Stephen Michael Dowd was born August 18, 1959 to Michael Dowd and Elizabeth Quinn. For the majority of his adult life Steve’s chosen line of work was in the hospitality industry, working in notable establishments such as Cheers! (Downtown & West Island), Déjà Vu, Quai Sera (Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue), and, finally, at Queue de Cheval.
He joined the United Irish Societies in the late 1980s at which time he became a marshal. Promoted to section head early on, Parade Director Tom Fitzgerald then promoted him to Deputy Director for the 1995 Parade, a position he held through the 1996 Parade. Other than Parade responsibilities, Steve joined the Executive Committee in the Spring of 1993 when he succeeded Joseph Quinn as Chairperson of the Reception Committee, a position he also held through the 1996 Parade.
In April 1996 Dowd stood for election to the position of Director of Organization and emerged victorious, putting an end to Tom Fitzgerald’s storied seventeen year reign.
Steve immediately rolled up his sleeves and got to work assembling his team, which met regularly in his dining room on rue du Parc Marguerite-Bourgeoys in Point St. Charles. This was the precursor to what is today known as the Parade Committee.
Among the improvements and changes brought to the Parade by Steve and his team were:
- More comprehensive information in the green booklet for the marshals, including an index beginning in 1997, a table of contents beginning in 2002, and the inclusion of the rules and regulations for their reference
- More entertainment such as mascots and bands and less visual pollution such as buses and cars
- More out of town bands such as the South Glengarry Pipes & Drums, Princess of Wales Own Regiment, Rob Roy Pipe Band, Queen’s University Bands, People’s Academy of Vermont, The Raiders (New Jersey, USA), Stormont, Dundas, & Glengarry Pipes & Drums
- The introduction of the oriflamme banners adorned along St. Catherine Street starting with the 175th Parade in 1999
- The addition of Paddy, the Parade mascot
- The addition of professionally designed floats
- Corporate sponsorship beginning in 2002 with ING and Telus Mobility
- The move to Fort Street from Atwater Avenue (2002)
- The conversion of the pre parade marshals’ meeting from a social gathering in a downtown establishment with a smattering of parade business to a bona fide working meeting in a suburban church hall.
In 1998 the Past Presidents’ Trophy was repurposed for the Best Sister Society. In 1999 the Brian McKeown Trophy was purchased in memory of a great friend of the United Irish Societies, presented to the Best Band in the Parade. CIQC sponsored the trophy for the best cultural community. CJAD/Mix96 sponsored the trophy for best municipal entry. Canadian Security Agency sponsored the trophy for best media entry.
On December 3, 2000 domain name montrealirishparade.com was registered and a website was developed by Jolyon Ditton shortly thereafter.
Sadly on October 18, 2002 Stephen Dowd passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. Visitation and Stephen’s funeral were attended by many from the Irish community, his friends from numerous establishments downtown, as well as by Gérald Tremblay, Mayor of the City of Montreal. A full complement of clergy was present on the altar in St. Gabriel’s Church, which was filled to capacity on a weekday. Executives, marshals, and others in full parade regalia gave Steve an honour guard as his casket exited the church on its way to Cote des Neiges Cemetery, where he was interred in an intimate ceremony in the presence of his family. A lone bagpiper played in the distance. Following the funeral and interment on October 24th his many friends poured into various pubs and bars throughout Montreal, mainly downtown, to remember a loyal friend and colleague and to raise a glass in his honour and memory.
In the weeks following his death the United Irish Societies’ Executive Committee met to put in place its succession plan as well as to decide how best to honour Steve’s memory. Treasurer and Deputy Director Ken Quinn was appointed to lead the parade as its Interim Director of Organization. To honour Steve’s memory, the United Irish Societies of Montreal funded the Stephen Dowd Memorial Scholarship at the School of Canadian Irish Studies and additionally donated a trophy in his memory for the best commercial entry in the parade, replacing the trophy previously sponsored by Molson’s.
Stephen Dowd’s memory lives on in the Parade through the improved family friendly entertainment, the quality bands and floats, the best practices still employed by the organization, and through the marshals who continue to organize their sections the same way Steve organized his.
Ken Quinn, Historian