Fairbank given national heritage award


Oil Springs resident Charles Fairbank is being recognized for preserving the history that defines us.

Fairbank was presented with the Lieutenant Governor’s Award from the Heritage Canada Foundation for his work in heritage conservation. The lone medal was presented at the National Gallery in Ottawa over the weekend during an awards night hosted by Heritage Canada Foundation.

Heritage advocate Ian McGillivray of Toronto nominated Fairbank for the award. Robert Tremain, Lambton’s general manager of cultural services, wrote a letter of support along with several members of national heritage associations. He was surprised by the honour but pleased.

Fairbank, who operates his great-grandfather’s historic oil fields in Oil Springs – a National Historic Site – was surprised by the honour.

Fairbank is pleased efforts to preserve local history are being recognized.

“It’s the most important thing there is,” he says of preserving the community’s heritage. “It defines us it, creates our community, it is our past that creates what we are today.

“It’s all been part of what people have done, the incredible accomplishments of people in this place, especially those who left this place and took the oil industry all over the world and then came back…Everywhere you walk in Petrolia has been influenced by it (our history),” say Fairbank.

“Without this infrastructure, without theses buildings…being preserved we lose our past, we lose our community we become faceless and uninteresting.”

This is not the first award Fairbank has won for preserving heritage. He has been given the Ontario Lieutenant Governor’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Heritage, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Petroleum History Society of Alberta. He has also been inducted into the Canadian Petroleum Hall of Fame.

Even though much has been preserved, Fairbank says more can be done. He still reads books about the oil industry which don’t recognize Oil Springs as the birthplace of oil production.

“That discovery (in Oil Springs) was the beginning…everything in the oil industry stems from that and it’s not known,” says Fairbank. “These are fantastic communities and they’re not known, so we have to keep talking.”