Skule Cannon

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Origins of the Cannon

Although it was not until 1936 that the School of Practical Science (also called S.P.S. or Skule) had a cannon of its own, many cannons were honoured previously. In the 1923 Transactions, F.W. Thorold (S.P.S. '00) recalls how he and fellow classmates stole the cannon from in front of the Military Institute.

"Meds soon found out about this and after many battles they captured it. That old cannon frequently passed from Meds to Skule and back again, and the last I remember of it was that it had been dropped between two of the Meds buildings. Oh yes, we sure did shoot it off and broke lots of windows, too."

On November 2, 1905, The Varsity reported that "during Thursday night, five large windows at the School were broken by shots from a small gun or revolver. It will cost $100 in repairs."

Hart House Cannons

The first cannons honoured with the tile 'Skule Cannon' were those in front of Hart House. In 1929, an Engineering caper resulted in the firing of one of the two cannons on the front lawn of Hart House. This however, demonstrated only 50% efficiency, as both cannons were supposed to blow.

Early Cannons

In the early 30's another smaller 'cannon would appear at School festivities and also roar, then mysteriously disappear. And in 1935, during an auction, a cannon was fired on the steps of the old red Schoolhouse with such force that windows were again shattered. Once more it quickly disappeared.

Cannon "Mark 1"

In 1936, School unofficially approached a machinist working in the Civil Engineering shop to create the first "School Cannon". Recognizing the considerable risk he was taking, but also realizing the dangers of students' experiments with explosives in a waterpipe, W.H. Kubbingadecided to help. And so he fashioned a 10" barrel from a piece of axle stock and mounted it on a cast iron pillow block measuring 4" wide, 8" long and 1" deep, with a raised hump in the centre through which a hole was bored to take the barrel. All of this was accomplished in the four hours preceding the School Dinner that evening.

The design of this Cannon was a tribute to engineering technology for it was not only a devastating weapon, but it was equipped with a built-in camouflage. It did not look at all like a cannon, thus deceiving any would be kidnappers.

This fearsome weapon was used until 1950 except for a few times between the years of 1941 and 1943 when a yacht gun was borrowed (really) from a machinist in the basement of the old Engineering building.

Naturally, the unimpeachable appearance and worth of the Cannon was irresistable temptation to anyone who gazed in its direction, but especially to the feeble-minded persons in other faculties.

Cannon Thefts

In 1941, University College stole it but it was instantly returned. And in late 1944, UC stole it again after the Mulock Cup Finals. With cries of war and plans for the elimination of the nuisance at the north end of the circle, SPS undertook a restrained campaign to regain possession. This ended up as a series of ads in the Artsman's Gazette (sometimes called 'The Varsity', often called something else). Naturally, this campaign was a failure, as would be any appeal to an artsman's honour. On February 13, 1945, the UC Lit. announced that the Cannon would be returned at the annual Arts Ball. The 'Toike', in a fit of editorial passion, called it a "dastardly plot... a black infraction of civil property rights." (Feb. 23, 1945). 'The Varsity' said it was "in keeping with the Good Neighbour atmosphere."

However, the hiding place was discovered and the Cannon was forcibly retrieved by a group of intrepid engineers. The Arts Ball was naturally a failure.

Soon the '49 Chariot Races approached. When the first heat was called, a devastating blast was heard. And then it happened.

"1079 Med Pre-meds students, armed with scalpels, tear-gas, thigh-bones, and trained white mice, attacked in a screaming hoard. The battle raged back and forth, to and fro and vice versa. Finally numbers and the massaging skill of the doctors told against the three engineers who did not have a lab at the time. The Cannon disappeared into the Meds building." ('Toike Oike', Feb. 9, 1949).

Negotiations went on for days as the respective values of the Cannon and missing Meds Society Vice-President Bob Hetherington were calculated by a federally appointed mediator. After a few days of debate, the Cannon was returned, marred by an inscription which read, "Captured by Meds 5T2, 3 Feb. 1949."

Cannon "Mark II"

On Christmas day, 1949, there appeared on the doorstep of the Engineering Society a beautiful new weapon showing excellent workmanship. On it was engraved "Skule Cannon". It seemed that Santa had a close friend, a fine machinist who had been working for the Department of Civil Engineering for a long time and had created the first Cannon. In 1950, the Engineering Society honoured W.H. Kubbinga with a scroll extolling his loyalty, courage and good conduct and made him an Honourary Member in Ye Ancient and Honourable Company of Skule Cannoneers with the rank of Sergeant Artificer.

