Relevant to the Iron Ring Ceremony
Compiled by Dr. J. Jeswiet
The following is for engineers who want
information about the Iron Ring Ceremony. It is available to the
public and has been assembled here as an information package1.
Since the first ceremony held by Camp
#1 on May 1st, 1925 in Toronto2, more than
212,000 engineers have been obligated at more than 1665 ceremonies organised
by the 24 Camps across Canada; see table 1.
Welcomed into the engineering profession
by fellow obligated engineers and encouraged to display fundamental personal
values in their professional practice, these engineers have all worn their
iron ring with pride.
As stated by Rémy G. Dussault,
Chief Warden, this is a truly unique Canadian accomplishment. It may also
be noted that The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer is strictly and
Brief Historical Note4
Most engineers in Canada wear the Iron
Ring and have solemnly obligated themselves to an ethical and diligent
professional career through the ceremony, The Ritual of the Calling of
an Engineer. This note reviews the history and purposes of The Corporation
of the Seven Wardens, The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer and the
Iron Ring itself.
The history of The Corporation of the
Seven Wardens started in 1922, when a group of prominent engineers met
in Montreal to discuss a concern for the general guidance and solidarity
of the profession, and to develop a proposal that seven of Canadas most
prominent engineers form the nucleus of an organization whose object would
be to bind all members of the engineering profession in Canada more closely
together, and to imbue them with their responsibility towards society.
The seven engineers enlisted the services
of the late Rudyard Kipling, who developed an appropriate Ritual and the
symbolic Iron Ring. The purpose was outlined by Kipling, 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.
The Ritual has been copyrighted
in Canada and in the United States, and the Iron Ring has been registered.
The Corporation of the Seven Wardens is entrusted with the responsibility
of administering and maintaining the Ritual, which it does through a system
of separate groups, called Camps, across Canada. There are more than
20 Camps in existence at present, including Camp No. 3, which is responsible
for the campus of Queens University and that of the Royal Military College.
The corporation of Seven Wardens
is not a secret society. Its rules of governance, however, 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 original seven senior engineers
who met in Montreal in 1922 were, as it happened, all past-Presidents of
the Engineering Institute of Canada. There is, however, no direct
connection between the Engineering Institute of Canada and The Corporation
of the Seven Wardens.
The wearing of the Iron Ring,
or the taking of the Obligation of the ceremony, does not imply that an
individual has gained legal acceptance or qualification as an engineer.
This can only be granted by the provincial bodies so appointed; it should
also be mentioned that the Corporation has no direct connection with any
provincial Association or Order.
Obligation ceremonies for graduating
students are held in cities where the Camps are located, and for convenience,
in some cases, on the university campus itself. Such ceremonies must
not be interpreted as being an extension of the engineering curriculum.
The Iron Ring does not replace the diploma granted by the University or
the School of Engineering, nor is it a sign of having successfully passed
the Institutions examinations.
The purpose of The Corporation
of Seven Wardens and the Ritual is to provide an opportunity for men and
women to obligate themselves to the standards of ethics and diligent practice
that is felt to be required by those in our profession. This opportunity
is available to any who wish to take advantage of it, whether they be new
graduates or senior engineers. The ritual of the Calling of an Engineer
is, of course, attended by all those who wish to be Obligated along with
invited senior engineers, and when opportunity permits, family members
and friends who have been previously obligated. A complete explanation
of the Ritual, its obligations 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. A few people, for one reason
or another, have chosen to refrain from being obligated, and so cannot
rightfully wear the Iron Ring. The Corporation feels that this in
no way detracts form their right to practice in the profession, and it
further feels that the Obligation should be a matter of personal choice,
taken only by those who wish to take part in the serious and sincere manner
Details of the First Meetings5
At the Thirty-Sixth Annual Professional
Meeting of The Engineering Institute of Canada, in Montreal, on January
25, 1922, Professor H.E.T. Haultain, of the University of Toronto, was
the luncheon speaker. He suggested the development of an oath or
a creed to which the young graduate in engineering could subscribe, something
in the form of the Hippocratic oath in the medical profession.
Appealing to Rudyard Kipling that there
was no one who could put it up in better form or would have a deeper insight
into the meaning of such a thing to the engineer, Professor Haultain,
in a letter to Kipling on October 18th , outlined the suggestion made and
requested his help. Kiplings reply came promptly. On November
9th, he sent to Professor Haultain the Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer,
together with the notes which now are part of the Ritual.
