Is Plug Street named for Belgium's Ploegsteert?

Malpeque war monument stirs up debate

Ryan Ross rross@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on March 10, 2014

Plug Street, Malpeque, is shown in a Google Streetview map image.

©Google Streetview image

There’s not much on Plug Street to distinguish it from any other road in Malpeque, but its name has been causing a bit of a stir.

That’s because of plans to have it declared a memorial to Island soldiers from the First World War.

Jay Dee Murray, one of the people behind the project, said there are other monuments in P.E.I. but most are meant to honour soldiers who died while at war.

“This monument is to all Prince Edward Islanders who served in that war,” he said.

Murray contends Plug Street is named after Ploegsteert in Belgium, where Canadians were involved in battles against the Germans in the First World War.

Many English-speaking soldiers had trouble pronouncing the name and referred to it as Plugstreet.

Murray believes an Island soldier who fought near Ploegsteert brought the anglicized name home and bestowed it upon what is now known as Plug Street in Malpeque.

As part of the project a stone cairn will be erected next to the road with an official unveiling on Aug. 3.

The road itself is the memorial with the cairn only there as a marker.

But while Murray is convinced the evidence shows a soldier named Plug Street, there are others who disagree.

In a letter that ran in The Guardian late last year, Garth MacGougan, Earle Lockerby and Mary Werner, who grew up in the Malpeque area, said the project was ill-conceived and doesn’t honour soldiers from the First World War.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE LETTER

“It is based on supposition or happenstance on the one hand, and on an aberrant process on the other,” they said.

The opponents said there was no proof of a connection between the road in Malpeque and Ploegsteert in Belgium.

Murray disagreed. He presented his research to Veterans Affairs Canada to get the project approved as part of the department’s community war memorial program.

In order to get approval through the community war memorial program, projects go through an application process that includes vetting by a review committee comprised of representatives from veterans’ organizations and a conservation specialist from the federal government.

That committee’s responsibilities include assessing proposals and making recommendations to VAC about project funding.

A statement from to The Guardian from VAC said the Plug Street project met the program funding criteria.

Murray, who has been working on the project for several years, said concerns that the road wasn’t named after Ploegsteert were valid, but nothing has come up to show anyone other than a First World War veteran named it.

He thinks it has a lot to do with the fact that soldiers wouldn’t have wanted to talk about their experiences during the war with anyone other than soldiers.

“We can never prove what veteran or veterans named this piece of roadway Plug Street but we can prove that no one else other than these veterans had any knowledge, even of the word, to have named it.”

The federal government is spending up to about $20,000 on the memorial with matching in-kind service from the provincial government, which is contributing the land where the cairn will be built.

 

rross@theguardian.pe.ca

twitter.com/ryanrross