This new Cannon, dubbed the "MArk II" was machined from a cold rolled steel bar of diameter 2" and length of approximately 11". The barrel was mounted on a wheeled carriage fabricated from heavy steel plate. The Cannon weighed 20 lbs. Later on, the wheels and barrel were chrome plated. Its first public appearance was at the Chariot Race of January 27, 1950.

The original "Mark I" Cannon "was returned to pasture in a retreat known only to loyal Skulemen," as recorded in 'The Varsity' of October 6, 1950. But on October 29, 1952, 'The Varsity' headline screamed "SKULE CANNON PRIZE FOR BLOOD CAMPAIGN". The "Mark I" was mounted on a suitable base and enscribed as follows: "Presented to the Forestry winners of the interfaculty blood contest".

The Engineers had also promised that it would be presented annually if they did not win the contest that year. The following year, Forestry won again, followed by St. Michael's College, Nursing, and Forestry. For the 1957-58 campaign, the Engineers became wise and changed the rules. The winner would be declared on a total donation basis, rather than the previous percentage basis. Skule easily won back its Cannon. In the fall of 1959, 'Toike Oike' rumoured that the "Mark I" had been presented to Dean Emeritus C.R. Young.

Thefts of Mark II

Meanwhile, on November 1, 1951, a hastily prepared mimeographed 'Toike Oike' proclaimed an attempt to "make off with Skule's favourite child", the new "Mark II" Cannon. A trio of students, two posing as journalism students from Pennsylvania State had asked for an interview and a chance to see the Cannon the night before. They were quickly escorted to the door, which was securely bolted behind them. Later a car was found nearby revealing UWO (University of Western Ontario) stickers on the windshield. The car accidentally acquired two flat tires before another feeble attempt by the thieves to gain entrance to the Engineering Society.

One fall night in 1958, artsmen broke into the Engineering Stores in an attempt to steal the Cannon. Believing that it was in a safe, they pushed the safe out a window and carried it away; however, their efforts were in vain and only the leniency of Skule kpet them from enjoying an extended vacation (at government expense) in Kingston.

But where artsmen failed, Medsmen succeeded by deceit, as in 1959 the Meds once again made off with the precious tool. To help publicize the blood campaign, the Skule Cannon appeared at the Blood Donor Clinic. It had been guaranteed safe conduct, so the Cannon was without its usual armed bodyguard and was attended by only two Skulemen. After a long battle, the Medsman overpowered the Skulemen and captured the Cannon. After a round of kidnapping, Engineers invaded the Meds building, removed the cleaning staff, faculty and other debris, and boarded up the doors and windows. In the morning, the Meds saw the light and returned the Cannon.

In their kindheartedness, the Engineers gave the Medsmen a replica cannon, and they built a suitable trophy case for their prize. But in a masterful piece of engineering subterfuge, this false cannon was removed from the case (without scratching the glass) and was promptly destroyed.

1959 Cannon

Sadly, in 1959, the score of battles finally took its toll and the faithful Cannon Mark II had to be fitted with a new barrel. This new barrel was machined from a solid stainless steel bar, 12" long and 2-1/2" in diameter. The barrel was initialled by Canoneer Bill Riggs who also oversaw its construction.

In honour of the many battles on which the Cannon accompanied Skule, the 1950 Cannon was immortalized by placing it in the cornerstone of the new Galbraith Building.

The new Cannon was formally fired for the first time on the front campus in the autumn of 1959. It was next used in conjunction with the Lady Godiva Memorial Bnad when the Engineers literally stopped the Homecoming Show for ten minutes while a presentation was made to the director of the show, a former Skuleman.

In the same year, a group from the Brute Force Committee accompanied the Cannon on a complimentary visit to the Victoria College Scarlet and Gold Dance in Alumni Hall. The Middlehouse Four were rendering a tender ballad at the time the gun discharged, and they were stopped dead in the middle of a verse. The BFC then scattered leaflets proclaiming Skule Nite and the Cannon Ball. Later that same year, the Cannon appeared at the UC Junior Common Room to proclaim the At-Home, with more leaflets.

