Perhaps one of Rollie’s favourite and most valuable pieces in the collection, is the horse-drawn First World War ambulance.
It was while restoring the buggy his wife Gladys had driven shortly after they married in the 1940s that rekindled Roland Clegg’s interest in horse-drawn vehicles.
He took on that project for his granddaughter in 1975. Thirtyfi ve years later, the now retired 98-year-old Hamiota resident is respected as one of the greatest antique horse-drawn vehicle restoration craftsmen of southwestern Manitoba.
Although this original buggy is not part of the 90-piece “Clegg Collection,” it can be credited as to giving Rollie his start in the restoration business.
It was a natural fit with his 40 years’ experience as a blacksmith, welder and wheelwright.
He estimates that approximately half of the pieces he has restored were donated, with the other half purchased. When word began to spread of Rollie’s craft, people from miles around started contacting Rollie to repair horse-drawn vehicles for them. The folks that had no use for their old and decrepit antique items, began to donate them to Rollie.
One of the promises he made to those donating pieces was that they would never be sold for profit, but maintained as part of the Clegg Collection.
One of the most popular pieces is a horse-drawn summer hearse purchased from E. Fouilliard of St. Lazare. “I offered him $1,000, but until he needed to borrow my stagecoach, he wouldn’t sell!” laughs Rollie. “The hearse had no roof, nor floor, no glass, no doors, and the ornate hubcaps had been stolen.”
It has been lent out and used at many funerals in the area and even into Saskatchewan. “I had one fella’ borrow it for use at a funeral out there, and before they got it returned, they had cause to use it again. So that trip, it did two funerals.”
As Rollie’s collection grew, the family constructed a 40′ x 50′ building to house it. The building was soon tripled to a massive 40’ x 150’ and has been a popular destination for school trips and tours.
Horse folks from in and around the area have been married and buried in his many horse-drawn vehicles. Rollie is honoured to have been able to touch the lives of so many and very graciously accepts nothing but their gratitude in return.
The collection and documentation includes: several high cutters, a Russell winter hearse, an ice-racing cutter, a piano box cutter, a two-seated cutter, a Fouilliard van, a Watkins peddler’s wagon, a fancy family van, an Imperial Oil tanker, a Co-op milk wagon, a Victoria carriage, a stretched ranch wagon, a fancy buggy, a stagecoach, a covered wagon, a horse-drawn school van, a grain tanker, a democrat, a side-spring buggy, a show buggy, a three-reach wagon, a wicker governess cart, a Cockshutt buggy, a John Deere buggy, a jump seat buggy, a Mclaughlin buggy, a Phaeton buckboard, a Vis–vis, a rubber-wheeled buggy, a buckboard (like the one Hoss used in “Bonanza”), a Queen City Bakeries bread wagon, an Irish side
cart, a Torsion bar buggy, and a surrey with the fringe on top.
Perhaps one of Rollie’s favourite and most valuable pieces in the collection, is the horse-drawn First World War ambulance. Rollie believes that it is the only one like it left in Canada. The story goes that it was originally in Saskatchewan to train nurses heading overseas.
Les Brown of Lenore, Manitoba came across the old box with buggy axles under it and four plow wheels attached, in the field yard of a community pasture he was working near Kayville, Sask.
When Rollie first saw it, it was in pretty sad shape, however it still had the original brass plate on it which was inscribed with the following, “Wagon Ambulance M. D. / #4 / Built by CC & Co / 1915 / Serial #1556.”
Rollie wrote to his member of Parliament at the time, Charlie Mayer, who referred his query to the Ministry of Defence.
He soon received five pages of photocopies and details about the ambulance to begin his restoration efforts.
“I found wheels and a fifth wheel under gear with springs at an auction sale in Virden almost identical to what was called for by the detail, but paid dearly for them ($320).
“One day Bill and Ted Little of Decker came along with some real good oak bows from their old van that I could use for the bows for the top. Four inches too wide, I soon remedied that with a saw and some glue,” he said.
“Robinson Tent & Awning of Brandon did the canvas for the top, sides and ends, and everything fit like a glove. The two stretchers I purchased from Princess Auto in Winnipeg and the upholstering of the three seats I did myself.”
The ambulance has since made the rounds at antique car shows and in parades.
In November of 2000, the Clegg Collection was appraised at over $300,000. Shortly after their move to Hamiota, the Cleggs negotiated a deal with Prairie Mountain Regional Museum located on Highway #16 between Shoal Lake and Strathclair to have the collection moved there once a building is constructed to house it.
Sadly, Gladys would not see this dream brought to fruition as she passed away in the fall of 2009.
Although Rollie has retired from the restoration business, he remains active and loves every chance he gets to reminisce about the collection. He recalls details with amazing clarity and speaks fondly of the many articles he built and pieces he restored to their original functionality and beauty.
He occasionally visits the farm and is happy to tour folks through the museum.