The Stampede celebrates National Flag of Canada Day

For National Flag Day, we are re-publishing an article from 2015 - some history of our beloved red and white maple leaf and the Canadian flag at the Stampede.

Happy National Flag Day, Canada! Today we celebrate our nation’s unifying symbol: the Canadian Flag.

By 1965, the maple leaf was already commonly used by Canadians to signify their unique identity from the rest of the British Commonwealth. However, the country’s flag was still the Canadian Red Ensign, which featured the Union Jack and the Canadian Coat of Arms. Prime Minister Lester Pearson recognized that Canada had come of age and so he commissioned the design of the country’s new flag. The Canadian Flag was raised for the first time at noon on February 15, 1965.

The Calgary Stampede flying the Union Jack and Red Ensign, 1955.

The Calgary Stampede flying the Union Jack and Red Ensign, 1955.

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Introducing the Calgary Stampede OH Ranch Historical Centre

In late 2016, the Calgary Stampede Foundation hosted the first tour of the OH Ranch Historical Centre, which illuminates the long and storied history of the OH Ranch. The Historical Centre is located in the basement of the OH Ranch Cookhouse.

OH Ranch Jan 2015_S Murray pics (2)

Previously, cowboys used the basement of the cookhouse as a bunkhouse. The room was complete with 60s era shag carpet and a few old couches. Now, thanks to the Foundation and generous donors, the basement has been revitalized into an inviting educational space.

Students of the OH Ranch Educational Program and visitors to events at the ranch can learn about past and present owners, like Bill Siebens who donated the OH Ranch to the Calgary Stampede Foundation in 2012. They can also see a bison coat and learn about the role of the North West Mounted Police police in western Canada, and come face to face with a bison head and learn about the original inhabitants of the land—First Nations peoples.











Students can try on cowboy clothing and learn about the jobs of ranch hands who have lived and worked at OH Ranch.












Or, follow a timeline that traces the OH from its origins into the future.











Today, the Calgary Stampede is the steward of the OH Ranch, which is protected as a Heritage Rangeland with the Nature Conservancy of Canada. The rich history and tradition that are lived every day on the ranch is now preserved and shared in the OH Ranch Interpretive Centre.

Stampede History Moment Presents: Merry Christmas from the Cosgraves

Dick Cosgrave looms large in Stampede history. Arena director, long-time chuckwagon record holder, stock breeder…Cosgrave did it all. Lesser known about Dick and his wife Olive is that they sent out great Christmas Cards! So this year, we celebrate the holiday season with some flashback greetings from the Cosgraves.

Cograve Christmas Card 1 Calgary Stampede

If only Santa had thoroughbreds instead of reindeer.


Cograve Christmas Card 2 Calgary Stampede

Writing the Stampede 2013 catchphrase, 60 years prior.


Cograve Christmas Card 3 Calgary Stampede

“As Christmas rolls around again, We’re just now dryin’ out, From that ’65 Stampede so wet; we coulda fished for trout.” Also applicable to 2016.


Cograve Christmas Card 4 Calgary Stampede

New event for next year’s Stampede: reindeer-wrestling.


Cograve Christmas Card 5 Calgary Stampede

“So with Christmas fast approachin’, It’s nice to make your home, Amongst obligin’ neighbors, who leave their livestock roam” …Remember western hospitality this holiday season.

Today, fourth-generation driver Colt Cosgrave and outrider Chad Cosgrave continue the tradition of competing at the Stampede started by their great-grandfather in 1926.

Wear a Poppy This November

Sir Douglas Haig, who during the First World War had served as Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force, which included the Canadians, attended the Calgary Stampede in 1925. His visit to the Stampede was one stop on his cross-Canada tour promoting veterans’ causes.

Haig rode on horseback through downtown Calgary to Stampede Park. Thousands of Calgarians lined the route to cheer him on.

Haig rode on horseback through downtown Calgary to Stampede Park. Thousands of Calgarians lined the route to cheer him on.

When Canadian soldiers returned from the war, Canada was very different than when they had left. Jobs had become more technical and many veterans were unskilled labourers. Making matters worse, veterans’ pensions were very small because the government believed that they should only be supplementary to other income. Almost one in every three veterans had suffered debilitating wounds and countless more had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many could not afford to live in post-war Canada.

