Monday, March 8, 2010

Fort Anne's Last Soldier

It must be a strange experience to know that you are the last person to ever do something. You would wake up every day knowing that after you stop there will never be another person to replace your skills or knowledge. It must be an isolating feeling but, obviously, this is not an unheard of experience in the course of human endeavour. Trades and skills pass out of use and spoken languages die all too frequently. For each skill or language that ceases to be used, there must be a last individual. This feeling of being the last person must have been one experienced by Andrew Gilmore, the last soldier at Fort Anne.

Fort Anne (under various names) was an active military station from the time of the arrival of the Scots and the establishment of Charlesfort in 1629. The fort itself passed through many hands but there was always an active military presence. When the regiment marched out and the fort was decommissioned in 1854 certain members of the British military decided to stay in Annapolis Royal. One of these people was Andrew Gilmore who received special permission from Queen Victoria live on the fort grounds for the rest of his life. Here he had a building which housed both his cobbler's shop and his living quarters. He was renowned for his "shoe packs" which evidently combined the qualities of a moccasin with a hard soul and heel. I wonder what life would have been like for this old soldier living in a town that was quickly trying to reinvent itself as a shipping and shipbuilding centre?

In today's archival photograph he is shown standing in the sally port at Fort Anne with the officer's quarters in the background. Even in this picture taken many years after his active service ended, you can still see the military bearing in his pose. Andrew Gilmore died in 1894 at age 78. He lies buried at the garrison cemetery with the epitaph "The last British Soldier to stand sentry on the old fort at Annapolis".

All for now,
RGS

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