James Cockburn celebrates bicentennial year

By Cecilia Nasmith

As a Father of Confederation who practiced law in Cobourg, James Cockburn – or rather, manager of planning services Rob Franklin in character as James Cockburn – played a significant role in the town's celebrations of the country's sesquicentennial.

Two years later, Franklin told council Monday night, it's the bicentennial year for the statesman who was born Feb. 13, 1819.

Franklin said that his appearance as Cockburn, complete to formal coat and top hat, was to make council aware of the milestone - and the fact that, for the seventh year, his birthday is being celebrated with educational activities at Victoria Hall in partnership with the Cobourg Public Library. This year, he said, they would be welcoming 130 students from Notre Dame Elementary School and Burnham Public School.

And of course, the other annual Cockburn celebrations are on over the August holiday weekend (named James Cockburn Day by the town some years back) – Franklin's one-man biographical play in front of Victoria Hall on Saturday and a James Cockburn talk at the Sifton-Cook Heritage Centre on Monday.

As far as his schedule allows, Franklin said he would also be glad to be part of any other commemorative activity being planned for this particular bicentennial.

Franklin was making an appearance as a representative of the James Cockburn Society

“Partnerships are the only way for our heritage to actually be here,” he said,

“We have a goal to preserve our history, promote our history and present our cultural history.”

Franklin offered thanks to staff and councillors for allowing him to undertake these activities – he has even been known to show up at Victoria Hall when other special events are planned in order to sit in the ground floor west room that has been restored to resemble the law office where Cockburn practiced. At such times, he said, “he would be glad to talk to you about what life might have been like in the 1860s in Victoria Hall.”

Mayor John Henderson noted that not many towns have this kind of heritage resource, “and I know we benefit because of it.”