Haig met Hoot Gibson, movie star, rodeo champion and the 1925 Stampede Parade Marshal.

Haig met Hoot Gibson, movie star, rodeo champion and the 1925 Stampede Parade Marshal.

Supporting veterans fell to charitable organizations, including numerous national organizations as well as local and regional groups. Their intentions were good but there were too many groups that were too small. They feuded regularly over who would control monies generated by the Poppy Fund. Like today, each November, Canadians would buy and wear poppies. The profits from this campaign were divided between veteran organizations, but by 1925, the groups were so at odds with each other that the veterans did not receive the benefits they could have.

Haig’s trip helped remedy the situation. He crossed the country with a simple message of a united effort. He arrived in Calgary on Thursday, July 9th. His party included numerous representatives from Canadian veterans’ groups. They rode on horseback through downtown Calgary to Stampede Park. Thousands of Calgarians lined the route to cheer on Haig. He then attended the rodeo, met movie star Hoot Gibson who was the Stampede parade marshal that year, and talked with First Nations community leaders, who gave him the honourary name Chief Bull Head. The Stampede, an event wholly dedicated to building a unique and united community, helped Haig spread his message of unity and support to our veterans.

Haig was given the honourary name Chief Bull Head.

Haig was given the honourary name Chief Bull Head.

In November, the success of Haig’s tour came to fruition with the founding of the Canadian Legion of the British Empire Service League: today’s Royal Canadian Legion. The Legion quickly spread from coast to coast becoming a place of refuge, support and comradeship for veterans. Its programs supported disabled veterans and helped those in financial need. The Legion hall became a social hub for many communities. It also lobbied the government for better support and pensions for the country’s war heroes.

Since 1925, the Calgary Stampede has continued to recognize, support, and commemorate the service and sacrifice of the Canadian Forces. Buy a poppy this November. Wear it in proud reminder of our nation’s fallen and, in doing so, support our veterans through the important work and programs of the Canadian Legion.


For SAIT’s 100th birthday: Stories of SAIT and the Stampede’s shared history

SAIT is turning 100 this year–pretty incredible. Did you know that SAIT may not have reached this momentous birthday if it wasn’t for the Calgary Stampede? During the Second World War, the Royal Canadian Air Force used SAIT’s buildings as a Wireless Radio Training School for Allied soldiers. Rather than see the school shut down, the Stampede stepped up and offered SAIT space to run its classes. SAIT used the Grandstand as its temporary school until 1944, and even ran classes in July.

SAIT teaching under the Stampede Grandstand 1940

SAIT teaching under the Stampede Grandstand, 1940

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Flashback Friday with the Royal Trio

Join author Jennifer Hamblin at the Calgary Central Library for a historical look at the Calgary Stampede’s most recognizable ambassadors, the Queens and Princesses. Since Patsy Rodgers was crowned the first Stampede Queen in 1946, the program has grown to become one of the most beloved parts of the Calgary Stampede.

Hamblin is the author of Calgary’s Stampede Queens (2014).

Hambling Talk Poster

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CS History Moment: Celebrating 50 years with the Calgary Kidettes

On the eve of the 50th Anniversary of the Calgary Kidettes, Stampede Historian Christine Leppard and raconteur Margot Gooder McDermott provide a look at the origins and history of the group and where we are today.

Canadian Classic is the name of this year’s TransAlta Grandstand Show. It promises to be a spectacle celebration of Canada from sea-to-sea-to-sea. It’s a fitting name for a show that stars the Young Canadians School of Performing Arts, who are themselves a Canadian classic. The Young Canadians of the Calgary Stampede evolved from the Calgary Kidettes, who were featured in the second locally produced Grandstand Show in 1965.


Early rehearsal at the Stampede Grandstand

Travelling variety shows were a common feature at State Fairs held across the United States and exhibitions held across Canada. By the early 1960s, the Calgary Stampede was just another stop on the circuit. Although the travelling variety shows provided an entertaining cap to the chuckwagon races, many people—including critics and Stampede management, alike—felt that the shows that came to the Stampede were missing two critical elements: local flavour and all-star talent. The travelling shows just couldn’t get the talent that, for example, Ed Sullivan was bringing to people’s living rooms every week.[1]

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Earl Bascom: Canadian Sport Legend

Famous rodeo athlete Earl Bascom is being inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in a ceremony on June 17 at Canada Olympic Park.

