1914 The Great Patriotic Rally "For Love and Honour"
Despite its happy appearance, Marmora and indeed the whole country was shrouded with a gloomy prospect. The British Commonwealth, and therefore Canada, was on the brink of the first "war to end all wars".
At first the politicians promised that this was to be a short march to victory. The "Canadian Expeditionary Force" would be made up entirely of volunteers. Patriotic Societies sprang up across the country, to recruit the volunteers. Women started to wear buttons saying "Knit or Fight". Boys quickly chose.
For most of our soldiers, the war began at the Town Hall. There would be a Patriotic Rally with music, excitement and heroes already in uniform. Before they knew it, boys, who would be lucky if they had seen Belleville, were off to Europe to fight a German Kaiser, hardly knowing if a Kaiser was a man or a donkey. By the end of that war, the village, with a population of 900 would have sent 114 soldiers to the trenches of Europe.
The first Patriotic Rally was held in the new Town Hall on November 11, 1914. Warden Hubbell was chairman of the splendid meeting. The large crowd was stirred by the rich voice of Mr. Frank S. Pearce singing "It's a Long Way to Tipperary", followed by "La Marseillaise" by Mrs. Thompson of Deloro.
Into the middle of the Hall marched a number of little girls and boys dressed as Belgian children, accompanied by a little cart holding another child and pulled by a dog.
From above in the gallery, the Deloro Orchestra and a choir of fifty voices provided rousing music. During one of the choruses, "Misses Beryl Hubbell, Olive Deacon and Cora McCracken marched onto the stage dressed and carrying flags to represent France, Belgium and Serbia."
The Excitement was infectious. Fifteen volunteers were enrolled and they agreed to leave Marmora on the very next morning. Each one was immediately presented with a five dollar bill, and a promise of a wrist watch to be sent shortly. Of the fifteen, only George Johns was married and he was presented with a life insurance policy with a payout of $1,000.00. The Marmora Orange Lodge presented twelve of the recruits with "a neat pocket New Testament, printed on India paper and bound in khaki coloured leather."
If the war began for Marmora's boys at the Town Hall, it was only fitting that it should be at the Town Hall that they were welcomed home. On Dec. 3, 1919, the Soldiers Welcome League held a supper and dance in honour of all our returned soldiers. It was hoped "that those who can bring a ladyfriend will do so". Supper was served in the Council Chambers and was to be followed by dancing from "8:30 to 2:00 a.m. to Spragues's Orchestra".
As often happens, the best made plans do not always work out. The motor car carrying the Sprague Orchestra broke down a short distance from Belleville. They sent back for another and arrived very late. Not wasting time, the villagers made of number of presentations, perhaps the most touching to Pte. Michael McFarlane. In his eagerness he had probably been the first from Marmora to enlist. He soon arrived at the battlefields of the Western Front. In one of the great battles, his great misfortune was to lose the sight of both eyes.
Later, the Premier, William Hearst, personally attended a "monster picnic" at the fairgrounds to thank the community. Between four and five thousand attended.