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.
The earliest evidence of mass parochial participation in the parade under United Irish Societies of Montreal direction is in the 1932 Official Order of Procession document outlining the parade’s lineup, though there is no doubt the parishes actively took part in the years prior. Nineteen parishes walked proudly along the parade route that year, including St.. Roch’s, St. Raphael’s, St. Dominic’s, and St. Agnes as well as stalwarts St. Anthony’s, St. Gabriel’s, and St. Ann’s.
The number of parishes participating increased to twenty two in 1940. Parishes such as St. Kevin’s, St. Malachy’s, and St. Michael’s are included in the General Order and Route of Procession document.
The number of parishes declines to sixteen units in the 1970 Parade. With the general decline of the influence of the Catholic Church in Quebec society during that time and after, the number would erode further and further, but remain steady. Nine parishes participated in 1980, ten in 1990, eight in 2000, and seven in 2010. In amongst the parishes counted is good old St. Ann’s. Since its disappearance from the landscape in 1971 the McCambridge family has continued to remember this venerable parish from Griffintown. Thus the numbers include St. Ann’s.
Ken Quinn, Historian