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Men of Vision celebrating 35th

Two things more often than not identify Cochrane – the place with the good ice cream, and the town with that horseman on the hill. On May 21, that horseman, the “Men of Vision " bronze statue, will celebrate its 35th anniversary.

Two things more often than not identify Cochrane - the place with the good ice cream, and the town with that horseman on the hill.

On May 21, that horseman, the “Men of Vision ” bronze statue, will celebrate its 35th anniversary.

Commissioned by Alberta Culture between 1976-77, and after scouring Alberta looking at more than 30 different sculptors, the final decision on who would etch out a place for themselves in the Cochrane history books landed on the shoulders of Malcolm James MacKenzie, or “Mac ” as he was known in the ranching community.

MacKenzie lived in Cochrane and Banff throughout his life.

The Cochrane Ranche Historic site was named a protected historic plot of land in 1977 by Alberta Culture and the Men of Vision statue was completed and placed in its final resting place atop the Ranche hill overlooking the community May 21, 1979.

The statue's journey from conception to completion took roughly three years according to records from Alberta Culture, including a transatlantic journey after departing its birthplace at one of the most prolific bronze foundries in all of England.

MacKenzie's original creation, a three-foot-tall wax maquette (scale model), was cast in plaster and flown across the Atlantic to the Morris Singer Foundry, originally located in Frome, England, and currently located between Basingstoke and Alton.

Morris Singer also created the famous lions that guard Trafalgar Square in London, England.

MacKenzie flew with his family to England to oversee the completion of the much larger bronze statue.

Upon completion, it was flown back to Cochrane in three pieces and assembled where it stands today at the Cochrane Ranche, which can be seen from many places around town.

Allan Rowe, historic places research officer for Alberta Culture, said the Cochrane Ranche was protected as part of the reworking of the Highway 22/1A intersection in the 1970s.

Rowe sites Alberta Cultures' archive as well as Maxine Anne Cooper Copeman's 1983 master's thesis, “Cochrane Ranche Visual Study: A View of History ” and The Western Heritage Centre: A Feasibility Study (1987).

“Clarence Copithorne was the minister of highways in the late ‘70s when the proposal came through to rework the intersection of Highway 1A and Highway 22, ” said Rowe. “The work would have had a detrimental impact on the land base of the Cochrane Ranche home quarter near the intersection.

“It was apparently Mr. Copithorne's intervention that resulted in the creation of the Cochrane Ranche Provincial Historic Site. ”

Rowe said many believe that MacKenzie based the features of the cowboy on the Men of Vision statue on Mr. Copithorne.

The statue was erected May 21 at the Ranche site and a dedication day for the bronze work followed May 23, which MacKenzie and his family attended.

Born Christmas Day, 1932, MacKenzie passed away June 22, 2002.

Alberta Culture has commissioned a bronze sculpture for Cochrane Ranche Historic Site at Cochrane, Alberta.

Malcolm MacKenzie of Cochrane has been selected as the sculptor, while Morris Singer Foundry of England will enlarge the sculpture to 1-1/3 times life-size and cast it in bronze.

The sculpture is to be located on a rocky bluff overlooking the site of the original buildings of Cochrane Ranche. This location was declared a historic site in 1976, and is now being developed for the use of local residents and tourists alike.

The sculpture, depicting an early cowboy on his horse, commemorates the role of the cow-puncher and ranch-hands in the province's economic development. Cochrane Ranche was the first attempt at large-scale ranching in Alberta and its activities in the 1880s opened the door to the successful cattle industry today in Alberta.

Malcolm MacKenzie was selected for this commission through a two-stage competition organized by Alberta Culture.

Firstly, figurative sculptors in the province were invited to submit portfolios of their work. A committee of adjudicators then reviewed the portfolios and selected eight Alberta sculptors, who were invited to prepare models and proposals for the commission

The sculptors' models were judged on the basis of attention to historical detail in the cowboy's clothing and gear, as well as the type and stance of the horse.

As winner of this competition, Mr. MacKenzie receives a prize of $5,000 in addition to the costs of the commission. Mr. MacKenzie, a rancher for many years, is familiar with horses and cowboy gear. He also guides trail rides in the Rockies.

Morris Singer Foundry of England is an internationally known foundry, with extensive experience in the large-scale bronze casting required for this commission. Their's was the lowest bid of five foundries, which submitted quotes for the casting of this sculpture.

Enlarging the model to full size will take approximately four months, and casting the bronze will require another seven months. The sculpture is expected to be ready for installation at Cochrane Ranche Historic Site in March 1979.

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