FIFTY YEARS AGO a remarkable woman of vision and energy, Catherine Hennessey, with the help and support of her late friends, Irene Rogers and Dr. John Maloney, conceived the idea of a decentralised museum system for the Province of Prince Edward Island. By 1973 HRH Queen Elizabeth officially opened Beaconsfield, the headquarters of the PEI Heritage Foundation.
Catherine also worked without a stop all these years, in many capacities, to preserve and interpret the city of Charlottetown which was designed in 1768 according to classically-inspired principles of the British Enlightenment. It remains intact to this day and Hennessey’s role in this cannot be exaggerated.
Eleven years ago the City of Charlottetown, now very conscious of its heritage, established a number of heritage awards to be given annually. The chief of these was the Catherine G. Hennessey Heritage Award given to those “whose efforts have increased the appreciation of Charlottetown and whose views have stimulated love for the community and helped shape the city.” On Heritage Day, February 18, to my utter surprise and delight, I was named the recipient of that award.
The award was presented at City Hall, with Catherine in attendance, by His Worship Mayor Philip Brown. There was much hilarity.
Her Honour, Antoinette Perry, Lieutenant Governor of Prince Edward Island, was also officially present, and as an old friend, joined in the general euphoria.
The Mayor asked me to say a few words and with the greatest pleasure I went on an on about this amazing city and about the “Heritage Goddess” who had devoted her life to its survival and preservation as an historical artefact.
Today the Guardian newspaper published this lovely article about me and the award I had received. It was pleasure piled on pleasure.
This was a most significant moment in my life that brought me great joy. Due to health and other issues I had to leave Charlottetown exactly twenty years ago and have lived a solitary life in Belle River, away from the city that had aroused in me such aesthetic and intellectual pleasure. To be remembered and rewarded officially by the City after all this time was a very special moment in my life. Thank you Charlottetown.
As if all this kindness and attention were not enough, the kind and thoughtful GUARDIAN gave me front page status in their weekend edition. What an honour, once in a lifetime, to be singled out in such a fashion.