The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer, also known as the Kipling Ritual, or the Iron Ring Ceremony, is a private ceremony to initiate newly qualified engineers to the social and ethical responsibilities of the profession. The text for the ceremony was written by Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) in 1922, at the request of Professor Herbert Edward Terrick Haultain (1869-1961), and was adapted in consultation with several past-presidents of the Engineering Institute of Canada (EIC) for use in the first ceremonies held in Montreal and Toronto in 1925. Integral to the Ritual is the wearing of the iron ring, which is worn on the little finger of the writing hand, as a reminder of the engineer’s sworn professional obligation.
The issue of creating a graduation ritual for new engineers was first presented at the 36th annual meeting of the EIC, held 25 January 1922, in Montreal, Quebec. As the luncheon speaker at the meeting, Professor Haultain gave a talk entitled “The Romance of Engineering”, after which he suggested the development of an oath, in the form of the Hippocratic Oath, but for engineers. The idea was an extension of Haultain’s involvement with the transformation of the Canadian Society for Civil Engineers into the EIC in 1918, a transformation that sought to formalize the licensing process of engineers, while increasing their professional and public standing.
The difficulty of drafting an appropriate ritual led Haultain to correspond with Kipling for help with authoring a text. Kipling showed considerable interest in the idea and drafted the initial ceremony, which was formalized, after considerable consultation between Haultain and the seven past presidents of the EIC. These seven would ultimately become co-opted as the original Corporation of Seven Wardens by the authority of their seniority in the profession. They were John Morrice Roger Fairbairn (1873-1954), George Herrick Duggan (1862-1946), Phelps Johnson (1849-1926), George Alphonso Mountain (1861-1927), Robert Alexander Ross (d.1936), William Francis Tye (1861-1932) and Henry Hague Vaughan (1868-1942). Fairbairn was the original chairman, or Chief Warden, of this governing body.
The first “ceremony”, also referred to as a “preliminary rehearsal”, was held on 25 April 1925, in Montreal. Ross, acting as the Senior Supervising Engineer (SSE), administered the obligation to himself and Fairbairn, as well as Harold Rolph, Norman M. Lash, Jim M. Robertson and John Chalmers, all graduates of the class of 1893 from the University of Toronto. In Toronto on 1 May 1925, fourteen officers of the University of Toronto Alumni Association were obligated in the Senate Chambers of the University of Toronto by the newly obligated senior engineers from Montreal. This ceremony was followed on the same day by another in which the University’s graduating class of 107 engineering students was obligated.
Kipling envisoned a camp ritual, a gathering in the spirit of camaraderie. The original Wardens of Camp One subsequently established a formal structure to administer the Ritual in Toronto. This was confirmed on 22 February 1926, by correspondence between Fairbairn and Robert John Marshall (1884-1970). The original Camp Wardens were Haultain, Marshall, William D. Black (d.1961), Arthur D’Orr LePan (1885-1976), Charles E. MacDonald, Thomas H. Hogg, and William A. Burke. The full names of the original Wardens of the first nine Camps are listed following the Administrative history.
Camp One’s authority to administer the Ritual was confirmed when it was issued the Book of Authority by Fairbairn in 1927; it included the full text of the Kipling Ritual. Although the Ritual could be said to have originated with Haultain, he took no more than an informal role in the ceremonies because of his conviction that the ceremony should be conducted by working engineers. Students should not associate the ceremonies with the awarding of academic credentials. From its inception, attendance at the Ritual has been voluntary and does not confer any professional qualifications on the wearer of the ring.
The iron rings were initially made from puddled wrought iron, sometimes called cold iron, hand-hammered by convalescing First World War veterans at the Christie Street Military Hospital, under the care of the Military Hospitals Commission which became the Department of Soldiers’ Civil Re-establishment (DSCR). Haultain had a longstanding association with the DSCR; he arranged for the rings to be manufactured and delivered to the various camps. After 1948 the responsibility for their manufacture was taken over by the Corporation of the Seven Wardens, based in Montreal. Camp One continued to manufacture its own rings, considering them to be Ancient Landmarks. While many members still wear a rough iron ring, most of the rings manufactured today are made from stainless steel.
