‘It’s always been a partnership’ for Foot Guards museum curators

Article / August 13, 2019 / Project number: 19-0146

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By  Steven Fouchard, Army Public Affairs

Ottawa, Ontario — You could say Estelle Lane married the Governor General’s Foot Guards (GGFG) right along with her husband, Master Warrant Officer (Retired) Martin Lane, who was a member for 15 years, but the fact is, she became a part of the family even before the pair made it official in 1967.

“It started while we were going out,” Estelle recalled. “He was Treasurer of the Foot Guards Association and Secretary of the Mess. So there were always minutes to type. It’s always been a partnership.”

“That was one of our dates,” she added with a fond laugh. “I’d be typing minutes.”

“We’ve done a lot together,” MWO (Retd) Lane responded.

All told, MWO (Retd) Lane is approaching 60 years of involvement with the GGFG, Canada’s senior Reserve infantry regiment and best known for performing ceremonial duties such as the Changing of the Guard on Parliament Hill in their trademark scarlet tunics and bearskin hats.

“I was sworn in on the fifth of January 1960 and I’ve never left by way of serving for 15 years, and later being the Secretary and Treasurer of the Regimental Association, then Vice-president and serving twice as President,” he said. “I think I’ve served every position in the Association.”

Mrs. Lane did her part, in addition to all that typing, as a member of the regiment’s Ladies’ Auxiliary, helping organize regimental social events as well as fundraisers for valued local organizations such as the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.

He was already part of the museum team but it was in 1996 that MWO (Retd) Lane agreed to take on the role of curator of the small but well-stocked space in the regiment’s headquarters: Cartier Square Drill Hall in downtown Ottawa.

The museum’s collection had been in storage off-site for the previous three years while the hall underwent an extensive renovation.

“It was a mass of work,” MWO (Retd) Lane recalled. “You have to imagine all this stuff packed and it had to be unpacked.”

“One day in August I had been out for lunch with some girlfriends,” Mrs. Lane added. “I walked in and the museum was a holy mess.”

“We got home that night,” said MWO (Retd) Lane, “and she said, ‘Would you like some help?’ It was three weeks prior to the official re-opening with the Governor General. I got down on my knees so fast.”

Though the pace of work has slowed from that frantic, early time, the pair have kept busy preparing displays, transcribing the regiment’s war diaries – which has meant even more typing for Mrs. Lane – and being on hand during opening hours to show visitors around.

The couple’s work was formally recognized in 2002,  and they have both been honoured with Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medals.

“We both wear them proudly,” said MWO (Retd) Lane.

Many of the rewards are less physically tangible: Mrs. Lane recalls with particular fondness meeting Ottawa-born Olympic figure skating medalist Barbara Ann Scott, who in 2007 presented the museum with artifacts that had belonged to her father, Colonel Clyde Rutherford Scott. Col Scott was placed on active duty for overseas service during the First World War along with other members of the GGFG’s 2nd Battalion Canadian Expeditionary Force.

“She was getting on in years and thinking of finding a home for all her father’s things,” Mrs. Lane said. “This lady really honoured her dad. She had a full wall dedicated to him. His medals, swords, his forage cap, his Sam Browne belt. Barbara Ann Scott was my idol. To meet her in person and have my picture taken with her was a thrill of my life. The display stayed there many years. I didn’t take it down until she died [in 2012].”

At age 78, MWO (Retd) Lane said he has no immediate plans to slow down. And Mrs. Lane will continue to be his tireless partner.

“My health is good,” he said.

“That’s because I feed you well,” said Mrs. Lane.

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