Hants’ Faces Friday – Andrew Connolly

Published on January 20, 2017

Andrew Connolly is happy at home in rural West Hants. He immigrated to the country when he was four years old, from London, England.

©Colin Chisholm

ASHDALE, N.S. — Faces Friday is our online feature highlighting members of our community: their strength, challenges and humanity.

Say hello to retired business owner and West Hants resident Andrew Connolly, who immigrated to Canada from the United Kingdom when he was four years old. Connolly tells of how he made a life here, met his wife, who is also an immigrant to Canada, and shares his thoughts on West Hants and where it’s going.

“We built the house in 1985, so we’ve been here for 32 years. Before that we lived in St. Croix; we restored an old farmhouse there. We got tired of freezing to death so we decided to move out here. Both (my wife and I) are Pier 21 brats, we’re both immigrants. I came here in February 1956; I was four years old. I came from England and Rita (his wife) came from Holland. I was born in London. We bought a house in West Hants before we got married and moved in the day we got married because we had no money left. My mother was born in India and came to England after the war, which was of course still a mess. My grandfather spent most of the war in a Japanese prison camp and wanted to come back home after being in India. My mom, who came to England, married my father, didn’t like England, and thought ‘let’s get out of here.’ Their first choice was Australia… But we came to Canada because my father had a job and we ended up here.”

Andrew Connolly used to own and operate a business in downtown Windsor, where he worked demanding hours. Now he’s retired and has plenty of time to spare.

©Colin Chisholm

“I pretty much grew up in the Dartmouth area, but we had always wanted an old farmhouse, and we could afford it. We met a long time ago, as teenagers. It was kind of odd, because at the time I was seeing a young lady, who, her brother was dating (my future wife) at the same time. We ended up at the same party together, which was odd because she was part of one part of town and I was from another. Off and on we were together and have been married now for 42 years. I guess it was meant to be. We owned a dispensing optician business in Windsor for many years. I came to Windsor in 1979, opened a store for a fellow named Bruce Wile in Kentville and we eventually bought him out and carried on. We worked together for 13, 14 years. I’ve seen a lot of things happen in Windsor during that time. We sold the business in 2014.”

Andrew Connolly has been travelling the world with his wife, Rita, since retiring a couple of years ago. They’ve been to Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Their next destination is Egypt.

©Colin Chisholm

“The big issue of the years has been the job losses in the area. When I think about Windsor in 1979, there were three gas stations, four car dealerships, Fundy Gypsum was busy, there were three ships running at the textile mill, Shaw Concrete was there. There was a vocational school and a whole lot of government jobs have disappeared. That’s the way the world is changing. But I think Windsor-West Hants is poised to do really well in the next 10 years. I think we’ve got some really good things happening here.”

Andrew Connolly says he and his wife, both immigrants to Canada, met each other by chance at a party. They’ve been married for 42 years.

©Colin Chisholm

“The appeal of living out here in the country is peace and quiet, for one thing, we’ve always kind of lived in the country. We wanted to have a garage, a pool and some privacy, and a farmer cuts the field so it’s being used. It’s nice to have a little room. And we’re only 45 minutes from Halifax.”

Despite major changes over the last several decades, Andrew Connolly said he feels West Hants and Windsor are poised for great things to come.

©Colin Chisholm

“We’ve been travelling internationally quite a bit lately. We’ve been to Israel, Jordan, Turkey — thank God before it turned into a mess — Greece, (and) we were in India for a month. We just spent six weeks in Southeast Asia. Vietnam, Indonesia, and we’re off to Egypt next week. But it’s nice to see some of the world. When you’re self-employed, there were many years that I only took a week’s vacation. It was just the two of us running the store. You don’t work, you don’t eat. But now we’ve got a chance to go see some of the world. Vietnam was one spot that sticks out in my mind, India is another. It’s about the energy and youth that they have in these places. The kids are so keen. There’s a lot of young people in Vietnam and everyone is smiling. It’s amazing how vibrant these cultures are. I guess in India it was the colour that stuck out. When we came back it was like coming back to a grey scale after being in India, where even the poorest people wear vibrant colours.”