I saw the slogan, ‘I love British accents’, on a T-shirt the other day. I found it amusing since I consider British accents rather intriguing and quite distinguished. When I sat down with Michael Regan the other day, it was delightful to sit back and listen to the manner in which he spoke.
Michael was born in White Chapel, an area in the east end of London but grew up in Kent, an area known as the Garden of England. “Jack the Ripper used to hang out in the east part of London. It wasn’t particular a nice place, but Kent, on the other hand, is absolutely lovely,” he laughed.
As a youngster, his passion was and continues to be trains. “As kids, we’d always be out train spotting. I’d come home filthy dirty from the steam trains and we’d often get chased out of the train yards,” he admitted. He’s evidently proud of the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, a beautifully restored, five mile steam railway that is most famous for its role in the 1970 film version of Edith Nesbit’s story, The Railway Children. “I was a volunteer for eight years and am still a member, even though I’m now living here. I started off as a ticket seller but my most favourite job was working at the level crossings,” he said.
Michael was sent to an academic and rugby boarding school in Sussex at the age of 12 and remained there until the age of 18. “I enjoyed it initially but you do end up growing out of it. It was a rather long day; we’d be up by 7 a.m. and then do homework for half an hour. We’d have breakfast at 8 a.m. and went to school until 4:15 p.m. and then there was homework for two hours. On Saturday afternoons, we were allowed out,” he chuckled.
Although Michael recognized that he might want to pursue a career in business, there was certainly nothing decisive about that. He applied for and received a scholarship through Cadbury/Schweppes whereby you’d receive a grant to attend university and then you’d be paid to work in the industry. “How it worked was that you spent six months in university and then six months working in the industry. I spent three years doing this and the final year you spent entirely in school. Once you got out, you weren’t automatically hired but you had to re-apply. I did and went to work for a Schweppes bottling company in Liverpool. I worked on a fruit juice bottling machine and it was dreadful,” he admitted.
He then moved to the south of England and took on a job with a wine and spirits company. He remained with them for the next three years and enjoyed the experience. Given his knowledge and expertise, he was head hunted to work for a hair care company, working in their retail marketing division. “I had no technical knowledge but because of my marketing background, it was a good fit.”
After nine years of promoting everything from hair dyes to shampoos and anything in between, it was time for Michael to make a move. “I went back into wines and spirits, taking on a job as the marketing director for a fine wine importer. I’d get invited to all of the tastings and quite honestly I learned how to spit. I couldn’t possibly drink all that stuff,” he laughed. After three years, the hustle and bustle of Central London became too much and he moved to Yorkshire where he bought a cheque cashing company. “This was an Australian franchise and we ran it for 10 years.”
His parents-in-law had moved to Canada, looking for better opportunities. Michael and his family came for a visit during Christmas 2001 and when they returned it took hours to get home. “We just sat in our car and the roads were essentially parking lots.” It was then that they decided to sell their business and their home and immigrate to Canada. “It took six months just to complete the paperwork and the application process took three years. Finally, in June 2005, we had final clearance. We sold our house and business and moved, arriving in September 2005.”
When they arrived, neither Michael nor his wife, Sue had a job and they, along with daughters Nicola and Lucy, lived in his sister-in-law’s basement for a year. Michael and Sue finally found work in an encapsulation plant in Surrey. “I was making pills and labelling, by hand, serum for injection,” he said. He then applied for a job with MoneyMart and for the next two-and-a-half years he looked after their stores from Chilliwack to Surrey. “I enjoyed it but it was just constant travelling and after awhile it becomes too much,” he said.
Then one day, as Michael was in transit, he noticed a large billboard announcing the opening of a new CIBC branch. “A new branch needs a new manager and I decided to apply for the job on-line. I didn’t get that job but the manager from the north branch went to the Sardis branch and they offered me the branch manager position for the north branch. I’ve been here now for two years and I must admit that CIBC is a great employer. They’re very good to new arrivals in Canada,” he said.
Amongst a wide variety of duties, Michael is the District Coordinator for 25th annual CIBC Run for the Cure which takes place on Oct. 2. “l look after the branches in Chilliwack, Hope, Abbotsford, Langley and Aldergrove, with respect to their fundraising activities for this event. I volunteered for this because my mom and my mother-in-law died within three months of each other from breast cancer. The pink bus will also be coming to Chilliwack,” he announced enthusiastically.
Michael is busy; he’s enjoying his life in Canada and still loves messing with trains. “I do miss the pubs in England, though. There’s nothing like a good English pub,” he chuckled.