The “Father of Modern Rodeo,” Bascom is best known for his exploits in the rodeo arena. He was an all-around champion, competing in bronc riding, bareback riding, bull riding and steer wrestling. Bascom’s first appearance at the Calgary Stampede was in 1932 in the saddlebronc and steer decorating competitions. Notably, Bascom designed the first modern rodeo chute in 1916.

Earl Bascom steer decorating at the Calgary Stampede, 1935. Image Courtesy of the Glenbow Archives, NA-3164-9.

Earl Bascom steer decorating at the Calgary Stampede, 1935. Image Courtesy of the Glenbow Archives, NA-3164-9.











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Harry the Horse turns 30!

Harry the Horse made his first public appearance on March 14, 1985 at Rodeo Royal, and he has been charming Stampede audiences ever since. During Stampede time, Harry makes about 100 appearances every day. He spends the rest of the year attending events all over Alberta and throughout the world.

Harry the Horse - March

Harry posing in a jet outside the Scotiabank Saddledome

Harry’s Predecessors: Jim Dandy and Nellie

The Stampede’s first mascots were Jim Dandy and Nellie, an old-timer riding his trusty mare with a bushy tail. One year, Jim and Nellie attended the President’s Ball of the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver. They gave the event some much-needed western spirit.

Unfortunately when Jim and Nellie turned to leave, Nellie’s bushy tail knocked right through a table, sending wine and more onto guests! Poor Jim and Nellie were put out to pasture shortly thereafter, and Harry the Horse was called to step in and take over.

harry 1

Jim Dandy and Nellie entertaining the crowd

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Stampede History Moments Presents the World’s Largest Curling Rink

When you’re attending the 2015 Tim Hortons Brier between February 26 and March 7, remember to head over to the Big Four Building for fun and games in the “Brier Patch.” While you’re there, reminisce about a piece of Calgary’s curling history.

The Big Four Building used to hold the world record for the most curling sheets in one rink. When the Big Four Building opened in 1959, it had 24 curling sheets on the lower level during the winter months. It became so popular with curlers that the size was doubled in 1960, making the Big Four the world’s largest indoor curling rink with 48 sheets.

For many years in the early 20th century, Calgary curlers had been forced to play outside. Perpetually plagued by pesky, ice-melting Chinooks, Calgary curlers tried to persuade the Artificial Ice Rink Company to convert the Victoria Arena ice into a curling rink between hockey games. That idea didn’t take hold, but eventually the Stampede decided that in the winter months, they would turn the Victoria Pavilion horse barns into curling sheets. Victoria Pavilion was a huge success, both financially for the Stampede and for the curlers. It even helped encourage a campaign to bring the Macdonald Brier to Calgary in 1948. When hockey moved into the Corral after 1950, curling was expanded in the Victoria Arena to a total of 12 sheets.[1]


Hockey legend and Stampede President Mervyn “Red” Dutton throws the first rock at the Stampede bonspiel, Victoria Arena, 1953.

By 1954, however, the Stampede’s agricultural activities were expanding year-round. They decided to double the size of livestock pavilion, which limited exhibition space and the space for curling. Fortunately, curling at the Victoria Arena had been extremely profitable, and paid for the down payment for a new building and curling rink: the Big Four Building. The Stampede was confident that the building would ultimately pay for itself, largely through curling rentals.[2]

In the mid-60s, however, the popularity of the Big Four curling rink dipped slightly, and with good reason! The Big Four was still a “dry” facility—unusual for a classic bonspiel. Most other Calgary rinks had already obtained liquor licenses and syphoned business from the Big Four. In 1967, the Stampede rectified the problem by getting a liquor license, and in doing so won back many of its lost curlers.[3]


The Big Four remained a curling rink until the lead up to the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, at which time the ice was removed to accommodate a media centre.

