History of the Ritual

[This statement replicates that on the Corporation website, www.ironring.ca/background.php]

The inspiration for the creation of a special ceremony linking all Canadian engineers must be credited to Professor Herbert E.T. Haultain of the University of Toronto who, on January 25, 1922, addressed the 36th Annual Professional Meeting of the Engineering Institute of Canada on the theme “The Romance of Engineering,” in which he urged the development of a tribal spirit among engineers. Later the same day, Professor Haultain expanded on his theme and suggested the development of an oath or creed to which the young graduate could subscribe, something in the form of the Hippocratic oath in the medical profession. Dr. John M.R. Fairbairn, Chief Engineer of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, was the past-president in the chair. Also present as special guests were six other past-presidents of the institute. At Professor Haultain’s suggestion, these seven past-presidents were then and there constituted as a committee, under the chairmanship of Past-President Fairbairn, to act on this proposal.

In October 1923, Professor Haultain contacted Dr. Fairbairn with the suggestion that Rudyard Kipling, Nobel Prize recipient, one of Britain’s most eminent literary figures of that period and a man known for his interest in engineering accomplishments, might be invited to participate in the development of a creed or professional oath for engineering graduates. Fairbairn agreed, and on October 18, 1923, a request was sent to Kipling.

Kipling was pleased to participate in the project, and on November 9, 1923, he responded to Professor Haultain with a draft of the Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer, together with a number of explanatory notes that became an integral part of the Ritual. Following exchanges on some of the details, a final version was agreed to by both Kipling and Fairbairn’s Committee of EIC Past-Presidents (The Seven) in early 1925.

An inaugural ceremony of the Ritual was held in Montreal on April 25, 1925, with the Obligation taken by six prominent engineers, including Dr. Fairbairn and Mr. Robert A. Ross, Consulting Engineer. This was followed on May 1, 1925, with a ceremony at the University of Toronto, where 14 of the officers of the U of T Engineering Alumni Association were obligated, thus constituting Camp 1. Other camps were soon established – in Montreal (1926), Kingston (1927), Regina (1928) and Vancouver (1930), and, in subsequent years, in other Canadian centres, reaching at the present day (2019) a total of 27 camps.

In the months following the initial ceremonies, a number of details relating to the administration of the Ritual and to the design of the Ring of Obligation were resolved through correspondence among Kipling, Professor Haultain[1] and the seven original wardens. Kipling urged keeping the original hammered-finish iron rings, as initially provided by Professor Haultain and, in March 1926, approved the Rule of Governance as drafted by Warden Ross.

Today, the text and ceremonial aspects of “The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer” remain essentially unchanged from the version drafted by Kipling and approved by “the Seven.” The language retains its poetic richness and solemnity, while Christian and Judaic references in the text contribute historical and allegorical values. It is in no way a religious ceremony.

As Kipling stated:

 “The Ritual has been instituted with the simple end of directing the young engineer towards a consciousness of the profession and its significance and indicating to the older engineer their responsibilities in receiving, welcoming and supporting the young engineers in their beginnings.”  

The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer and its notes and memoranda by Rudyard Kipling, together with the charter and the Rule of Governance, originally received copyright protection on June 5, 1926. Letters patent constituting the Corporation of the Seven Wardens as custodians and administrators of the Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer were granted under Quebec law on March 18, 1938. In 1961, the iron ring received trademark protection and, with camps situated all across Canada, the corporation was reincorporated as a federal company.

The Ritual is not connected with any university, college or any engineering organization; the Corporation is an entirely independent body.

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