Created By: SFU
Stanley Park’s seawall is a site of Scottish memory. Jimmy Cunningham, a stonemason who immigrated to Vancouver from Scotland in 1910, served with the WW1 Canadian Expeditionary Force before he began his work on the seawall in 1917. In the winter, Cunningham often worked by himself, cutting the granite coping stones for the next season. He was recognized for his hard work in 1931 and became the master stonemason for the Vancouver Parks Board. Although Cunningham retired in 1955, he continued to return to the site so he could supervise the crew building the seawall and examine its progress.
The Daily Special column of The Vancouver Sun comments that the construction of the seawall had become one of Cunningham’s life’s obsessions and nothing could prevent him from completing his vision--not even the time that he was sick with pneumonia. Cunningham was still able to find a way to show up on the seawall wearing his pajamas and a topcoat because he did not think that any work could be done without him.
The construction of the seawall was not an easy process as stormy weather and roaring waves would destroy the unfinished wall, delaying its completion. After working on and off at the job for thirty-two years, Cunningham earned himself the title the “grand old man of the seawall.” Unfortunately, Cunningham died in September 29, 1963, before the wall was finished, but he did manage to successfully complete 6.3-kilometers on the 8.8-kilometer route around Stanley Park. Cunningham’s dedication to his craft is honored by a plaque near Siwash Rock and by the burial of his ashes in an unmarked spot at the seawall.
The plaque from the Board of Parks and Public Recreation on 1963 reads:
“To The Memory Of
The Stanley Park Seawall Is Evidence
Of His Dedicated Work of 32 Years”
Bibliography: Brissenden, Constance, and Larry Loyie. “The History of Metropolitan Vancouver’s Hall of Fame.” The History of Metropolitan Vancouver. Web. 16 May 2017.
Griffin, Kevin, and Terri Clark. ‘Grand old man of the seawall’: For 32 years, a crusty Scot worked on and off at the job of building the seawall but didn’t see it completed.” Vancouver Sun. 4 Feb. 2015. Web. 14 May 2017.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Scotland Walks Vancouver