As I make my way through the archives of the United Irish Societies of Montreal the notion that the organization is one of tradition is further reinforced. The March 1978 President’s Newsletter lists the trophies to be awarded that year. They are:

William C. Hickey Memorial           Best All Round Unit
J.P. Feron                                             Best Float
Frank Phillips / John Campbell       Best Marching Unit
Palmar                                                 Best Military Unit
J. McMullen                                        Best Out of Town Guest Unit
Pat’s Men’s Wear                               Best Juvenile Unit
P.A.C.T.                                                Best High School Unit
Molson’s                                              Outstanding Effort
Molson’s                                              Best Band
Past Presidents                                  Best Guest Unit
Bishop Leonard Crowley                  Best Pipe Band
John J. Kenny Memorial                   Most Authentic Irish Unit

The oldest trophy in service is the original one, The William C. Hickey Memorial, named after a former Parade Director, Historian, and Charter Member of this organization. In 1978 it was awarded for the Best All Round Unit. Today, it is awarded for the Best Celtic Dancing Unit.

While the organization is one of tradition, it also adapts. Today there are some 20 trophies and categories that you can find on our website. Take a look and see which trophies remain from 1978, which ones have been repurposed, and which ones are retired.

90 years on, The United Irish Societies of Montreal continues to adapt and succeed.

Ken Quinn, Historian


Looking Back at 90 Years

This year the United Irish Societies of Montreal (UIS) is celebrating 90 years of existence. Originally an umbrella group of the English-speaking Catholic Parishes along with Irish organizations whose sole purpose was to organize a much simpler St. Patrick’s Parade than we see today.

Letter from 1931, from the UIS archives.

Even in the early days, the organization held some sway in the community. Although the contents of the archives in those early days are scant, an April 1931 letter from William Hickey  to John Loye acknowledging receipt of Loye’s resignation letter, which is not in the archives, suggests internal discussions were ongoing about the role of the UIS in the community.

“A general meeting is to be held, on the afternoon of May 17th. This meeting will attempt to decide whether the United Irish Societies should limit their efforts solely to the annual demonstration in honour of St. Patrick and such like feasts or include in their agenda matters affecting our people, extraneous to the above-mentioned”  – William Hickey jr. 

The minutes of the May 17th, 1931 meeting are lost however letters in the archives from subsequent years suggest the organization decided to become more of a voice in the community. For example, a series of letters in 1932 from John Loye to members of the Irish Free State delegation suggests two things. Firstly, it suggests that Loye’s 1931 letter of resignation was related to the vision he had for the UIS and that this vision included a greater footprint in the community. Secondly, it also suggests that the delegates to the UIS from the Parishes and sister organizations agreed with this vision.

Scan of Painting of 1934 Grand Marshal Christopher Carson, with thanks to the Carson family.

Today, as then, the organization reaches out to the community as much as it can. The Christmas Basket program is the jewel in our outreach endeavours, feeding roughly 60 families at a time of the year when money is tight. We have much to be proud of as an organization.

The UIS will be holding celebrations in the Fall. I have been tasked with putting together a photo montage for this celebration. As you can imagine, we have many photos to choose from. However the vast majority of our photos in my possession date from the mid 1990s to today. We also have photos that were graciously donated by members, however these generally date from the 1970s to today. If you or a loved one have photos from UIS events (Parade, Banquet, Selection Evening, meetings, other events) from 1928 to today you’d be willing to share  with us, or interesting documents, we would be most appreciative. We’re not looking to keep your photos though we will not decline a donation, I can assure you. We’re simply looking for electronic versions of your photos to display the night of our celebration. Should you not have the ability to scan your photos, I would be more than happy to borrow the actual photos for that purpose and return them.

You can contact me at

Ken Quinn, Historian

The Passing of a Past President

I know… I know…. I don’t write as many blogs as I should. I suppose it takes times like this to get me to get the creative juices flowing.

When I first joined the organization it was experiencing some unprecedented advances. For the first time in its history the UIS was led by a woman, Mabel Ann Fitzgerald. Michael Spears was her vice president.

