General News

Local resident turns pieces of old barn board into patriotic art

July 5, 2018   ·   0 Comments


If you ever happen to visit Ian and Debbie Fairley, you can pick up, for  yourself or another person, a Canadian “flag” made from very old barn board. Mr. Fairley has a small business making these flags of assorted sizes and sentimental, patriotic and “old sayings” signs from old barn board.

To those of you who are not sure what an “old barn board” is, let us elucidate: this is a board or a piece of plank of wood taken from one of the very many antique (read 90 plus years) barns that still stand and are more or less deserted and falling apart. In that the boards can be dated back to the early 1800’s or, even, by dint of being seeds in the ground, in the mid-1700’s, they are valuable antiques and the embellishments that have been placed upon them carry their own merit.

“When I was a boy,” Mr Fairley told the Citizen during a conversation in the trailer he has on his Garafraxa Woods property that is filled with his boards and flags, “my grandmother impressed me with her dislike of Canada. She came from Scotland and was always talking about the old country and how much she missed it. But, in grade 13, a teacher, Quentin Stanford, he instilled in me Canada, Canada, Canada. He told his students that you can love the country you come from but Canada is the best country in the world.”

Indeed, Mr. Fairley and his wife, Debbie, have sought to confirm just how wonderful Canada is by transversing it back and forth from all the oceans to each other. They found the answer is, for them, Canada is the best country in the world.

Mr Fairley is himself a retired high school teacher; his subjects were Canadian geography and physical education. He related that when the new trade school, W. J. Fenton  (now Turner Fenton) Secondary School was built in Brampton, he taught there.

“It was the first trade/vocation school: half the day was in the shops, with hands on training; half academic,” he said. “We’ve stayed in touch with some of the teachers. We took the Brampton students to the Arctic with an federal government program, Open House. It was wonderful but it was shut down.”

Like so many teachers who worked for decades and still see some of their students, Mr. Fairley commented, “Many kids that I taught are grandparents now. One is the owner of a restaurant; another has been a successful jockey – he’d skip class and I’d find out he’d been to Woodbine. Some kids are really successful even without being able to read [well].”

Back to the flags: not all are made from antique wood. Nowadays, Mr. Fairley is also using pressure treated new wood – still a wooden flag, suitable for outdoor display, still looks old. As to his branching out from strictly planting the red maple leaf on boards of various vintages and sizes, he has a line of old sayings, sometimes poetry, and photos of whatever strikes his fancy. There are cows, Stephen Leacock, old family [not his] photos and more; many have information or notes about the plaque itself on the back, its age and history.

He began this enterprise as a hobby to give him something to do during the winter, to keep his hands and imagination busy.

As all the plaques are made to be hung out of doors, if wanted, Mr. Fairley has been careful about how he applies the paper to the wood. “It’s a secret method,” he joked, “I use glue. But then, I varnish them so they can be outside.

“My son made the first one,” he remarked.”I expanded on the flags when I found a [good] source of old wood.”

Ian and Debbie Fairley now have three granddaughters, all very young, to whom they are very attached. One comes to them nearly every day while her mother, their daughter, works, bringing the puppy with her.

In fact, the money they make from the sale of the wooden flags, etc. is going into funds for the grandchildren’s education.

“This house is the epicentre for our kids,” said Mrs. Fairley. “We really enjoy that.”

For further information and how to see and purchase one of his flags and otherwise, his email is



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