Local marine artist and search and rescue volunteer John Malcolm Horton is one of 13 people chosen to receive the province’s highest honour this year.
Horton is being recognized for the significant contributions he has made to the appreciation and safety of B.C.’s coastal history and its waters through his paintings showcased in collections across Canada, commemorative coin designs for the Canadian Mint, and a lifetime of volunteer service to keep mariners safe, according to a biography provided by the B.C. government.
“In his outstanding paintings — over 1,400 in number — Horton depicts the history of the coast of B.C., bringing to life the historic voyages of captains Cook and Vancouver. His work has attracted the attention of officials at the Department of National Defence who selected him to produce paintings of Canadian warships serving in the Arabian Gulf and on international exercises,” the bio states.
In February, Horton was presented with the 2020 Delta Friends of Heritage Award for promoting awareness of Delta’s maritime heritage through art.
Horton’s painting “Arrival at Port Guichon” was purchased by a small group of residents led by former mayor Doug Husband after four years of fundraising and donated to the city last October. Horton, in turn, donated half the proceeds from the sale to the Delta Heritage Society.
“Arrival at Port Guichon” was inspired by a photograph dated circa 1903 taken from the bank of the Fraser River and features the Victorian ferry arriving at the Port Guichon wharf, Delta’s first port. The painting also shows the Victoria Terminal Railway train, the Guichon family home and marine vessels carrying potatoes and salmon down the river, giving life to Delta’s connection to the Fraser River and to the Port Guichon wharf, which played an important role in the development of Ladner.
In recognition of his marine art, Horton is the only Canadian artist mentioned in the late Dennis Brook-Hart’s definitive book, Twentieth Century Marine Painting. He is a founding member of the Canadian Society of Marine Artists and member of the Federation of Canadian Artists, the Naval Officers Association of B.C. and the Honourable Company of Master Mariners. Through his art, he has supported many schools, museums, hospitals and community-based charities.
Equally significant, however, is his long-time volunteer work in marine search and rescue.
Horton has been active in the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary, Canadian Lifeboat Institution, Royal Naval Sailing Association (B.C.), Royal Canadian Sea Cadets and the Naval Officers Association of B.C.
“Since joining the Canadian Marine Rescue Auxiliary in 1979, his focus has been on assisting the native and commercial fisheries in B.C. along with any other mariners in distress. Volunteering under the auxiliary flag, he has assisted in the rescue of hundreds of vessels either in distress or disabled,” the bio states.
In 1988, Horton began volunteering with the Canadian Lifeboat Institution, a not-for-profit, nationally registered charitable marine search and rescue (SAR) organization that provides secondary SAR services (“vessel of opportunity” assistance, safety patrols, public boating information, etc.), and assists primary SAR organizations like the Canadian Coast Guard and its auxiliary,Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue, to save those in peril in the Lower Fraser River and Gulf of Georgia.
Horton purchased what would become the Steveston Lifeboat that same year, and has devoted thousands of hours — and his own money — to maintaining the 52-foot vessel. From its long-time base in Steveston, and its more recent home in Ladner, Horton has trained numerous volunteers to be competent crew members on the now-renamed Delta Lifeboat and responded to 600 incidents.
“[The lifeboat]’s safety role to the fishing fleet in the Gulf of Georgia and Fraser Estuary cannot be over-estimated; to date almost 900 incidents have been attended by Horton aboard the Delta Lifeboat.”
Horton is one of 13 British Columbians being named to the order this year. Others being honoured include crooner Michael Bublé, developer Ryan Beedie and Mel Krajden, medical director of the BCCDC Public Health Laboratory.
The full list of this year’s honourees and their biographies can be be found at here.
Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin, chancellor of the order, said she was “delighted to welcome 13 new members to the order.”
“They have helped us to grow as a province, taught us to care for our environment, enriched our lives with literature and art, helped us to address past injustices and inspired us to become a more caring and inclusive society. To recognize these remarkable people, who are changing our communities for the better in many ways, is an honour of great personal significance to me,” Austin said.
Premier John Horgan also congratulated the 13 honourees.
“As we celebrate B.C. Day, I want to recognize the efforts, achievements and accomplishments of this year’s Order of British Columbia recipients,” Horgan said. “Congratulations on receiving this well-deserved honour. Your many contributions have enriched the lives of British Columbians and helped make our province an even better place.”
There were 160 British Columbians nominated this year, part of more than 5,900 nominations the province has received in the 31 years since the order’s inception.
In total, 460 people have been appointed to the order, with members representing all regions of the province in numbers generally proportionate to a region’s population.
The Order of British Columbia is normally handed out during a ceremony at Government House in Victoria on B.C. Day, but due to the ongoing pandemic, this year’s honourees will receive theirs in 2021.
— with files from Katya Slepian