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Kevin Greaves

Author of A Canadian Heraldic Primer

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Short biography
Kevin Wood Greaves (pronounced Graves) was born in 1931 in the British colony of Barbados where his family had settled in 1639. Except for some Viking blood his father's forbears were a mixture of Scots/English and his mother's Scots/Irish. After primary education in Barbados Kevin followed his father into the medical profession first at King's College School in Wimbledon, UK and later at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario from where he graduated in 1954 with a MD and a CM. For forty-three years he practiced medicine from his home in Hamilton, retiring in 1997. His wife Christina filled a vital role, acting as his receptionist and secretary. They met at Hamilton hospital where both worked!

Military & Navy League Service

Following graduation Kevin served as a Medical Officer, Royal Canadian Air Force Reserve, including two seasons in the high Arctic at Resolute Bay, NWT. He then transferred to the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve as a Surgeon Lieutenant where he became involved with the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Movement. Retiring from the Naval Reserve in 1970 he joined the Ontario Division of the Navy League of Canada, became Training Director in 1972 and in 1977 transferred to the National Council of the League, being subsequently appointed National Chairman of the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets. During his time in the Sea Cadets he authored 18 books on Sea Cadet training and administration. (No wonder he did such a good job in creating the Primer!)

Heraldic Interest

Kevin's interest in heraldry began in his childhood when he found a copy of Grant's Manual of Heraldry in his father's library. This interest became more serious when he persuaded the Royal Canadian Navy to allow sea cadets to wear "corps identifying badges" and found himself as chair of the new Badge Committee responsible for designing badges that were all heraldically correct and approved by the Navy League. Fortunately he was able to recruit John Ames, a Sea Cadet Officer with a keen interest in heraldry and a member of the Heraldry Society of Canada.

During their time on the Badge Committee Kevin and John and others on the committee created badges for 218 Sea Cadet Corps and Training Establishments. With his long-held interest in heraldry rekindled, Kevin joined the Heraldry Society of Canada in 1982.

Very soon after joining the Society John Ames persuaded Kevin to enroll in the newly established three-level education program. His studies made him aware of the many intricacies of heraldry and led to him becoming one of the Society's recognized heraldic scholars. As you will see, he is again involved as the present head of that program and as always making it better and more attractive to members and the public.

In the late 1990's Kevin, now a member of the Society's Board of Directors, listened to a point of view during a board meeting that the Society needed a book describing basic Canadian heraldry. With little hesitation Kevin volunteered to be the author. We all wonder if he knew what he was getting into when he made that offer! After "The Primer" appeared in 2000 there are very few, if any, members who have not heard of Kevin Greaves.

Kevin's next "appearance" was in 2001 when he took over the Society's presidency. He remained in that position for a record period of five years, beating Jean Matheson's successful presidency of four years. In the opinion of one well-known member Kevin's period as president was exemplified not only by his hard work but also by his ability to talk people into doing what he thought needed doing. His path became strewn with "willing victims" as the Society got better and better.

Kevin's Accomplishments

With help from others I was able to identify forty-three initiatives which Kevin either carried out, convinced others to help him, or persuaded others to carry out!

The one he is most proud of, and rightly so, was in 2002 when he persuaded the Government of Canada, through the Governor General, to request the Queen's permission for the Society to become the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada. This was followed in 2004 when, via the CHA, he obtained royal permission to have the royal crown in the newly-designed Society arms.

Going back to the Primer, or more correctly, A Canadian Heraldic Primer, Kevin worked for months, along with Gordon Macpherson and Bruce Patterson who did the artistic work and created much of the humour, to complete the writing of the book and then helped in getting it published. It was later translated into French, largely by Auguste Vachon, and given the title L'Abecedaire canadien de l'heraldique. Since then Kevin has assisted in the development of our DVD A Call to Arms, arranged with Eric Saumure for the digitization and production of Beddoe's Canadian Heraldry and wrote and published on-line two other books, A Guide to Basic Blazonry and A Canadian Heraldic Dictionary.

Administration Progression

Early during his presidency Kevin encouraged David Cvet to redesign our website, designed the website's opening Splash Page, and with Gordon Macpherson designed the English and French Home pages and topped it all off by persuading David to become a member!

Shortly after that, recognizing the need to reorganize and modernize the Society's over-all administration he created the Policies and Procedures Handbook, which is treated as the Society's administrative "bible." Another significant development was Kevin's proposal that the Roll of Arms be placed on the website in emulation of the Heraldry Society of Scotland. To help ensure that the administration of future conferences was properly organized, Kevin created two of the initial sections in the Policy and Procedure Handbook: Conduct of an Annual General Meeting and Annual Conference Planning Guidelines.

Publications and Periodicals

Kevin led the arrangements for the donation and transfer of the Society's library to the National Library of Canada where it can be better protected and made available to a broader section of citizens.

With respect to our periodicals, Kevin formed the Periodicals Committee, wrote the original Periodicals Policies Handbook, encouraged the development of Gonfanon from 8 black-and-white pages to its present 16 coloured pages and organized a stable arrangement for proof –reading, printing and distribution of both Gonfanon and Heraldry in Canada. In addition to writing a number of articles for both journals, he appointed two editors for H in C (Eric Saumure and Peter Hannen) and two for Gonfanon (Jonathan Good and Darren George).


During his presidency Kevin was very supportive of the Branches, both the older established Branches and the younger ones, particularly the Prairie Branch. He also proposed and assisted in the design of some of the individual Branch badges, based on the compass-rose outline of the Society badge. Under his direction, the RHSC had them approved and granted by the CHA.

Other Projects

It was Kevin who proposed and created the new award, the Certificate of Meritorious Service, primarily for those members who have received Fellowships or Honorary Fellowships and continued to provide long outstanding services to the Society. Kevin was the third Society member to be given this award.

Two other on-going projects received his support: the Municipal Arms Project, to encourage Canadian municipalities to acquire arms, which is being considered for re-assignment; and the display of Royal, Provincial and other related Arms in Canadian courtrooms. This project is ably reviewed by one of our members, HCol John de Pencier Wright, a well known judge in Thunder Bay.

Kevin's Present Assignments

When he completed his last term as president in 2006, Kevin immediately volunteered to act as the chair of the Examinations Committee. Since that time he has revamped the procedure the Society uses for examinations at all three levels, which has meant a sizeable increase in the number of applicants completing the course. He also acts as chair of the Periodicals Committee, which helps ensure our publications get out correctly and in a timely manner. He continues to sit as a member of the Board of Directors as well!

Honours and awards

2002 Fellow of the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada
2002 Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubiliee Medal
1988 Licentiate of the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada
1992 Grant of Arms, Canadian Heraldic Authority, Ottawa
1977 Silver Jubilee Medal
1970 Canadian Forces Decoration (CD)
1967 Centennial Medal

[Source: Royal Heraldry Society of Canada website. http://www.heraldry.ca/misc/bios/bio_...
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