Monday, September 29, 2008

New York Genealogical & Biographical Society to Honor Canadian Herald Robert Douglas Watt

New York, NY -- The College of Arms Foundation is pleased to inform its friends and supporters that the Committee on Heraldry of the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society (NYG&B) will confer its Medal for Heraldic Achievement to Robert Douglas Watt.

Mr. Watt will accept the Medal at a black tie dinner in New York on Wednesday 12 November 2008 at the Racquet and Tennis Club, 370 Park Avenue. For reservations please contact Melanie Ayala at or call 212.755.8532. This event is open to the public; tickets must be purchased before 28 October 2008.

The medal will be presented at a dinner in New York at the Racquet & Tennis Club, 370 Park Avenue, on Wednesday 12 November. Born in Picton, Ontario in 1945, Robert Watt was the first Chief Herald of Canada, appointed to that office in 1988 upon the establishment of the Canadian Heraldic Authority. He retired in 2007 after nineteen years in office. "During that time," comments John M. Shannon, Chair of the Heraldry Committee, "Canada created a successful national heraldic model that adapted European conventions to the country's unique characteristics and population."

This is especially evident in the use of native emblems. For example, several Canadian First Nation governments and individuals were granted arms on round shields, the tribal shape, rather than on the traditional European "heater." The round shields also bear distinctly native "charges" or objects, such as the coyote and fox supporters on the arms of the Kamloops Indian Band of the Shuswap Nation (Kamloops, British Columbia) or the buffalo on the heraldic badge of the Siksika Nation (Calgary, Alberta).

During his tenure, Watt made about 1,500 grants and registrations of arms to Canadian institutions, corporations and individuals throughout the country. The Canadian Heraldic Authority also instituted and maintained stylistic and design standards with the result that a Canadian coat of arms is readily recognizable as such. In addition to the frequent use of maple leaves and symbols for water (rivers), there is usually something - whether it be a particular charge, the color tones, or simply the way it is rendered, or drawn - that identifies it as Canadian.

New York Genealogical & Biographical Society was founded in 1869. As a non-profit educational institution, its purpose is to collect and make available information on genealogy, biography and history, particularly relevant to the people of New York State. "The Heraldry Committee is one of the most innovative of the NYG&B," notes William P. Johns, President. "It sponsors events that focus on both modern and traditional heraldry, talks, and walking tours throughout the year." Members of the Committee include heraldry professionals as well as enthusiasts and respected authorities on the subject.

The College of Arms Foundation, a New York State non-profit corporation, was established in 1983 at the time of the 500th anniversary of the College of Arms. Its original purpose was to raise funds for the restoration and maintenance the College's headquarters near St. Paul's Cathedral, where it has been based for over four centuries. More recently the Foundation refocused its efforts towards educating American audiences about the many aspects of English heraldry.

Friday, September 5, 2008

What's an AGM?

click to view larger of the same
George Beley's bookplate designed by Gordon R. Macpherson
The Royal Heraldry Society of Canada's Annual Conference and General Meeting has been a long-time Society tradition. This year it is holding its 42nd Conference, hosted by its Laurentian (Montreal) Branch in Montreal, scheduled to run from Friday, October 3 to Sunday, October 5. The Annual General Meeting (AGM) portion of the weekend is to be held on the Saturday morning, but the entire weekend is referred to as a conference, since it provides numerous unique opportunities for members and non-members to gather and discuss, argue, learn and promote the subject of heraldry, and to re-affirm long-time friendships and acquaintances.

Friday evening is highlighted with the Beley Lecture, so named as a tribute and a memorial to George Beley, the Society's second President, an enthusiastic heraldist and energetic supporter of the Society. This lecture is designed to be an interesting, anecdotal, and sometimes irreverent look at heraldry for the amusement and entertainment of the attenders. Examples include a look at heraldic "critters and monsters" by Society member, Dr. Darren George, delivered at the 39th AGM in Edmonton, and an informative lecture by Dr. Claire Boudreau, Chief Herald of Canada, on her vision for the Canadian Heraldic Authority, presented at the 41st AGM in Victoria.

The AGM weekend has something for everyone, including fascinating tours and excursions in the local area of the Conference. These have included a visit to the Parliament Buildings during the Ottawa AGM, one to the Alberta Legislature during the Conference hosted by Edmonton, and the winery tour organized during the 38th AGM hosted by the Toronto Branch in Hamilton.

The highlight of the Conference is the gala reception and dinner, scheduled for the Saturday evening. This black-tie banquet is an elaborate event, with the banners of Society members on display, miniatures worn by those in attendance, and an atmosphere with a combined sense of history, formality and casual conversation. Venues for previous formal dinners have included Government House in Victoria, the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton and the Rideau Club in Ottawa. Special guests are the norm, and have included Fergus Gillespie, Chief Herald of Ireland, Henry Paston-Bedingfeld, York Herald, and Elizabeth Roads, Lyon Clerk. This year's AGM will feature as a special guest Kevin MacLeod, Usher of the Black Rod, and one-time acting Canadian secretary to H.M. the Queen.

For more details and/or registration info, please contact:
Peter Hogan
President Laurentian Branch
10928 Henault
Montreal QC, H1G 5S2

Tel: (514) 321-7475.
email: agm@heraldryca