Each fall, on the first day of school, the Superannuated Teachers of Prince Albert hold a breakfast that is called “To H--- With the Bell.” It is a great way for retired teachers to reflect that the ‘Bell’ which governed their professional lives can now be happily ignored.
My first year of retirement, I really appreciated the occasion. It was Monday morning and I enjoyed not having those little, but bothersome, concerns and anxieties that came just before the students arrived.
I pledged to myself: Mondays would not ever be fashioned so that I had to obey the ‘call of the bell.’
Then, I joined the Rotary Club. The club meets every Monday. Lo and behold, the meetings start with the chiming of the Rotary Bell. Oh well, I consoled myself by thinking, “It is for a good cause” So, the bell tolls for me at least once a week.
The Rotary Bell is a beauty. It has a solid chime to it and has a fine brass hue. It also has a firm weight - it is obviously well made.
Beyond noting the above, I for the past several years have not given ‘The Bell’ any real attention.
Recently however, fellow Rotarian Joe Weinrich took the bell for some minor refurbishing, and in doing so he noted an engraved inscription on the side of the bell:
Prince Albert Rotary Club
Governor District 171
Joe was intrigued. Who was Raymond Mayson? Why did he choose to present this finely crafted bell to the Prince Albert Club? Joe did some research, which, in turn, unearthed fascinating information - much of it directly connected to events in Prince Albert’s past.
Joe, knowing my interest in local history, called me. Together, we delved into a captivating story:
Richard Mayson was born in 1894 in England. He joined the Royal Air Force during World War I, and was assigned to the Western Front, flying Bi-Wing fighters.
Mayson later wrote the following about his fighter pilot days: “Richard Mason, 74 Squadron, A Memoir of a World War I Pilot.” It is great reading - easy to find on Google - I encourage you to follow up. Here I will quote one brief episode:
“Diving down into the fight, I saw a Hun ... I came onto him head on. Can you imagine ... travelling 150-200 mph coming head on ... I should surely have crashed into him in seconds. I put my nose down and dived ... firing as I went.” Mayson missed, and the German also missed.
Mayson survived the war, and shortly after he emigrated to Canada, where he took up residence in Saskatoon, working in ‘Insurance.’
Mayson continued his flying activities with a local flying club. This led him, in 1930, to join up with a friend, Angus Campbell, and create ‘M&C Aviation.’ They moved the firm to Prince Albert in 1934, successfully specializing in bush-flying for prospectors and miners into Northern Saskatchewan.
During World War II, M&C Aviation used its expertise to run an ‘overhaul facility’ for the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan which operated a vital fighter pilot program here in Prince Albert. Mayson was involved in the training program as well.
In 1947, Mayson sold M&C Aviation to the C.C.F. government of Saskatchewan, which, in turn, set up Sask. Gov’t. Airways (SGA). In 1964, the Liberal government sold SGA, and the well remembered ‘Norcanair’ was born. Glass Field, in Prince Albert, was its home.
While in Prince Albert, Mayson was active in the Rotary Club (hence the origin of the bell, given to the P.A. club by Mayson when he assumed the duties of Rotary District Governor ). He was also a member of the Masons and The Historical Society. He wrote stories for the local paper, and told the same over local radio.
Yes, that Rotary Bell tolls each Monday. It calls Joe and I and other Rotarians to the Rotary table, and now reminds us of a colourful character in our city’s past.
Thank you for your service - Richard Mayson.