Kipling regarded the ring as a symbol. It is rough, not smoothed, and hammered by hand as, in the words of Kipling, “the young have all their hammering coming to them.” The ring has no beginning or end. Kipling’s use of cold iron as a symbolic metal for the Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer stems from his interest in iron as a metal of power and a symbol of human innovation. Likewise, the Ancient Landmarks upon which the obligation is taken are made of cold iron of “honourable tradition” without inscription. Landmarks have typically included anvils, chains and hammers. A frequently circulated myth about the iron rings is that they were made from the pieces of the collapsed Pont de Quebec Bridge that killed 76 people in 1907. The rings, however, have always been made from commercial sources. While the Ritual is not a secret initiation, tradition has called for the ceremony to be private and has been solemnized by its not being publicized. The ceremony is conducted at each university by obligated engineers for students who are about to graduated from an accredited engineering program. In Camp One only family members and friends who themselves are obligated may attend and participate as ring presenters. Persons with foreign education who are professional engineers in Canada may apply to be obligated at a special ceremony known as the “Seniors Ceremony”.
The Kipling Ritual was registered in Ottawa on 5 June 1926, under copyright number 6831. Obligation certificates have been printed and given out at or after the ceremony since 1927. The “Hymn of Breaking Strain”, a poem written by Rudyard Kipling, was at times recited as a homily at the end of the Ritual to be delivered by the SSE. Kipling had intended the Wardens to own the copyright of the poem but that plan proved legally impractical and instead it was assigned to himself and published in The Engineer in 1935 to secure the rights. Kipling’s poem “The Sons of Martha” was written in 1907 and has also been recited as a homily. The Corporation of the Seven Wardens was incorporated as the custodial organization and administrative body of the Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer, under federal letters patent on 18 March 1938. The Ritual was officially registered in the United States in 1941. Miniature obligation cards were given to obligating engineers as portable keepsakes in 1943, at the suggestion of Harold Johnston, the secretary of Camp Seven in Halifax. The trademark for the ring design was registered in 1961 in Canada and 1965 in the United States.
Attempts have been made to make the Ritual available outside of Canada. Some Wardens felt that the Ritual to be extended to engineers in Commonwealth countries and in the United States. Some wardens have rejected numerous attempts to adapt the ceremony for other jurisdictions outside of Canada. Nonetheless, certain highly distinguished foreign engineers have taken the obligation in Canada, upon the invitation of the Chief Warden.
Kipling was opposed to such extension. He wrote “I did it for the Canadians and with the Canadians I wish it to remain.” Within Canada, the Iron Ring Ceremony has become immensely popular. By 2007 twenty-five camps located in every region of the country serving the needs of thirty-eight university campuses. The text of the Ritual has been translated into French as “L’engagement de l’ingenieur”, as have the poems “The Sons of Martha” and the “Hymn of Breaking Strain”, both of which are included in the French ceremony as in the English. Camp One has expanded its reach beyond the University of Toronto, so that it now serves Ryerson University (added in 1992), York University and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (both added in 2007).
The Order of the Engineer in the United States has modelled an obligation ceremony on the Canadian Ritual. The U.S. camps are called “Links”. Candidates wear plain stainless steel rings to show that they have been obligated. This programme was approved by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2003 and has been condoned by the Corporation of the Seven Wardens. Though the ceremony bears little resemblance to the Kipling Ritual, the American ceremony clearly acknowledges its Canadian origin.
LIST OF ORIGINAL WARDENS BY CAMP
- Camp 1 (1925): William D. Black, William A. Bucke, Herbert E.T. Haultain, Thomas H. Hogg, Arthur D'Orr LePan, Charles A. MacDonald, Robert J. Marshall
- Camp 2 (1926): DeGaspé Beaubien, F.B. Brown, N.M. Campbell, F.S. Keith, J.C. Kemp, J.J. Ross, F.P. Shearwood
- Camp 3 (1927): John M. Campbell, William Casey, John Donnelly, Stanley N. Graham, Thomas A. McGinnis, Edward J.C. Schmidlin, Henry L. Sherwood
- Camp 4 (1928): R.N. Blackburn, H.S. Carpenter, A.C. Garner, A.M. MacGillibray, J.R.C. Macredie, C.J. Mackenzie, L.A. Thornton
- Camp 5 (1930): E. Carpenter, E.A. Cleveland, Victor Dolmage, A.E. Foreman, W.H. Powell, G.A. Walkem, A.E. Wheatley
- Camp 6 (1930): R.B. Baxter, L.C. Charlesworth, W.J. Cunningham, J.B. de Hart, A.W. Haddow, S.G. Porter, B.L. Thorne
- Camp 7 (1930): H.F. Bennett, W.P. Copp, H.W.L. Doane, A.F. Dyer, J.B. Hayes, H.S. Johnston, J.H. Winfield
- Camp 8 (1930): C.H. Attwood, Donald J. Birse, George E. Cole, J.S. DeLury, H.B. Lumsden, J.W. Sanger, Fred V. Seibert
- Camp 9 (1934): J.R. Freeman, A. Gray, C.C. Kirby, Gilbert G. Murdock, Geoffrey Stead, G.H. Thurber, G.A. Vandervoort