In 1963, when John Adam was Cannoneer, the Cannon Guard was given uniforms for the first time, based on an idea by Dave Morrison. The red-helmeted Cannon guard came into existence.

Injury and Suspension

On September 23, 1964, the Cannon was fired in the Drill Hall at the Engineering Frosh Dance by Canoneer Doug Macdonald. A nurse from Toronto General Hospital was injured in the right arm by a piece of undisintegrated wadding from the cannon muzzle. She had been standing at least 25 feet from the Cannon although 10-15 feet was the recommended distance.

Further activities with the Cannon were banned at the Dean's request, pending a series of tests to be carried out by Professor MacElhinney of the Chemical Engineering Department, to determine a new safe loading and firing procedure. After receiving notice from the nurse's lawyers of their intent to file suit, all plans for testing were suspended indefinitely.

Late in October, permission was obtained to fire the Cannon in the Hart House quadrangle so that it could be recorded for a Lady Godiva Memorial Band record, with the stipulation that Professor MacElhinney be there to supervise. Soon a revised loading procedure was developed. Black powder, by virtue of its dependability and insensitivity to packing pressure, replaced smokeless powder.

Since no more was heard from the lawyers, the Dean lifted the embargo and the Cannon was fired for the first time in the lower gallery of Hart House at the Lady Godiva Memorial Bash.

Cross-Atlantic Cannon Heist

Nineteen-sixty-seven was the year of Canada's Centennial, but more importantly it was the year of the most infamous Cannon steal of all. Capitalizing on a lapse in security, a dreadful wretched duo spirited away the Cannon, spilling nary a drop of blood in the process. These bold fiends could not possibly be other than engineers, as exhibited by their recklessness and fearlessness. And grads at that. Their identity must be kept secret, for Joe E. Skule only knows what the world would do if it were to find out that Mike Chapelle (6T7) was the leader, assisted by Howie White (6T6).

The Cannon made its way to the British Isles, but six brave engineering grads took it upon themselves to restore the pride of Skule to its rightful owners. They tracked it down, all the way to UC in England. Don Monro (6T4, an ex-bandleader and EngSoc President) stole into Chapelle's room, and with nary another drop of blood, Skule had its manhood back.

And then it was on to Coventry to pay homage to Godiva. The statue of Godiva was adorned with an engineering jacket and the engineers made merry for they were overjoyed. Chapelle followed them to Coventry, but the Skulemen outnumbered him and he backed off after some unpleasantness. The Cannon was taken to Wales and then back to Canada.

1967 Cannon - Canadian Centennial

The fact that an engineer had stolen the Cannon was very embarrassing, and hence this whole theft was hushed up. The Engineering Society had another Cannon built when they found out that the old one was gone, but the new Cannon was announced to the world to have been built in honour of Canada's Centennial. The carriage of the new Cannon was mahogany and was equipped with wheels. Both the barrel and wheels were chrome-plated.

With a brand spanking new Cannon, Skulemen's spirits were given a much needed lift. It was barely a year old when another attempt was made to snatch the Skule banger, this time by an Industrial Engineer. He was unsuccessful in his attempt and spent the next few weeks as a guest of a Toronto hospital.

The '59 Cannon made a brief appearance at the 6T9 Cannon Ball where it was fired by John Adam (Cannoneer '63). The Cannon was then reported to have formed the basis of the annual Skule Cannon Award; however, this was more fiction to cover up the '67 Cannongate. This Cannon has since been presented to Paul Baker (7T5) in recognition of his outstanding service to the Engineering Society.

The year 1971 brought the first gangbang with the Ryerson engineers, to determine who had the better cannon. Needless to say, the Polytechs were sent scurrying home with their feet in their mouths. Not only did Skule annihilate them in the contest, but Skule stole their cannon and made off with the distributor wire to their bus.

1971 Cannon - Faculty Centennial

With the Faculty's centennial fast approaching, the Cannoneer decided that a new Cannon would be an ideal way to celebrate. In great secrecy, an emissary was sent down to Svart-alfa-heim (a kingdom below the earth where elves live) to commission Sindri (the creator of the might hammer of Thor) to machine the mightiest device ever imagined. With a solid brass barrel of maximum diameter 3" and length of 16-1/2", this zenith of perfection would easily strike fear into the heart of any mortal.

