PEI

Sir John A. Macdonald's gold watch impresses students

A pocket watch owned by the first prime minister of Canada went on a recent field trip to a Summerside school.

Students take selfies with Sir John A. Macdonald's gold watch

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      A pocket watch owned by the first prime minister of Canada has proven popular with students at a Summerside school.

      The watch was brought out for a special display at Summerside Intermediate recently, as part of the celebration of the 200th anniversary of Sir John A. Macdonald's birth. He was born on Jan. 11, 1815.

      Students were able to get a close look at the 136-year-old watch that is still in its original leather case.

      "That's pretty wonderful that we ended up with this important artifact in Summerside," said Fred Horne, the archivist at the MacNaught History Centre in Summerside.

      The watch was given to the centre as a gift 15 years ago.

      The pocket watch was a gift to Macdonald. The inscription inside the 18-carat gold watch reads, "From the Conservative Working men of Toronto, To John A Macdonald, January 9th,1878."

      Shortly before he died, Macdonald gave the watch to Sir Joseph Pope who worked closely with the prime minister.

      Pope was from P.E.I., the son of Islander William Henry Pope who was one of the Fathers of Confederation.

      After Pope's death, the watch was passed down through the Pope family. Then in 1960s, it was given as a gift to a Conservative MP from Nova Scotia named Robert Coates. He kept the watch for 35 years.

      A descendant of Pope asked Coates to donate the watch to the MacNaught History Centre 15 years ago.

      The watch is usually kept in a glass case at the centre. Horne wears white gloves when handling the artifact.

      Students at Summerside Intermediate were impressed with the watch.

      "Several of them took a selfie with Sir John A's watch, and I'd say that's probably the first time that's ever happened," said Horne.

      Grade 9 student Dylan Corbett is a history buff. He said it was a great thing for people to see because it's a piece of significant Canadian history.

      "You know when you're taking a picture with that watch, you're basically taking a picture with the first prime minister of Canada. So you know, his spirit lives in that watch."

      Horne said he does not have any plans to take the watch on more field trips this year. But he encourages anyone interested to visit the centre to see the historic time piece in person.

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