The Year the UIS Almost Participated in the St. Jean Baptiste Parade

1934 was a big year in two of Montreal’s founding communities. Both the the St. Patrick’s Society and the Société St. Jean Baptiste were celebrating their centennial anniversaries. The United Irish Societies of Montreal was led by John Loye, a man involved in numerous organizations both within and without the Irish community. Along the way it is likely Loye developed many friendships.

One of these friendships was developed with Dr. Victor Morin, a Past President of the Société St. Jean Baptiste, a fellow member of the Antiquarian Society, and a future president of the Royal Society of Canada. Clearly the Société St. Jean Baptiste of yesteryear had different aims and objectives than today’s.

On April 15th, 1934 Loye writes to Morin explaining that the long established custom is to extend an invitation to the annual parade in June to the St. Patrick’s Society and trying to convince the Société St. Jean Baptiste to extend an invitation to the “big organization” as well. A plethora of letters follows, back and forth, to and from John Loye, and to and from the Société St. Jean Baptiste.

On April 24th Alphonse de la Rochelle, chef du secrétariat, takes notice of the request for an invitation when he responds to Loye’s letter by saying “Les membres du Conseil générale ont décidé d’acquiescer à votre requête et enverront une invitation…”

This unleashes a barrage of correspondence from John Loye. On April 26th he write to UIS Secretary William C. Hickey , where he says “… and I see a chance to do something, big or small, to put our community in the public eye.” I think he had more of an idea to do something big rather than small.

On May 4th a meeting is called for May 8th where a decision will be made regarding the invitation to participate in the St. Jean Baptiste Parade. Although there are no records in existence in the archives, there is evidence the United Irish Societies reacted positively to this invitation.

On May 20th Loye writes to Thomas O’Connell, city councilor, asking him to intervene with Mayor Camillien Houde for funding for this project., where he openly admits the reason for the request is to get funding to hire a band. Also on May 20th he writes to Leo J. McKenna, alderman, seeking funding for a float. In exchange for this opportunity Loye offers it as “an advertising medium” likely for McKenna’s Florist.

Working on the meat of the United Irish Societies unit, on May 22nd Loye writes to W.J. Cherry, Grand Knight of the Montreal Council of the Knights of Columbus , inviting them to participate. Setting up an elaborate unit required some funds, even back then. On May 29th, Loye writes to W.B. Rennick, General Manager of Dominion Stores, soliciting funds for a float but again pitching it as an opportunity for advertising. UIS Secretary William C. Hickey is in Dominion Stores’ employ.

On May 31st John Loye writes to Patrick Scullion, Captain of the Hibernian Knights of the AOH, seeking their participation. Loye says “Our unit will be incomplete if the Knights are not there”.

Feedback from letters written is being received. On June 5th Thomas O’Connell replies that he would “… advise not to approach Mayor Houde for the donation …” as it “…might affect a larger donation that you would be seeking at a later date…”.

Loye writes to John Boyle Jr. from the Shamrock Lacrosse Club on June 6th looking for its participation. On June 8th he writes to John Long, President of the St. Patrick’s Society looking for the Society’s support both for a float and for his member’s involvement. Also on June 8th Loye writes to Alphone de la Rochelle advising of the proposed unit, which consisted of the following:

Mounted Marshal

Platoon of Standards (flags)

Company of Hibernian Knights, Uniformed

Brass Band

Living Cross – composed of 100 men

Delegations, United Irish Societies

Clearly the planned United Irish Societies unit was elaborate in nature.

On June 12th Loye receives correspondence from de la Rochelle seeking names and addresses of people to be invited to the solemn mass to be held at St. Jean Baptiste Church. Therefore as of June 12th de la Rochelle has not received Loye’s June 8th correspondence.

A letter dated June 13th was written by de la Rochelle to John Loye declining the UIS unit’s participation in the St. Jean Baptiste Parade after discussion by their conseil générale. The Société St. Jean Baptiste was looking to give their centennial parade a certain feel. UIS dignitaries were still welcome to walk in the parade however invitations were only sought for President John Loye and Vice President Charles Halpin.

In his year end notes, John Loye opined that in retrospect he took too much for granted and he should have sought the input of the Société St. Jean Baptiste Executive regarding the UIS unit. In the end there was no participation from the UIS in 1934. However, had the UIS participated in this grand religious and cultural manifestation it would surely have been the best unit involved.

Ken Quinn, Historian

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