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Built to last: New North Novies mural dedicated in ceremony at Amherst Town Hall


AMHERST, N.S. – Making a building-sized mural is no small task, especially when you know the men it’s dedicated to.

“Old blue eyes, Earl Gouchie. He was one of the North Novies I worked with in 1998,” said Jennifer Cormier, while pointing to the only soldier on the mural painted with bright, blue eyes. “He was a character. They were all characters. They were fun to work with.”

Back in 1998, Cormier was commission to paint a mural in memory of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders on the wall of the former Dunlop Hardware building on the corner of Havelock and Ratchford Street.

She worked closely with about 10 of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders who fought in the Second World War.

“We brainstormed for about a year,” said Cormier, who is from Nappan. “They told me what they wanted in it, and I did a little water colour painting for them. That painting is at the North Nova Scotia Highlander Museum.”

That watercolour painting was complete in 1999.

“Then they had to get the funds, so it wasn’t until 2005 before I actually painted the mural.”

Cormier had reservations about painting on the concrete wall at the Dunlop Hardware building.

“Paint on concrete is not the best combination. When I put the painting tape on to do my lines, the green painters tape, it fell right off the concrete,” said Cormier. “At the same time, the mural was there and the North Novies were there, and they had their celebration.”

The dedication ceremony was held on Aug. 11, 2005. Since then all of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders members who fought in the Second World War have died.

“It was good they got to the ceremony and got to see it,” said Cormier.

The original mural has since deteriorated beyond repair, and in 2017 the town decided to create a replica of the original mural on the side of the town hall building that faces out on Laplanche Street.

In Sept. of 2017, Cormier agreed to create a replica of the original mural.

The new mural, which she started in July of 2018, is painted on 24 sections of 8x4 plywood.

“Being able to work with wood and actually cut it versus just painting on the concrete made it a little more exciting,” said Cormier.

Working with wood also allowed her to give the mural 3D effects.

“Overall, I like the pop-outs,” said Cormier. “I like that I was able to have the piper popping off the wall.”

The deadline for completion was Nov. 1.

“I finished just before the deadline,” said Cormier. “I really pushed it because I was working as well, so I worked Saturday and Sunday and had no days off for about three months.”

She said she was happy to revisit the project 20 years after its inception.

“It’s kind of like my baby,” she said.

She believes this new mural will last much longer than the old one.

“I primed it three times and painted it on good wood. The paint is not going to come off the wood,” said Cormier, who immediately walks over the mural gives it a wrap with her knuckles and says, ‘I had better knock on wood.’

She says she has been very honoured to work on the mural.

“I’m glad people care enough about it to invest enough in it,” she said. “Hopefully this one will last a while. There’s no reason it won’t.”

Holding back tears during the dedication ceremony, Amherst mayor David Kogon said:

“The original mural, like the new one, honours the memory of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders, an infantry regiment that was formed in Amherst at the start of the Second World War, landed in France on D-Day, June 6, 1944, and fought with distinction across Europe until the end of the war in May 1945.

“Four-hundred and eighty-six North Novies paid the supreme sacrifice helping to keep Canada a free and democratic society.”

The new mural cost $25,000, which includes the artist fee, materials, lighting, installation and landscaping.

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