By Mark Squibb | Vol. 12 # 04 (February 21 2019)
Preserve and present. David Fagan says that that's the focus of a small group of residents who want to develop a regional historical society based in St. Mary's.
Fagan, chair of the St. Mary's Queen Battery Restoration Committee, says that researching the old gun battery sparked his interest in local history- and the need to record it before it's too late.
"Doing the research on the gun battery, we discovered an awful lot of our history that was either forgotten or not known," said Fagan, noting that as time - and people - pass, history is lost.
A meeting, held at Dunne Memorial Academy last week was attended by five people.
Fagan says that numbers were down from a similar meeting held just a few weeks prior and believes that a change in approach might draw more people. Rather than look for members to form an official committee, as was the initial plan, the idea now is to simply gather together as a group of like-minded people to preserve heritage inan unofficial capacity.
Fagan hopes this approach will be more inviting, as there is no pressure placed on visitors to commit to the group or to join a committee as an acting member, which some people may be reluctant to do.
But there are drawbacks to this approach.
Riverhead Mayor Shelia Lee says that an official committee would be able to apply for incorporation with the province, which would open up funding opportunities for the group.
As just a group of individuals however, such funding opportunities will not be available.
"A lot of people probably shied away from the meeting because they probably felt that they couldn't make that kind of commitment," said Lee.
"The most important thing to do now is to motivate people and to get them interested and to get them thinking," she noted, adding that in the future there may yet be enough interest to from a committee.
But for now, members of the group want to continue pressing onward, committee or not.
"What’s more important; to have an actual committee in place, or is it more important to record the history, start now, and worry about the rest later? The goal is to get the history documented sooner than later," said Fagan.
He added the group is inviting people to research aspects of the local history of the St. Mary's area that most interests them - whether that be place names, naval stories, people stories, genealogies, songs, or folklore.
Fagan says that in the future, the hope is that the old local cold storage building, initially built in the 1930's and used as a bait fish depot but now abandoned, might be used as a heritage centre or interpretation centre.
In the meantime, the group is planning another meeting at Dunne Memorial Academy tonight, Thursday, Feb. 21 at 7:30 pm. All are welcome to attend.