The first formal firing of this marvellous weapon was at the 1973 Centennial Ball, and on the third try it was actually fired. Dean James Ham fired the 1967 Cannon for the last time and it was then presented to him in honour of his retirement from Deanship.

The 1973 Cannon has enjoyed a period of relative tranquility since its creation, except at a frosh dance, when it was stolen (by the LGMB) to scare the Cannoneer (who had carelessly left it unguarded in the band room).

But in 1976, Robert Gilmour (the Canoneer) was found guilty of defacing the Cannon. John Vanneste (7T3), a former Cannoneer and designer of the 1973 Cannon, was called to fire the Cannon, since Gilmour had refused to do so at his own Grad Ball. The Cannon was found to be badly corroded and in need of cleaning. When the barrel was removed from the base, Gilmour's name was found chiseled into the bottom.

The Engineering Society passed a motion of censure against Gilmour, and the entire deed was exposed in 'Toike Oike' (March 26, 1976). Furthermore, at Vanneste's suggestion, the Cannon Guard were to wear black hard hats for a year to show the engineers' displeasure, but the Cannon Guard has continued to wear black ever since.

In 1982, the glorious Skule banger was called upon once again to prove itself. The first round of yet another gangbang was held during Godiva Week on Front Campus. This time, contenders from Ryerson, Devonshire House and some forgotton fraternity were trying to wrest the glory from Skule's Cannon. The impartial judges, armed with the latest in decibel meters, quickly banished Devonshire and the fraternity from the field. Due to faulty calibration, both Ryerson and Skule were off the scale.

A second round was then held, this time on Ryerson's home turf. Using heavy duty equipment and special shielding, the outcome was certain. Skule had once again triumphed. For the record, the Mighty Skule Cannon was measured at a level of 113 decibels from 200 yards distance.

1985 Cannon - EngSoc Centennial

In time, the years took their toll on the Cannon, and in 1985 it was decided that a new Cannon would be commissioned for the Engineering Society's Centennial. The design of the new Cannon was undertaken by Greg Forbes (Atiliator 1982) with the help of four other atiliators. The Cannon, with its bulbous muzzle, was designed after a naval piece. In order to reduce injuries to the guard the diameter of the touch-hole was reduced. The finished Cannon, with a bore-depth of 13-3/4" and a diameter of 3/4", was the most powerful weapon to date. At its test firing the 8" spikes used to secure it were ripped out of the ground.

At the 1985 Grad Ball held at the Royal York Hotel, the 1972 Cannon was presented to Professor Emeritus L.E. Jones in recognition of his years of service to both the Engineering Society and the Faculty. That evening, the new Cannon, in keeping with the tradition started by its predecessor, fired on its third try. The force of the delayed blast rolled up a large section of carpeting.

Cannon theft by "Fahrenheit 1710"

1994 Cannon

1999 Cannon - 125th Anniversary of Skule™

Replica Cannon

Chief Attiliator

When Skule's first Cannon was created, a Cannoneer was appointed in keeping with age-old tradition. The Canoneer would be responsible for the selection of the Cannon Guards, making sure that the Cannon actually fired, and to do the actual firing. In addition to this he would have sole knowledge of the location of the Cannon when it was not in use.

As a matter of protocol, the Cannon is fired by a cigarette butt after a convenient number of verses of Godiva's Hymn. For the firing, black powder has conventionally been used with finely divided asbestos as wadding. This type of wadding replaced toilet paper in 1964 after the injury to the nurse. In 1959, an artificer was appointed by the Engineering Society to inspect the Cannon, issue powder and in general look after the material needs of the Cannon.

The Cannon Guards are the (now) black-helmeted beings protecting the Cannon.

Etymology of "Attiliator"

In medieval times, the title of 'Atillator' was given to the person responsible for the maintenance of defense works and weapons of war. The title was synonymous with Engineer, and the word artillery was probably derived from the same roots. The Atillator was responsible for the number of guns used, their storing, mounting, and most importantly, protection.

Over the years, the spelling of 'Atillator' evolved, to the modern spelling of "attiliator". Most students today do not know the origins of the word, and some have claimed that the word was made up. Neither 'atillator' nor 'attilliator', however, are words used in the modern English language. The unique spelling by Skule™ makes it the only distinctive use of the word today.