A Photograph With Many Stories!

Back in 2014 I put together a piece on a photograph taken by the famous photographer Yousuf Karsh.

Here is a summary of the article:

A once-lost photograph by master photographer Yousuf Karsh of Anglican Chaplain William Cole blessing an officer in the RCMP chapel in Regina, will soon hang in a prominent place in the RCMP training academy. The photograph was found covered in layers of dust in old storage space in the officers’ mess, says a report in the Saskatchewan Anglican. It was found by then Inspector Dale Sheehan, who said he “knew there was something special about this – it was majestic.” The inspector immediately called the Anglican chaplain, Rev. Allan Higgs, to come and see it. A retired RCMP staff sergeant, Ken Barker, recognized the photo as Mr. Karsh’s work. For years Mr. Barker had researched the history of the RCMP chapel, the oldest building in Regina. He said he had been looking for the photograph for six years. Mr. Barker said he started to look for the photo after he found reports of Mr. Karsh’s visits in an old chaplain’s record and later found an article about a visit Mr. Karsh made to the RCMP building. Maclean’s magazine had commissioned Mr. Karsh to do 18 photo essays from December 1952 to January 1954. The find at the “Depot” was one of four photos that appeared in a February 1953 article, Portrait from the Plains. 


Fast forward to 2018 through the wonders of internet and e-mail I received a message from Veteran Garth Hampson, Reg # 19201, who is forever known as the voice heard with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Band.  Garth added much more information related to the Chapel and the Karsh photograph.

Garth Hampson – Regimental #19201

The member kneeling in the photo is using a lectern or pre-dieu (a piece of furniture for use during prayer, consisting of a kneeling surface and a narrow upright front with a rest for the elbows or for books) carved for the chapel at “Depot” by Gerald Spring-Rice.

Gerald Spring-Rice was part of an English baronial family. According to Garth the Spring-Rice family came from their well-placed life style in England to homestead south of Pense, Sask. Garth as a member of “A” Troop of 56 rode west with his troop and their Riding Instructor, Harry Armstrong, from “Depot” to Pense for daily exercise rides.

Gerald Spring-Rice attended Garth’s church in Moose Jaw, St. Johns Anglican church (now St. Aidans). While there he carved a unique mahogany cover to the font at the narthex of the church. The cover lifts up from a marble base on a pulley system when used for baptisms. Garth states, “it is unique to any I have seen in the world and I have sung in all the main Cathedrals of England and France.” Spring-Rice left farming and returned to England where he joined the military for service in WW I. He was killed in action May 26, 1916, serving as a Lieutenant with the British Army, 11th Battalion, Border Regiment. It is believed he was the oldest soldier to die in the war at 54 years of age. The story does not stop there.

His brother Sir Cecil Spring-Rice became the Ambassador from the Court of St. James to Washington and it was he who came to Washington to talk Woodrow Wilson to join in the fight against the Germans – which they eventually did. On that trip, Cecil came to visit his friend, the Gov. Gen. of Canada and died overnight in Rideau Hall. He is buried in Beechwood Cemetery here. It was he who wrote the well-known hymn “I vow to Thee My Country”. Music for this was put on the hymn by Gustav Holst. It is thought that he dedicated this writing to the memory of his brother Gerald, the man who made the pre-dieu for the “Depot” Chapel.

It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Little did Yousuf Karsh realize that a simple picture taken in 1954 would capture so much history of the “Little Chapel on the Square.”

Thank you to Veteran Garth Hampson for sharing his knowledge of the pre-dieu and the man who made it.

Author banner for Veteran Ric Hall

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