Local marine artist and search and rescue volunteer John Malcolm Horton was among 31 people invested into the Order of British Columbia last week.
Horton took part in the hybrid in-person/virtual investiture ceremony at Government House in Victoria on Thursday, March 3 honouring recipients from 2020 and 2021, as well as three people who were unable to attend their ceremonies in previous years.
Among those who also took part in the ceremony were 2020 recipients Michael Bublé, developer Ryan Beedie and BCCDC Public Health Laboratory medical director Mel Krajden, and 2021 recipients Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and artist Joe Average.
“In hearing the citations this evening, one cannot but be struck by the remarkable diversity of the contributions that we honour today,” Lieutenant-Governor Janet Austin told those attending the ceremony.
“It is sometimes said that the greatest gift possible is the gift of oneself, and we owe you all so much gratitude for giving that gift so very generously to all of us. You’re an inspiration to British Columbians and you’re certainly an inspiration to me. You give me hope for a better world, and I am deeply honoured to be in your company this evening.”
Horton was named to the order in recognition of his significant contributions to the appreciation of B.C.’s coastal history through paintings showcased in collections across Canada and commemorative coin designs for the Canadian Mint, and for his lifetime of volunteer service keeping 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 of 2020, the City of Delta presented Horton with the 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 in October 2019. 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 Horton’s 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.”
Established in 1989, the Order of British Columbia is the highest honour the province can give to its citizens. Since its inception, 475 British Columbians have been appointed to the order from all regions of the province, and in numbers generally proportionate to a region’s population.
The Order of British Columbia is normally handed out during a ceremony at Government House on B.C. Day, but that had to be put on hold the last two years due to restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.