On March 5, 2015, Mavericks Restaurant in the Big Four Building will be hosting “The Great Canadian Auction” with proceeds going to Canada-wide curling bursaries for children in need of financial support for sport. Find out more, here.




[1] James Gray, A Brand of Its Own: The 100 Year History of the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede (Saskatoon: Western Producer Prairie Books, 1985), 123-124.

[2] Ibid., 160.

[3] Ibid., 143.



Calgary Stampede Honoured with two Agriculture Awards

The Calgary Stampede and our long-time director of Western Events and Agriculture of have been honoured with two awards in agriculture. In a ceremony held in Edmonton on February 7, 2015, Max Fritz was named the recipient of the 2015 Award of Merit from the Alberta Association of Agricultural Societies (AAAS), and the Stampede received the Alberta Agricultural Society Century Award.

Max Fritz Awarded the AAAS Award of Merit

The AAAS Award of Merit is presented to an individual or organization that has excelled in the encouragement of growth and promotion of Agricultural Societies in Alberta.

Max Fritz accepting the 2015 Award of Merit

AAAS President Doug Kryzanowski (l) presents the Calgary Stampede’s Max Fritz with the 2015 Award of Merit

The AAAS honoured Fritz, as follows:

A 30-year team member at the Calgary Stampede, Max Fritz is the director of Western Events and Agriculture for the Calgary Stampede. That covers a lot of ground, with oversight for rodeo and chuckwagon racing, plus year-round western performance horse competitions and agriculture. Max also oversees the Calgary Stampede’s role as ranchers, operating a 22,000 acre ranch and the Born to Buck horse breeding program as well as a cow-calf cattle operation on 8,000 acres.

The Stampede’s role bridging urban and rural audiences fits well with Max’s lifestyle and unique perspectives. Every day he commutes from his farm outside of Calgary into the heart of the city then enjoys his downtime as an avid outdoorsman exploring the great outdoors of Alberta. Max witnesses on a daily basis the dramatic societal changes that shape community opinions on land and livestock management, as well as perceptions of working animals.

Over the years, Max has experienced many changes in how the Stampede’s guests engage in events and attractions on Stampede Park over the year. Much of his time is spent working with a variety of key stakeholders and associations to ensure the organization and industry is aligned with the values of the community. Fairs and exhibitions play a critical role in the community to gather people to celebrate and present unique opportunity to showcase working animals to an increasingly urbanized population. While differences of opinion and challenges are ever-present, Max believes that there are no magic answers, other than ensuring that we are aligned in our values and our actions continue to be meaningful to the community in the future.

Congratulations, Max!

The Stampede awarded the Alberta Agricultural Society Century Award.

Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development has honoured the contribution that the Calgary Stampede has made to the Calgary and southern Alberta communities since its incorporation more than 100 years ago, by presenting it with the Century Award.

Fritz accepting the AAAS Centry award on the Stampede’s behalf

Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Verlyn Olson (l) presents the Century Award to the Calgary Stampede’s Max Fritz.

In 1884, Calgary was a small outpost for the surrounding agricultural areas. Recognizing the potential of the region, citizens formed the Calgary and District Agricultural Society. Their aim was to educate visitors about new techniques in agriculture, change the widespread belief that the conditions in the West were unsuitable for agriculture and attract eastern farmers.

The Agricultural Society held Calgary’s first fair in 1886. The Calgary Tribune reported that “There is no reason why Calgary Fair should not be made for all time the leading fair of the west.” Over the next decades, the Agricultural Society—later known as the Calgary Exhibition—saw success in its fairs, but struggled financially. The merger with the Calgary Stampede in 1923 brought stability, and since then the popularity of the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede has continued to grow.

The Stampede hosts a range of agricultural events year-round, and works closely with the Nature Conservancy of Canada to preserve the historic OH Ranch. It also runs numerous education programs, including Aggie Days, 4-H, Stampede School, the OH Ranch Education Program and Journey 2050.

The widespread success of the Stampede’s year-round agricultural programming led to the opening of the Agrium Western Event Centre last year. This state-of-the-art facility has been carefully designed to meet the unique needs and safety of our animal guests.

