As the RCMP musical ride prepares to gallop into Burnaby’s Swangard Stadium next week, a longtime New Westminster lawyer remembers his two years on the ride, which saw him and his fellow riders immortalized on a $50 bill, featured in a cutting-edge film display at Expo 67 and riding alongside a horse that would go on to carry the Queen for 18 years.
Dwight Ross, a longtime New West lawyer and former police board member, joined the ride in 1967, a couple years after becoming a Mountie.
It being the nation’s centennial year, the musical ride was in high demand.
Filmmakers also wanted to capture a glimpse of the iconic Canadian ride for the millions of visitors from across the globe expected at Expo 67 in Montreal that year.
Using a kind of cutting-edge predecessor of virtual reality called Circle-Vision 360°, they filmed the ride’s famous charge maneuver, which sees riders launch into a sudden gallop with their lances lowered.
The filming technique, developed by Disney, used nine synchronized 35mm cameras arranged in a circle.
But capturing the action proved to be a challenge for the film crew whose equipment was mounted on a 1965 Ford station wagon attempting film alongside the charging horses.
“That Ford couldn’t even begin to keep up,” Ross said with a laugh. “We were finished the charge before they were half-way down.”
The only way the cameramen were eventually able to get the shot was by taking a running head start with the Ford, according to Ross.
The scene was included in short documentary called Canada ’67, which played every half hour in a large, completely circular movie theatre at the Telephone Association of Canada Pavilion at Expo 67.
“It didn’t matter where you looked in there – front, behind you, to the side – you could see the musical ride,” Ross said. “If you looked to the side, it was like you were riding along in the ride, beside them.”
At some point during that time, an RCMP photographer perched more than 100 feet in the air on a crane also snapped a photo from above of Ross and his fellow riders in the dome formation.
That image was to be emblazoned on the Canadian $50 bill from 1975 to 1989 as part of the Scenes of Canada Series.
Ross says it would be impossible to identify which Mountie he is on the bill, but he’s pretty sure he can tell which one he is in the original photograph: a rider on the far left of the circle.
His wife managed to get hold of an 8x11 copy of the photo for his birthday after eventually tracking it back to the Bank of Canada, which supplies the country’s bank notes.
“She thought it’d be three months and it took her about two-and-a-half years,” Ross said.
The bank had at first refused her request, but then she told them her husband’s photo was on that $50 bill, and no one had ever asked for permission to use his image on hundreds of thousands of banknotes.
They relented and sent the print.
Among the many other claims to fame of Ross’s 1967 musical ride was that it included Burmese, a mare later gifted to Queen Elizabeth.
The sovereign would go on to ride Burmese for Trooping the Colour for 18 consecutive years, including one that saw a crowd member fire off six blank shots and startle the horse.
Looking back, Ross is amazed by all that happened in just two years.
“I look back on it today at my age and I think, ‘Wow, I actually did that,’” he said.
The RCMP musical ride hits Swangard Stadium from 5 to 9 p.m. on Aug. 15.
For more information or to buy tickets, visit tickets.shadboltcentre.com.