Continue reading The Passing of a Past President

Changes are afoot

Eventually I should be able to keep my promise to write more often. The realities of life and volunteer activities are keeping me from fulfilling my promise.

On March 18, 2018 the 195th Consecutive St. Patrick’s Parade will progress through the streets of Montreal. However there will be some distinct differences to previous years.

For over 55 years the Parade has progressed west to east along St. Catherine Street, either lining up on deMaisonneuve or on Rene-Levesque. Owing to much needed infrastructure work along Ste Catherine Street the Parade is obliged to leave this venerable beauty for boul. deMaisonneuve.

We are always hesitant to change. It is human nature. We know Patty McCann and her team are working their hardest to mitigate any issues related to this change. We know Patty will do her best.

Stay tuned to social media for further information

UIS Welcomes New President

This past Sunday the United Irish Societies thanked outgoing president Danny Doyle for devoting, in particular, two years to the organization as its president. Until you’ve sat in the president’s chair you really don’t fully understand the pressures. I do believe Danny has continued to solidify the organization’s foundations for years to come.

As the organization thanked Danny, a new president was preparing to assume the position when, for the first time in over fifty years, an Irish born person takes the lead position.

Born and raised in Ballina, Count Mayo, Ireland Paul Loftus settled in Canada in 1971. With an extensive educational background, Paul is a licensed Industrial/Organizational Psychologist who conducts training seminars. He is also a well known speaker, and has spoken at conferences throughout the Americas, Europe, and Asia.

Paul very quickly became involved in Montreal’s Irish community. In the mid 1970s Paul served as a delegate to the United Irish Societies from the Montreal Irish Rugby Football Club. He has participated in the community in various other capacities, including as President and co-founder of the Ireland-Canada Chamber of Commerce, Director of the St. Patrick Society, former Captain of the Montreal Shamrocks Gaelic Football Team, former President, Vice President – Entertainment, and player with the Montreal Irish Rugby Football Club, and numerous others.

The last Irish born president of the United Irish Societies of Montreal was noted Historian John J. Kenny. Born in Co. Clare in 1906, Kenny served as president in 1963 & 1964. He went on to serve as the organization’s Historian from at least 1967 through 1977, when he passed away, leaving the organization with a wealth of information and interesting documents from that era in the archives.

I wish Paul and his Elected Executive much success over the upcoming year.

Ken Quinn, Historian

Montreal’s Martyr Mayor

On this date in 1847 American born Montreal Mayor John Easton Mills passed away after contracting typhus while tending to the sick Irish immigrants who invaded its shores in search of a better life, and who were quarantined.

In what seems to be an error in translation, the City of Montreal website lists Mills’ final resting place as the bottom of the Saint Lawrence River. In fact, Mayor Mills was interred in the St. Lawrence Burial Grounds, a Protestant cemetery located near present day Boul. René-Lévesque Ouest and rue Saint-Urbain. However when the burial grounds was repurposed as Dufferin Square, families were given the option to reinter their loved ones elsewhere. John Easton Mills’ family took advantage of the opportunity and moved him to Mount Royal Cemetery, where he is buried in his wife Hannah Lyman’s family plot.

John Easton Mills made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the citizens of his city. In his honour a tiny tree line street that runs parallel to rue Notre-Dame Est bears his name, an odd choice of locations given the impact he had on the sick and dying Irish immigrants in the fever sheds.

Ken Quinn, Historian

Participating Parishes in the Parade

One of my colleagues on the Executive Committee recently asked me for a list of parishes that participated in the parade years ago. From the beginnings of the United Irish Societies of Montreal, the Catholic Church in Montreal has played an important role in the success of Montreal’s iconic St. Patrick’s Parade. Although our records are sparse in the early years, there is evidence that the Catholic Parishes participated. On March 22, 1929 Rev. D.J. McDougald from St. Ann’s Parish in a letter to John Loye writes “I never had the slightest apprehension of it being a failure. The floats were excellent.” On March 26, 1929 Rev. O’Brien from St. Anthony’s Parish writes “In the name of the Parish I also thank you for aiding us in perfecting the design of the floats”, which implies the Parish’s participation. Continue reading Participating Parishes in the Parade