagues; wear earplugs and keep my mouth open to help dissipate the concussion from the gunpowder blast. And prepare for the cacophony of car alarms from around the neighbourhood that answers every concussion.

The event itself perplexed and captivated me.

Any time people gather to blow things up, there’s the potential for great photos. Dress in bright red historical costumes, repeat the explosions 21 times and, well, that’s a good day for any photographer.

Over 25 Victoria Days at the NewsLeader, I missed only a handful of anvil salutes; usually when the spring holiday coincided with my own vacation.

The anvil salute is the perfect New Westminster tradition; steadfastly rooted in the city’s history, quirky in a modern context. Its origin was an improvised solution by the city’s fire brigade when a cannon wasn’t available for the annual salute to be fired on Queen Victoria’s birthday. One of the members, a former Royal Engineer, recalled seeing gunpowder placed between two anvils to create a cannon-type concussion.

Blacksmith Thomas Ovens, who would go on to become Mayor, donated a pair of anvils and members of the brigade set to work experimenting with the amount of gunpowder needed to create the desired explosions without blowing off anyone’s head or hands. The ceremony has endured ever since. Continue reading “Anvil Salute Endures”