MANOTICK -- Joan O'Malley, who sewed the prototypes of the Canadian flag in 1964, will be the Parade Grand Marshal at the 2015 International Plowing Match and Rural Expo in North Stormont, a new experience for her and something she is pleased and proud to do.
The Grand Marshal's connection to agriculture is through her father, Ken Donovan, who came to Canada as a British Home Child in April 1929 and worked out his indenture on farms in the Renfrew area. It is the memory of her father and his role in the making of the Canadian flag that contributed to O'Malley's accepting the invitation to be Parade Grand Marshal and, while personally honoured to be part of this prestigious event, she will also recognize her father and his contribution to Canadian history.
IPM 2015 Chair Jim Brownell felt that because 2015 is a significant anniversary of the adoption of our national flag [Feb. 15, 1965], it was "only natural we invited her to be the parade grand marshal and open the IPM." Brownell commented further that O'Malley has travelled across the province telling the story of our national flag to audiences and would appear to agree with her family that "it is about time" she was recognized for her contribution to Canadian history.
The recognition her family members are referring to is for her role in the creation of our national flag. Donovan, who worked for the Canada Exhibition Commission as a purchasing agent, had received a late Friday afternoon request from the Prime Minister's office on Nov. 6, 1964, to have prototypes of the three designs being considered for the Canadian flag made and delivered to the Prime Minister at his Harrington Lake retreat the next day. After securing the necessary materials, he called his daughter and asked if she could sew the prototypes that evening. O'Malley recalls there was no thought about being part of history as she and her husband travelled across the city, only that her father needed her. While the snow swirled outside, the young woman sewed the prototype flags on her ordinary Singer sewing machine, enlisting the help of her husband on occasion and ensuring that the flags would be delivered to the Prime Minister on schedule.
On Sept. 22, O'Malley and her husband Brian will be riding in a 1964 white convertible with red interior, which is very symbolic as red and white have been the official national colours of Canada since 1921 and the prototype flags were sewn in 1964. Those present at the event will have the opportunity to see the person who played such a pivotal role in the creation of this most important national symbol -- the Canadian Flag.