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The Tale of the Lion

Embroidered in history

At times throughout OWCA history, we have been involved in the tradition of OWCA garments, including the oncefamous blazer. Dedicated and sartorially resplendent OW Dr Joe Johnson OAM AAM (OW1961) was keen to recreate the popular blazer design from the 1950s, perfect for lunch at The Club, trackside at the Melbourne Olympics, or indeed any regatta. For each OWCA generation who have struggled with emblematic change, Joe revealed an embroidered OWCA design linking our letters, which may still be familiar to readers.

But what unfurled was quite a tale. While working on the revival of the badge, he came across a bit of a puzzle. The Wesley lion on the OWCA blazer badge was the lion that featured on the old cap badges. Following some research (it helps to know that Joe is a Vice-President of the Heraldry Society of Australia!), he could find no other example of a lion with a downturned tail.

Most people today take the image of our Lion for granted, but it appears the cap badge is the basis of the current school lion, which has been slightly modernized.

Joe believes that the downturned tail may have been instigated by the badge makers to make it easier to sew the badge on to the cap, and so it may be that the downturned tail harks back to L. A. Adamson’s introduction of the lion as the cap badge, early in his term as headmaster.

At the tail end of this investigation and much to his surprise, Joe found that his own 1957 school blazer, made by Myer, has a rather different lion, with an upturned tail!

Joe has since received his new badge, with tail downturned, embroidered directly onto the material for his new blazer and has kindly sent another for our Archive. Anyone wanting one made up, either directly on to a garment, or with the black background, should contact specialists Hand and Lock, 86 Margaret Street, London, W1W 8TE or via www.handembroidery.com where the badge is recorded as ‘Old Wesley Collegians Association’.

No doubt this will have OWs passionate about their culture rifling through drawers and suit bags to find their own lion. Perhaps another OW might be able to solve the mystery of the downturned tail!

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