O’Regans honoured for contributions to Ottawa House restoration

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Stephen O’Regan outside Ottawa House

Three generations of the O’Regan clan gathered at the Ottawa House Museum yesterday for a special ceremony honouring the family for its contributions to the restoration of the 240-year-old building.

Colin Curleigh, Chair of the Parrsborough Shore Historical Society, thanked the O’Regans for donating thousands of dollars to the project.

He said that without contributions from Stephen O’Regan and his late brother Paul, it would not have been possible, for example, to build a secure, temperature-controlled room in the basement for archival documents and artifacts.

“Over the years, many people in the local community,” Curleigh said, “have contributed their heritage treasures to us, letters and newspaper articles, certificates, school reports, those sorts of things.”

He added that every fall, boxes of this valuable archival material had to be trucked to Marilyn Skidmore’s home in Parrsboro for storage and then hauled back again in the spring.

“We’re sure it did damage to the material going back and forth,” Curleigh said. “But the problem was that we could not trust this House during the winter time because it wasn’t weather tight and it wasn’t heated.”

He said the Historical Society had excavated the basement to build a room for the archives, but ran out of money and was left with rough walls and a mud floor. That’s when the O’Regans stepped in with funds to finish the project.

At yesterday’s dedication ceremony, Curleigh held up an “O’Regan Family Archives Room” sign that will be installed soon to let visitors know of the family’s generosity.

Other family contributions

Curleigh said Paul’s widow, Mary, and brother Stephen also made a financial contribution to keep building restoration going when the Society ran out of money again. And, Stephen’s sister, Mary Winnifred O’Regan, donated a Tom Forrestall painting of the Ottawa House.

“We made high-quality prints of the painting and Tom numbered them and signed the prints,” Curleigh said, “and we have been using these framed, high-quality prints as our tokens of appreciation to some of our big donors and some of the (government) officials that we’ve dealt with…

“I hope I’ve got the message across how much we appreciate what you’ve done for the Ottawa House,” Curleigh added.

Stephen O’Regan responded by thanking the Historical Society and its volunteers for restoring the building.

“When I look around here and see so many people who have made such a contribution to the Ottawa House,” he said, “it certainly points out that our financial contribution is really pretty insignificant. I know there’s so many people who have spent hours and hours and hours, endless hours, in this project and it’s a great testament to them and it’s so much appreciated.”

Archives tour

Later, as the O’Regan clan toured the archives, they heard more about the significance of the new room.

“This is a dream come true,” said archivist June Wagstaff. “Now we can safely invite people to share their records with us on the Parrsborough Shore so we can arrange, describe and store them properly for future generations.”

Kerwin Davison, one of the leaders in the restoration project, described the geothermal system that makes it possible to heat and cool the archives room along with other parts of the building.

He also told stories about Paul O’Regan including the time he wanted Kerwin to drive his old Rolls Royce.

“‘I don’t want to drive this, Paul,'” Kerwin said. But Paul insisted.

“So, up the street we went. The first thing we ran into was a police block and of course he had no insurance and no licence on the car,” Kerwin said.

“He was sitting on the side and I was sitting there shivering. He had such a countenance.”

The O’Regans laughed as Kerwin added, “They didn’t do anything, waved us right through.”

Bruce Wark serves on the Board of the Parrsborough Shore Historical Society.

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