A Burning Hope

Despite the efforts of individuals like Dr. Frederick Grant Banting, Dr. Charles Herbert Best, Dr. James Bertram Collip and Dr. John James Rickard Macleod nearly a century ago, the quest to conquer diabetes marches ever on wards. And as medical researchers the world over attempt to better understand and cure the disease, we here at Banting House NHS celebrate the anniversary of a structure made to commemorate their efforts. Thirty years ago , the museum unveiled one of our most memorable monuments: the Flame of Hope. Placed atop a pillar of black granite and fueled by a natural gas line, it is designed to keep burning until a cure for diabetes has been found. Once this herculean effort of scientific endeavor has been achieved, the research team will be flown here to London, Ontario, to snuff out the Flame for all time.

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This was certainly not a simple task for the Canadian Diabetic Association (as Diabetes Canada was known at the time) to organize. When designing the Flame of Hope, the volunteers relied on advice from members of the John Carl Warnecke architectural team that had created the John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame in Arlington, as well as suggestions from experts at the Canadian Gas Research Institute and Union Gas. In addition to the cost of designing, transporting, and erecting the Flame of Hope in Sir Frederick G. Banting Square, the organization was given a responsibility of international importance: hosting Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother so she could kindle the flame itself. While it was indeed a great honor to have the mother of Queen Elizabeth II grace Banting House with her presence, it was certainly a challenging task to arrange the event. The local branch of the organization, headed by The Honourable Mr. Justice Seneshen, was given the task of preparing all aspects of her stay. And for a member of the British royal family, there were several obligations to fill. There is even an interesting anecdote from one of the organizers in charge of her victuals, claiming that they were even able to get the Queen Mother her favorite brand of gin during her stay! On July 7th 1989, accompanied by The Honourable Mr.Judge Seneshen and The Honourable Lieutenant-Governor Lincoln Alexander, she presented the Flame of Hope in front of a crowd of more than 4000 people.

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Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother ‘s visit is still commemorated to this day within the museum, with several displays detailing the history of her trip, from windows covered with images of her visit, the guestbook and the pen that she used to sign it. It is one of the highlights that our guides point out to visitors as they learn about how Banting House transformed from office space to the  museum it is today.

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This week we will be celebrating the 30th anniversary of this event, during which the museum will be unveiling a new exhibit, along with several articles written on our social media accounts. All of  this I invite you to read and partake in. Be it in person or online, I hope you have a chance to enjoy the Flame of Hope and the stories that make it a meaningful symbol for people with diabetes across the globe.


This post was written by Samuel Pitre, summer student at
Banting House NHS. Samuel is currently completing his M.A. in History at
Western University.

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