Tony Barnes gets the last word


(Tony Barnes speaks at the Aquatarium grand opening. Photo by Darcy Cheek)

Grand occasions deserve grand speeches, and on Friday we got the grandest speech to be heard in a while in Brockville’s civic space.

I refer to the sometimes rousing oratory of former city councillor and current Aquatarium steering committee chairman Tony Barnes at the grand opening of the new facility.

With flags billowing around him as on some grand historic occasion, Barnes delivered an address that sometimes approached the lower edges of Churchillian.

Am I exaggerating? Certainly.

But then, I have never made a secret of my passion for the Queen’s English, and in the era of Trump stumpers and bad Facebook grammar I’m an absolute sucker for a proper British turn of phrase.

In just a few short minutes, flags will rise, cannons will fire, a ribbon will be cut and an amazing journey will be over – a journey which, for most of the steering committee members began shortly after our Grade 12 graduation,” Barnes quipped.

To be fair, Mayor David Henderson did convey a sense of the progress the Aquatarium represents, and Simon Fuller did, in his own way, speak to the inspiration and educational curiosity at the core of its mission.

And for direct-to-the-point descriptive, there’s this crisply-rendered image from MPP Steve Clark: “You have to watch the incredible reaction that lights up the faces of children as they explore the exhibits.”

Also on the subject of great orators, the event did include that imperative phrase made popular by the great Sir Patrick Stewart.

But to approach the realm of the Churchillian one needs defiance in the face of adversity, and it fell to Barnes to convey, stirringly, the sense of that perseverance that led the Aquatarium to victory.

Never once was there a flicker of doubt that this day would arise,” said Barnes.

Never once was there a flicker of doubt that one year, 50,000 people would have a new and compelling reason to visit downtown Brockville.”

OK, so “Churchillian” is, as I’ve admitted above, a bit of a stretch.

But in the Brockville civic context, these are stirring words of vindication. They are the ultimate reply to the legions of naysayers who have pestered Barnes and his colleagues over recent years, not to mention the mockers and snickerers, a crowd that, on occasion, has included yours truly.

Those words of defiance were an even more effective rebuke than Barnes’s opening joke about yet another opening date announcement.

The toil has paid off; the Aquatarium is now open, and it is so far drawing in more people than expected.

Well said, Mr. Barnes, and point taken.