-by Bill Monahan

There was excitement in Meaford when, on May 20 th , the town received for the first time in history a visit from the Governor-General of Canada, the Queen's representative in this country. The occasion was to present the town with a new Coat of Arms along with a new Chain of Office for the Mayor. There was no shortage of pomp and ceremony. School rooms were emptied of children so that they could take up prime vantage points along the sidewalk on the sunny fragrant morning. The military was called out to provide an honour guard with a pipe band. A ceremony in Meaford Hall included The Goldenaires leading the audience in "Oh Canada" and the Georgian Bay Secondary School band playing the Grand March from Verdi's "Aida".

Meaford-coat-of-arms2The town honoured the Governor General by naming a soon to be developed patch of lakeshore by theCoast Guard station David Johnston Park. His Excellency did his duty with commendable gravity and later delighted the audience with humourous anecdotes. It was, as the mayor proclaimed, "a great day for Meaford".

But there was a significance that surpassed all of celebratory ceremony and it lay in the story of the Coat of Arms itself.

There has been a problem in Meaford that has existed since it was amalgamated with Sydenham and St. Vincent in the days of the Harris provincial government. The municipality's western border is a long way from Meaford harbour and is, in fact, so close to Owen Sound's harbour that some residents can look out across the fields to see the Chi Cheemaun plying the waters there. In this sparsely populated farmland there has long been a simmering resentment about being forced to pay Meaford taxes when the amenities they use more often are just a stone's throw away in Owen Sound. Just before and during the last municipal election that resentment came close to the boiling point, with petitions being circulated to secede altogether from Meaford. The newly elected council felt very strongly that this issue deserved their immediate attention. Steps have been taken to redress the situation. It is now policy for at least one staff member to be in the Sydenham office every day of the week. Mayor Barb Clumpus invites residents to a "Coffee 'n Chat" once a month at the Sydenham depot, and once at Bognor Hall. She and the rest of council sincerely want to reach out to Meaford's western residents and change the perception that their elected representatives only care about "urban Meaford".

A fairly common phenomenon in Meaford is that when someone comes up with an imaginative suggestion the response is an almost overwhelming and instant enthusiasm. Soon volunteers pitch in to make the idea a reality and in the end the result exceeds everyone's expectations. The Meaford International Film Festival and the Friday Farmers' Markets are just two examples.

In this case the idea came from newly elected councillor, Tony Bell. He remarked that the Mayor's official Chain of Office was a relic from before amalgamation and didn't reflect or reference the citizens from Sydenham and St. Vincent. The council voted to create not only a new Chain of Office but a new Coat of Arms, specifically designed to be a unifying symbol that would represent all three areas of the municipality. This ambitious plan was much more complicated and would require approval from the office of the Governor General. A working group was established that included local politicians past and present and two Meaford historians, Marjorie Davison and John Kerr. "We had lots of disagreements,"says Kerr with a big smile, "and lots of laughs too." The result, unveiled in sketch form last September,represents, says the mayor, "an inclusive, cohesive and unified community".

The design incorporates wheat sheaves and maple leaves, elements from the shields of Sydenham and St. Vincent. Horses and apples represent the municipality's rural nature, and two ships represent notonly the waters of Georgian Bay but the old and new parts of Meaford approaching each other. The motto is "Our Heritage Our Future" but the focus is on today's Meaford brought together as one community. It's just a symbol but it is one that contains a promise.


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