Yep. You read that right! In 1967, Millie the Macaw was deported to Guyana from Canada. Millie traveled to Montreal, Canada to represent Guyana at the 1967 World's Fair, called Expo 67. The World's Fair had a rather solid reputation of being a prestigious event. The first of this type of Exhibition was held in London in 1851, and you can see the feature on Expo '67 here.
In fact, many iconic landmarks throughout the world have been remnants of World Fairs in their country - Ever heard of the Eiffel Tower in Paris? The Space Needle in Seattle? The Atomium in Brussels? The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco? The spots are all still huge tourism draws, and the case in Montreal is no different. The Biosphere in Montreal looks like a huge glass dome and was the USA's Pavilion at the Fair. It was originally built to be dismantled after, but has now earned its place as one of Montreal's iconic landmarks. Today, it is the only Museum dedicated to the Environment in North America and has drawn millions of visitors over the years.
Montreal Biosphere today (Parc Jean-Drapeau)
But we digress. Canada was celebrating 100 years of Independence so Expo '67 in Montreal that year held an extra special meaning. Millie was apparently one of the big attractions for the Guyana booth since she was bilingual - she spoke both French and English. You can even see Guyana's Flag prominently in the extra footage here. She arrived in Montreal a little early while the pavilions were still being set up.
So. Opening day arrived and instead of opening her beak to greet the Guyana Ambassador and the people in the Guyana Pavilion, Millie let out a string of VERY colourful and diverse curse words in BOTH English and French! It was reported that her language was so offensive that she was immediately banned from Expo 67, and 'deported' to Guyana as soon as possible. It was determined that she likely learned this language since her perch was near to the construction workers working on setting up the Pavilion.
Special thanks to (and props) our friend Steffi DeNobrega for actually owning a Millie stamp and providing us with the photo!
Funny enough, her legacy lives on in the form of a postage stamp - that year for Christmas, Guyana Postage stamps were issued with her image in 4 colours with 5 and 25 cent denominations. Millie's image caused an additional uproar. Some felt that featuring her was blasphemous, while others couldn't get enough of her. Our favourite part of history (as documented in the newspaper article below) is that an Archdeacon (who was also a philatelist) wrote "God bless Millie - send me some stamps please!" All sorts of debates were sparked, from whether Guyana was a religious State to rumours that the Post Office staff had been possessed! In addition, the stamps describe her as a "Parrot" when she actually a Macaw. Will the controversy never end?
There is the saying that "there's no such thing as bad press" and maybe that's true - in Guyana's philatelic history, Millie is perched right up there after the 1 cent Magenta...and her story, at least to us is so much more interesting!
Reading Evening Post - Thursday 23 November 1967