It has been gratifying to see the tributes which have been published marking the death in Ottawa at age 92 of Mary O’Flaherty, who played a vital role in the Canadian Caper in Iran in 1980 as communications officer for Canada’s embassy in Teheran. The group headed by Ambassador Ken Taylor engaged in a cloak and dagger plan to protect and smuggle six American citizens to safety after rebels overthrew the Shah of Iran and took control of the United States embassy. She was one of five recipients of the Order of Canada for her part in the escape adventure.
In her public service career, Mary began work with the Department of National Defence and transferred to the Department of External Affairs. She is reported to have never turned down a posting and, in addition to Teheran, also served in Islamabad, Canberra, New York, Moscow and Ottawa.
Mary O’Flaherty was born in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and I knew her in her younger days as a member of a family that shared many experiences with my family. Her parents and mine were friends for many years and her mother was a particular friend of my mother, Bridget Wadden. In St. John’s, children went to the same schools, and our families actually shared a pew in the Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica). Her brother John and I were at Memorial University together. In summer both families spent vacation time in Kelligrews.
Among a treasure trove of family oldie pictures inherited from my mother is one of Mary’s mother, Chris O’Flaherty, mounted on a favourite horse when she was a riding fan sometime in the 1920s era.