The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer

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The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer, sometimes known as the Kipling Ritual, is the name of the ceremony in which graduating students of an accredited Canadian engineering program receive their Iron Ring and administer the Obligation. The text of the ceremony for the Ritual was created by the English poet Rudyard Kipling after a request by Professor H.E.T. Haultain, and is uniquely Canadian. The ceremony is overseen and operated by The Corporation of the Seven Wardens Inc./Société des Sept Gardiens inc. and the 25 Camps of the Corporation across Canada.

The ceremony takes place on the first Saturday of March; the most recent one was on March 3, 2018, and the next one will be on March 2, 2019.

H.E.T. Haultain, who conceived of the idea of The Ritual.

History[edit | edit source]

The conception of the Ritual dates back to 1922, at the 36th annual meeting of The Engineering Institute of Canada in Montreal that included seven past-presidents of the Engineering Institute of Canada. Civil Engineering professor H.E.T. Haultain from the University of Toronto (and the first student president at the University of Toronto Engineering Society) gave a speech entitled "The Romance of Engineering", in which he expressed the need for both an organization to bring together members of the nascent engineering profession in Canada as well as an obligation or statement of ethics to which a young graduate of engineering could subscribe, much like the Hippocratic Oath historically taken by physicians before they enter practice. Haultain's idea was a continuation of his work with the Canadian Society for Civil Engineers, which became the EIC in 1918, which involved a transformation seeking to formalize the licensing of professional engineers in Canada. The seven past-presidents of the Engineering Institute of Canada warmly received the idea at that meeting, and those seven individuals would go on to become the original Seven Wardens of the Corporation. The seven individuals were John Morrice Roger Fairbairn (1873-1954), George Herrick Duggan (1862-1946), Phelps Johnson (1849-1926), George Alphonso Mountain (1861-1927), Robert Alexander Ross (d.1936), William Francis Tye (1861- 1932) and Henry Hague Vaughan (1868-1942). Fairbairn was the original chairman, or Chief Warden, of this governing body.

Haultain contacted the celebrated English poet Rudyard Kipling (who had made reference to the work of engineers in his previous works) asking for his assistance in developing both the text of the formal obligation and the ceremony in which to administer it. Kipling showed considerable interest in the idea and drafted the ceremony after considerable consultation between Haultain and the Seven Wardens. Haultain's request was met with an enthusiastic response and Kipling soon presented The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer.

The inaugural ceremony (originally a "preliminary rehearsal") was held on April 25, 1925, at the University Club of Montreal, where six engineers took the Obligation. Ross, acting as the Senior Supervising Engineer, administered the Obligation to himself (thereby becoming the first person to become Obligated), and then to Fairbairn, as well as Harold Rolph, Norman M. Lash, Jim M. Robertson and John Chalmers, all graduates of the class of 1893 from the University of Toronto.

On May 1, 1925, three of the newly obligated engineers met at the University of Toronto along with members of the Engineering Alumni Association and an additional 14 engineers took part in the Ritual in the Old Senate Chambers (now UC 240), establishing the first local chapter (Camp) of the Corporation. This ceremony was followed on the same day by another in which the University's graduating class of 107 engineering students was Obligated.

The Ritual[edit | edit source]

The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer is the private ceremony in which the Iron Ring is conferred upon graduating engineering students after subscribing to the Obligation. The Ritual is administered and maintained by The Corporation of the Seven Wardens Inc. and the 25 Camps of the Corporation based across Canada. The Ritual is not tied with any specific university of engineering organization, and has been copyrighted and the Iron Ring registered in both Canada and the United States.

The Obligation is the expression of intent of the class passing through the Ritual, not an oath (it was Kipling that expressed his preference for the use of the term "obligation" instead of "oath"), but operates similarly in form to the Hippocratic Oath of the medical profession. It states the duties, responsibilities, and expectations of members of the profession. Following the Obligation, the Iron Ring is presented. The Obligation, and the Ritual as a whole, is a private event, though not necessarily secret. It is expected that those who have gone through the Ritual will not discuss the details of the Calling with others who have not. The ceremony is only open to the candidates and those who have already received their rings, and if the ceremony is missed, the candidate must wait until the next year's Ritual to receive their ring.

The Ritual also makes use of four Ancient Landmarks: the Anvil, the Hammer, the Chain and the Ring. Each landmark plays a role in Ritual and Obligation, and the Ring is a last token of Cold Iron, wedding the engineer to their Calling, providing a lifetime reminder of the obligation that has been taken before their “betters and equals”.

Rudyard Kipling, in his correspondence, described the ceremony as follows:

The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer has been instituted with the simple end of directing the young engineer towards a consciousness of his profession and its significance, and indicating to the older engineer his responsibilities in receiving, welcoming and supporting the young engineers in their beginnings.[1]

The ritual of the Calling of an Engineer is attended by all those eligible who wish to be Obligated along with invited senior engineers, current Wardens, and Iron Ring presenters. Family members and friends who have been previously obligated may also attend. A complete explanation of the Ritual, Obligation, and history, is given to every man and woman before the ceremony so they may decide in advance whether or not they wish to take part in the spirit intended.

The Corporation of the Seven Wardens[edit | edit source]

The Corporation of the Seven Wardens is the governing body that coordinates and carries out The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer. It consists of 25 regional chapters, called Camps, numbered by order of establishment. The term Camp is used because it conveys the sense of a smaller, close-knit sense of community. Camp One (Toronto) was established at the University of Toronto, and now also includes Ryerson University, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), and the most recently accredited York University.

The Corporation is not a secret society, but its rules of governance do not permit any publicity about its activities, and they specify that Ceremonies are not to be held in the presence of the general public.

The Iron Ring[edit | edit source]

The Iron Ring is forged from stainless steel or wrought iron, presented to the candidates of the Ritual after subscribing to the Obligation. The Iron Ring does not certify a person as a Professional Engineer, which requires registration with a relevant professional organization followed by examination and practical experience.

75th Anniversary Commemorative Stamp[edit | edit source]

In the year 2000, Canada Post released a domestic-rate stamp on April 25, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the first Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer, offered in both a tête-bêche (head-to-foot) format on a 16-stamp pane, and on an Official First Day Cover. Darrell Freeman, the designer of the stamp used the layout to incorporate the Iron Ring linking four major Canadian achievements in engineering. The achievements recognized on the stamp design are:

  • The CP Rail High Level Bridge at Lethbridge, Alberta
  • The Polymer Corporation's synthetic-rubber plant at Sarnia, Ontario
  • The Trans-Canada Microwave Radio Relay System
  • The Artificial Cardiac Pacemaker

See also[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

  1. Rudyard Kipling, from notes by Dr. J. Jeswiet,