Members of the Orange Order worldwide celebrate July 12th in remembrance of William of Orange’s victory at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. While any anglocentric public celebration in present day Quebec society, seemingly other than the St. Patrick’s Parade, is muted at best, the day was indeed celebrated in 1877 Montreal.
By all accounts Thomas Lett Hackett seemed to be a respected young man. He was the son of the late John J. Hackett of the Inspector General’s Department of the Old Province of Canada. On his mother’s side he was connected to a late Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland.
Hackett died on July 12, 1877 at the age of 22 on his way home from church services. According to the account in the Canadian Illustrated News, a disturbance was ongoing in the area surrounding Victoria Square that afternoon. The account describes how a Mr. F.C. Henshaw and Hackett were fighting their way from Fortification Lane toward Craig Street, today known as rue Saint-Antoine. Both men were severely beaten but managed to struggle up the steps of a building known as Clendinneng’s block. Hackett drew his weapon, firing into the crowd. He went further up the steps but was followed by his attackers. In the scuffle a man grabbed Hackett by the neck while Hackett seemed to grab at him with his left hand, revolver in his right. The account mentions each man fired three or four shots. However Hackett’s shots hit the stone steps owing to the way his attacker was holding his arm. Hackett faints away while still in the assailant’s arms. He is dragged for three or four yards and thrown to the ground. The assailant fades into the crowd. Soon after, the police arrive, disperse the crowd, and take charge of Hackett’s lifeless body. Given the sectarian allegiances of the media of the day the description of the incident may well be slanted against those of the Roman Catholic faith. Regardless, the doctor who made the post mortem examination, Dr. Perrijo, testified on July 14 at the Coroner’s Inquest that he found a bullet wound in Hackett’s brain and another in the shoulder, the bullet in the brain causing his demise .
His death sparked tension and debate within the community. The Irish Catholic Union adopted several resolutions at a meeting on July 13 deploring the murder committed and warning its members not to interfere in any way with Hackett’s funeral. Hackett’s friends met that same day to plan the funeral. It was decided to hold it on Monday July 16 beginning at 3PM. All national societies, anyone seeking to show their disapproval of the “lawlessness and disorder”, and the Orangemen of the city would be invited to attend. The body was removed to the Orange Hall on St. James Street and kept in a “refrigerator coffin” until it was taken to Christ Church Cathedral, where the service was held. An elaborate funeral procession was planned. Forty Orangemen kept guard over the body until the funeral. The hearse was drawn by four horses. Members of the local Orange lodges, reinforced by their brethren from Ontario, marched in full regalia following the hearse. The national societies such as the St. George’s, St. Andrew’s, Caledonian, and the Irish Protestant Benevolent Society signified their intention to be present. According to the Montreal Daily Witness, the procession was headed by a brass and fife and drum band. Those with flags were asked to hoist them at half mast.
According to La Minerve, military volunteers were called into duty, including the First Prince of Wales, the Victoria Rifles, the Fifth Fusiliers, the Sixth Fusiliers, the Engineers, and several more. These different volunteer corps paraded on the Champ de Mars and numbered over one thousand while there were more than three thousand Orangemen in the procession. The Irish from Griffintown congregated at Place d’Armes on St. Jacques Street and Victoria Square.
At three o’clock sharp the funeral procession began, opening with a mounted unit, a police squad, the Orange Young Britons from Ottawa preceded by a musical corps. Orange orders from St. Charles, Sherbrooke, Kingston, Belleville, Ottawa, Hemmingford, Bell’s Corner, and Huntington followed. During the procession the Orange Young Britons, believing they would be attacked, drew their revolvers and several rounds were fired in the air. The crowd scattered in all directions. Calm is restored and the procession continues to Christ Church Cathedral.
Following the service the procession continues to Mount Royal Cemetery. As this is happening the Victoria Rifles travel along Bleury Street as a tactical manoeuvre in the event the unit was required to charge any rioters. At the cemetery, the body is lowered into the ground with police pistols drawn. At the conclusion of the burial, the procession returns to the city, bands playing music not well received by Catholic ears.
Following the service, Thomas Lett Hackett’s mortal remains were delivered to Mount Royal Cemetery for interment. The hearse used was the same used in the attempted funeral and funeral of one Joseph Guibord , member of the Institute Canadien who was initially denied by Bishop Ignace Bourget the right to be buried in the Catholic Cemetery.
The La Minerve reporter visited various police stations during the evening. Everyone was waiting from one minute to the next to be called to the western part of the City. Calm returned to Bonaventure Station after the Orangemen left. The Grand Trunk station, La Minerve reported a William Elliott from Lennoxville was attacked on the Wellington Bridge in the presence of two friends, shot in the back above the 7th rib. Other violence took place in the city but calm was restored by 2AM.
Here we are, over 130 years later, and the Hackett murder seems to be all but forgotten, a testament to the sectarian peace enjoyed by modern Montreal society.
Enscribed on the impressive monument erected in Hackett’s memory in Mount Royal Cemetery is:
In memory of
Thomas Lett Hackett, L.O.A.
Who was barbarously murdered
On Victoria Square
When quietly Returning from
12th July 1877
“A monument was erected by Orangemen and Protestants of the Dominion as a tribute to his memory and to mark their detestation of his murders”
Ken Quinn, Historian