During a research trip to Bowen Road Cemetery in Nanaimo on 14 January 2017 I made an unfortunate and disturbing discovery: the grave stone of a deceased Freemason has been vandalized and defaced, presumably because of the Masonic Square and Compasses carving prominently displayed on it.
The grave stone is that of Joseph Foy, a member of Ashlar Lodge No. 3 who died in 1915 while trying to rescue trapped coal miners in a flooded mine shaft.
Bro. Joseph Foy’s gravestone depicted a very well executed Square and Compasses in marble, which faced the roadway in Bowen Road Cemetery. The photo below, which I took in 2014, shows how it appeared before being vandalized and defaced.
Here is how it appeared on 14 January 2017.
Someone has smeared a layer of concrete over the carving of the Square and Compasses on Joseph Foy’s grave.
I am speculating that this was done because Brother Joseph Foy’s grave is immediately adjacent to the road which runs through Bowen Road Cemetery and someone has taken exception to the Masonic Square and Compasses being prominently displayed in a very visible location immediately adjacent to the road.
The opposite side of Joseph Foy’s headstone also displays a Square and Compasses carving, identical to the one which has been smeared with concrete, but this carving has not been touched. The photo below shows how it appeared on January 14, 2017:
I am speculating that the vandal(s) did not see the Square and Compasses carving on the opposite side of the Joseph Foy headstone since it faces away from the road. Whatever the reason, this Square and Compasses carving on the opposite side of the Joseph Foy gravestone has not, so far at least, been vandalized, damaged or defaced.
On 23 January 2017 I attended an historical lecture at the Congregation Emanu-El synagogue in Victoria which was also attended by representatives of the Old Cemeteries Society of Victoria. I spoke with the President of the Old Cemeteries Society about the Joseph Foy grave defacement and showed him the photos above. He says that the concrete can be removed but there are specialized techniques for doing so. He recommends against simply taking a Dremel or similar rotary tool to the grave stone and scraping this concrete off the marble gravestone.
The Old Cemeteries Society has a member who has done restorative work on similarly defaced and vandalized grave stones and the Old Cemeteries Society recommends having that person look at the Joseph Foy grave before any attempts at restoration are made.
I will be having further conversations with the Old Cemeteries Society about this. I am hopeful we can arrange a joint project between the Nanaimo Masonic Lodges and the Old Cemeteries Society to remedy the damage done to the Joseph Foy grave stone.
In the meantime, we need to be aware that a person or persons has/have deliberately targeted, vandalized and defaced a Masonic symbol on the grave of a deceased Brother – a coal mine manager who died trying to rescue coal miners trapped in a flooded mine shaft – and we need to be keeping a watchful eye on other grave markers which display Masonic symbols.
I will be taking a walk through Bowen Road Cemetery at the earliest opportunity to see whether other Masonic graves have been attacked. Anyone who wants to join me can contact me at email@example.com
I will update this post as we look into restorative work on the Joseph Foy grave.
W.B. Mark Anderson
Historian and Webmaster
Ashlar Lodge No.3
A note to the person(s) who defaced Joseph Foy‘s grave:
Here is a photo of the man whose grave you desecrated. He was a coal mine manager who went into a flooded mine shaft in an attempt to rescue trapped miners and died trying to save the lives of others.
We have also been advised that B.C. musician David Gogo has written a song about the South Wellington mine flooding in February 1915. His great-grandfather died in this mine flooding.
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2 thoughts on “Masonic Gravestone Defaced In Bowen Road Cemetery”
Thank you for taking the time to post this very important story and also for taking up this cause. The erosion of grave monuments over time is one thing but to be vandalized is quite different. We had a situation here in Toronto, a few years ago where a large number of (only Jewish) monuments were upturned and many were broken. It finally stopped and I believe in part due to the immense outcry and publicity it received. Cemeteries are on sacred ground and should be treated as such. The punishment for this type of behavior should be severe
We agree with you completely and we will keep you posted on restoration efforts.
Thanks for your comments and, on behalf of Ashlar Lodge No.3, fraternal greetings to you and please convey our fraternal greetings to your Lodge.