Volunteers Corner

Marg Mathers Short Biography

Back in the day, the rightful place for a woman was in the kitchen, but not all of us fit in that mold. I know I’ll get many chuckles out of people who know me, and I have to start my story somewhere. So here, goes – listen up.

I was born in London, Ontario in…well, I’m not telling exactly when but in19-something or other. When I was school age, my family moved to Winona, Ontario and that’s where I attended school.

In 1959 I decided to join the Royal Canadian Navy and was sent to Cornwallis for basic training. Training was hard, early mornings, tough duties; there I’ve included a picture of me pushing a lawn mower because I was caught….well, I won’t tell you that either because I was on defaulters. For you non military people, it just means I could have displayed better behaviour – truthfully, I should have displayed better cunning and not got caught but there you have it.

This is me pushing a lawn mower on defaulters
Working starboard Flap

On completion of basic training, I started working as a nurse at the hospital in Cornwallis. I was later drafted to Halifax where once again I worked in the hospital at Stadicona as a nurse until my release. At that time, I wanted my release because I couldn’t follow my dream of getting on the ships and becoming an engineer. Being a nurse was not what I wanted to do, not something I had in me. Now when I look back, I feel it was a mistake leaving the navy. But of course you realise back in those days women couldn’t do a man’s job and that is where my heart was and continues to be; in an engine room, tinkering with the machinery.

After the navy I got involved in horsemanship specializing in dressage, having my own horse and equipment I loved that bit of freedom. Again, think about that time period, women might have rode horses, side straddle, but didn’t handle them – well, I did it all!

In 1985 I joined the Canadian War Plane Heritage with the Lancaster support club. I spent many hours stripping paint on the wings and flaps along with other jobs involved with the aircraft. I loved it, I was in my element there. I was also the recording secretary for the steering committee, I worked on fund raising initiatives and gave tours. I took flying lessons to better familiarize myself with how these contraptions work and on one of the Lancaster’s field trips, I got to sit In the pilots seat for about ten minutes and flew the plane before we enter controlled air space.

Then in 1989, after hearing that women are now able to go to sea, you’d better believe I went and applied for the Naval Reserve. In June 1990, I was selected to undertake basic training which was a lot easier than in Cornwallis. I completed Diesel Mech. (QL I) COURSE in July 1991and in January 1992 I sailed on HMCS Ottawa (229) for four months. This is something I always have dream of. When I arrived on the ship they assigned me to work in the boiler room as a fire puncher. Later I was transferred to the engine room as outside rounds man. At the same time I earned my diesel watch keeping ticket. I stayed in the reserve unit I had to retire because of my age. But I did it!

Going for a jackstay ride on the Ottawa
Working on the 4” gun in Ontario Place

So in 1989 I also got involved with HMCS Haida alongside at Ontario Place in Toronto. My first job there was to clean up a mess in the weapons work shop. The following year I got involved with tours in the engineering spaces. There again, I was in my element. I tinkered with other projects such as getting the little Lister diesel air compressor up and running (it was seized) and getting the 3-268 diesel generator running to generate power. Just thinking about it makes me want to get back in and do it all over again. I did a large amount of photography at the time Parks Canada took over the ship starting with the prep for move, the crossing from Toronto, all the work in the dry-dock and the move to Hamilton. Since then, I installed and operated the sirenett. On occasion I have helped strip and clean the 4″ guns, and I’ve looked after keeping some of the brass polished. I have been working No.1 naval stores, cataloguing diesel parts and developing a card system similar to what would have been there in the 50’s.


125 commemorative (during reserve time)
Queens Jubilee (after reserve time for all her volunteering)