The Stampede welcomes three million guests to its Park each year. Since 1884, the Stampede has continued to honour the Calgary and District Agricultural Society’s original objectives of educating visitors and showcasing Alberta agriculture at home and to the world.

Thank you to everyone past and present who has helped the Stampede to achieve this honour.

The Stampede celebrates National Flag of Canada Day

Happy National Flag Day, Canada! Today we celebrate fifty years of our nation’s unifying symbol: the Canadian Flag.

By 1965, the maple leaf was already commonly used by Canadians to signify their unique identity from the rest of the British Commonwealth. However, the country’s flag was still the Canadian Red Ensign, which featured the Union Jack and the Canadian Coat of Arms. Prime Minister Lester Pearson recognized that Canada had come of age and so he commissioned the design of the country’s new flag. The Canadian Flag was raised for the first time at noon on February 15, 1965.

The Calgary Stampede flying the Union Jack and Red Ensign, 1955.

The Calgary Stampede flying the Union Jack and Red Ensign, 1955.

Stampede Park has proudly flown the Canadian flag since 1965. It is most visible today from the large steel flagpole in Indian Village, which stretches 63 metres (207 feet) high. Stampede Park’s flagpole has an interesting heritage, as explained below.

The World’s Tallest Wooden Flagpole

The first flagpole that stood in Indian Village was made of a single Douglas Fir tree, which was gifted to the Calgary Stampede from the British Columbia government in 1981. Standing 62 metres (204 feet) high, it was the largest wooden flagpole in the world![1] The massive tree had required the efforts of 37 loggers to remove from the ground. It was then hauled overland on a logging truck to Calgary, and established in Indian Village in 1982. Just five years after the CN Tower had overshadowed the Calgary Tower as Canada’s tallest tower, the Calgary Stampede’s flagpole surpassed Toronto’s Canadian National Exhibit flagpole as the tallest wooden flagpole in the world.[2]

Logging truck carrying the Douglas Fir tree to Calgary. Photo Courtesy of the “From Camp to Community” Virtual Museum, BC Forest Discovery Centre.

Logging truck carrying the Douglas Fir tree to Calgary. Photo Courtesy of the “From Camp to Community” Virtual Museum, BC Forest Discovery Centre.

The world's tallest wooden flagpole, Indian Village circa 1985.

The world’s tallest wooden flagpole, Indian Village circa 1985.

Unfortunately, over the next 19 years, the pole’s core began to rot, so it was replaced in 2001 by the steel flagpole that stands in Indian Village today.[3] While the pole has changed, the flag—and the spirit of national unity that it represents—has remained the same, and the Stampede is proud to honour that spirit. On February 15 we encourage you to fly your Canadian flag… we sure will be.



[1] Kerry Williamson, “Stampede flagpole gets trashy ending,” Calgary Herald, September 29,2001.

[2] Williamson, “Stampede flagpole.”

[3] “The Flag Pole,” (retrieved February 10, 2015).

Remembering Gordon Crowchild

On January 12, 2015 the Calgary Stampede lost a valued member of its family with the passing of Tsuu T’ina Lifetime Chief and famous cowboy Gordon Crowchild.

Crowchild was born on the Tsuu T’ina Nation Reserve in 1929. He competed in his first Stampede at the age of 15 in the Boys’ Steer Riding competition. Crowchild grew up admiring Aboriginal cowboys Jimmy Wells, Fred Gladstone, Frank Many Fingers and Tom Three Persons, and he “wanted to grow up to be a cowboy.”[1] Later in life, he recalled that he “used to watch the Calgary Stampede from the Grandstand side across the race track and when I [saw] the Cowboy[s] compete I always thought in my mind someday I’m going be like that man[,] because many Indian Native boys took part in the Calgary Stampede.”[2]

He followed his father, Tsuu T’ina Chief David Crowchild, into the chuckwagon races, and rode as an outrider for his dad’s team. Then from 1950-1953, he drove his own chuckwagon team with his half-brother Edwin Crane. In those years, Crowchild also began competing in rodeo events, which over his career included Wild Cow Milking, Steer Decorating, Steer Wrestling and the Wild Horse Race. In 1971 he was named the Stampede High-Point Champion, and he was honoured by the Stampede as a Pioneer of Rodeo in 1995.