In his accompanying letter, Kipling
explained: My own idea would be to make the Ritual binding and unalterable
except by the authority of the Seven Past Presidents of the Engineering
Institute of Canada, who (co-opting as need arises) would be responsible
for the Landmarks of the Calling. He also asked for the opinion
of the seven on what he had submitted, and suggested that, although the
larger part of the working would be, naturally, obligating graduates in
Engineering immediately after they had taken their degree, or before they
embarked on their career.
many young engineers, and even older ones, out
struggling in the world, would find it both tonic and refreshing to be
obligated. In the same letter, Kipling expressed his preference for the
word obligation over the word oath.
After much consultation among
the Seven, Dr. Fairbairn wrote, on March 31, 1925, to Mr. Kipling, outlining
the procedure that had been devised for the ceremonies of obligation and
suggested a few minor changes in the wording of the Ritual so as to make
it applicable to Canadian conditions. He also explained that the
Seven felt that the best way to begin would be to place the Ritual in the
control of the Engineering Alumni Associations in respective Canadian Universities,
beginning that year with the University of Toronto. The proposal
to turn control over to the Engineering Alumni Associations was subsequently
abandoned as seen from the fact that, in March 1926, the text of the Book
of Authority, providing for the delegation of authority by the Seven for
the establishment of Camps, was submitted to and approved by Kipling, and
that no reference is made therein to the Engineering Alumni Associations.
On April 22, 1925, Mr. Kipling cabled his approval of the amended
Ritual and the statement of procedure outlined in Dr. Fairbairns letter
of March 31st, and sent a letter of confirmation the same day.
The inaugural ceremony was held
in the evening of April 25, 1925, in one of the private dining rooms of
the University Club of Montreal, when the obligation was taken concurrently
by the following six engineers, Dr. Ross acting as Senior Supervising Engineer:
R.A. Ross, Consulting Engineer
J.M.R. Fairbairn, Chief Engineer, Canadian Pacific Railway
Harold Rolph, President, John S. Metcalf and Co., Consulting Engineers
N.M. Lash, Chief Engineer, Bell Telephone Co.
J.M. Robertson, Consulting Engineer
John Chalmers, Engineer for John Quinlan & Co., Contractors
Establishment of the
On May 1st, 1925, three of the newly
obligated engineers, Dr. Ross, Dr. Fairbairn and Mr. Rolph met at the University
of Toronto with a number of the officers of the Engineering Alumni Association
and, at 11 a.m., obligated 14 of them in the Senate Chamber of the University,
thus constituting Camp 1.
A list of Camps that were subsequently
formed can be seen in table 1.
Notes About the Rings and the
Ring Material. A myth about the rings
given to Obligated Engineers is they are a reminder of the Quebec Bridge
that collapsed. While remnants of this popular legend still exist,
the rings were never made of materials from the collapsed Quebec Bridge,
nor is the ring symbolic of the failure of that bridge or any other engineering
project6. Rings have always been produced from
commercial sources7, originally puddled wrought
iron and more recently wrought iron and stainless steel. Kipling
indicated that the Ring as an allegory in itself be rough, not smoothed,
and hammered and as a ring have no beginning or end. There is no
evidence that there is any particular history in the source of Cold Iron
for the Ring, nor any intention that there should have been, although remnants
of the Quebec Bridge legend still exist in Canada.
Secrecy. There is a perceived
secrecy of the Ritual and the Ceremony. However, Kipling conceived the
idea of a Camp, as a gathering place to reflect a spirit of comradeship,
a sense of belonging and an assurance of mutual support8.
Candidate briefing. It is important
the Candidates are briefed9. The Ritual of
the Calling of an Engineer invites those engineers appropriately qualified
to join other Canadian engineers in a commitment to
values in their professional practice
. Obligants enter a uniquely Canadian
fellowship that expects a Code of Practice respectful of the needs of the
public and the position of other engineers.
Ancient Landmarks. The Ancient
Landmarks are the Anvil, the Hammer, the Chain and the Ring. The
latter is a last token of Cold Iron, wedding the engineer to his Calling,
providing a lifetime reminder of the obligation that he has taken before
his betters and equals.
Number of Obligated Engineers;
to December 31, 1994
||St. John's (NF)
1 Assembled by J.Jeswiet, Warden
2 Remy G. Dussault, Chief Warden.....
3 Gilles Peron, Warden.....
4 written in 1975 by G.N. Martin, Chief Warden
5 From notes handed to candidates before the
6 G. Jim Thomson Professional Engineer Secretary
Camp One Toronto
7 J.W. MacLaren, Honorary Warden
8 F.T. Gerson Warden
9 P.T. Seabrook, Warden
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