In the presence of serving and retired members of the regiment he helped found, representatives of the Canadian Medical Corps, the First Nations, municipal and provincial politicians and dignitaries, Colonel Darby Bergin (1826-1896) was formally commemorated by the Ontario Heritage Trust.
The ceremony of dedication was held on Tuesday, November 8, 2016, at the Cornwall Armoury.
The Ontario Historic Trust Plaque, now in place at Precious Blood Parish Cemetery in Cornwall, recognizes Bergin as the founder of the present SD&G Highlanders, the founder of the Royal Canadian Medical Corps and as a man who gave freely and fully to his community and its people.
The nomination process is a lengthy one, demanding significant research and study by the applicants.
The application to recognize Col. Bergin was sponsored by the Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry Highlanders’ Regimental Foundation with support from the Alexandria-Cornwall Roman Catholic Diocese, area municipalities and historical societies.
Among those deeply involved in the process were Bill Shearing of Morrisburg and the Glens’ honourary Colonel, Jim Brownell.
A graduate of McGill University, Doctor Darby Bergin set up practice in Cornwall. During a devastating outbreak of smallpox, Dr. Bergin worked with the Mohawks of Akwesasne.
He was a passionate advocate of public health and social justice, pushing for labour reform in Canada.
A life long supporter of the militia, he is regarded as the first commanding officer of the 59th Stormont and Glengarry Battalion, the precedent unit of the SD&G Highlanders.
In 1885, Col. Bergin became Canada’s first Surgeon General, helping establish the groundwork for the creation of a permanent medical corps.
He also played a key role in the Cornwall Canal and the Ontario Pacific Railway.
His funeral was one of the largest ever held in Eastern Ontario.
William Masson, Lieutenant Colonel (retired), president of the SD&G Highlanders’ Regimental Foundation, addressed the large crowd gathered for the ceremony.
“We are pleased to honour this amazing and unique Canadian at the Cornwall Armoury today…He shaped the community of Cornwall and Canada’s medical and military history.”