Gordon Crowchild 2

Calgary Stampede Wild Horse Race 1982
Courtesy of the Huish Family

Crowchild was Chief of the Tsuu T’ina Nation during the 1970s, and throughout his life he was an advocate for Aboriginal cowboys. Longtime Stampede Indian Events committee member Fred Saunders remembers Crowchild as being, “very supportive of First Nations rodeo cowboys and willing to share advice and interesting stories from his vast experience and knowledge of the sport.”[3] In 1962, Crowchild helped found the All Indian Rodeo Cowboy Association, which is known today as the Indian Rodeo Cowboys Association (IRCA). He was both founder and competitor, and in 1971 was the IRCA Steer Wrestling Champion.

Gordon Crowchild 1

Gordon Crowchild b. 1929 d. 2015

Gordon will be remembered for his stories, his sense of humour, his love of rodeo and his commitment to his Tsuu T’ina Nation. He was a cowboy through and through, and embodied the true spirit of the sport. He once said that when his cowboy hat wasn’t on his head, it was sitting turned up, because then “you’re open to the world showing your love.”

Gordon Crowchild competed in rodeo events well into his 60s. A number of years ago he spoke to one of our Stampede School classes about his history and connections with rodeo, where he told them: “Children, I’m a Cowboy. One thing… when I leave this world, I’ll leave it as a Cowboy.”[4]

He will be missed.



[1] Stampede School, “Gordon Crowchild talks about competing,” Our Roots,

[2] Fred Saunders to Author, January 14, 2015.

[3] Jim Goodstriker, “Veteran cowboy still champ in pro Indian rodeo,” Windspreaker 11:5 (1993).

[4] Stampede School, “Gordon Crowchild growing up,” Our Roots,

Upcoming Event: “Ranching Women in Southern Alberta 1880-1930”

Calling all Western history lovers! Next Tuesday, January 27, there is a free talk at Fort Calgary about the history of ranching women.

Rachel Herbert is a fifth-generation Alberta rancher. She has an MA in history from the University of Calgary, and owns and operates a ranch outside of Nanton, called Trail’s End. That name may ring a bell for many of you, as Trail’s End has a long lineage. Herbert is the great-granddaughter of Fred and Edith Ings. Fred Ings ran cattle on the open range in the late 1800s. He was the second owner of the OH Ranch, which the Stampede Foundation now owns and operates in collaboration with the National Conservancy of Canada. After selling the OH Ranch to his brother James Walter in 1908, Fred and Edith operated Midway Ranch, Sunset Ranch, and Trail’s End near Nanton in the early 1900s.  Edith continued ranching after Fred’s death in the 1930s, and also ran a dude ranch at Trail’s End from the 1930s to 1950s. Rachel will be speaking about the unique challenges and opportunities facing ranching women in southern Alberta from 1880 to 1930, and “dismantle the notion of an entirely masculine ranching culture.”

The lecture is free and open to the public.

Herbert Poster2

Click here to see a list of other talks hosted by the Chinook Country Historical Society.

Stampede Stories with Oliver Perry

Born in 1919, Oliver Lewis Perry spent much of his youth exploring Guy Weadick’s ranch near High River. He remembers Guy Weadick and Flores La Due fondly, saying that when he was over, “Mr. Weadick did the cooking…he’d have pancakes.”

In September, the Calgary Stampede Historical committee had the opportunity to interview Perry about his life and his memories of Weadick and La Due.

Perry was born in Kamloops, BC, on July 12, 1919. Before Perry started school, his family relocated to central Alberta, and later Banff. Then, around 1928, his father took a job in High River.

Perry remembers his first encounter with Weadick and La Due: his father’s manager asked Perry if he “wanted to go fishing”; naturally, the 10-year-old agreed. He thus joined the crew hauling supplies up the Highwood River and, in his words, became the “official gate opener.” He ended up staying overnight at Weadick and La Due’s ranch while the crew continued up the river. That visit started a 30-year relationship with the founder of the Calgary Stampede, Guy Weadick, and world-renowned trick rider Flores La Due.

Guy Weadick