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

Giving Back to the Community

It has been some time since I have shared my thoughts via this blog. Life gets hectic on occasion. I will make more of an effort to write more regularly.

The United Irish Societies of Montreal has a tradition of giving back to the community and advocating when necessary. In September 1937 President John Loye interceded on behalf of the Grey Nuns when two of their Sisters were ordered off the premises of the CNR Fruit Terminal warehouse on des Seigneurs Street for soliciting fruits and vegetables from the traders, which was apparently a common practice.

On October 19th, 1967 Robert Larkin wrote a letter to Brother Vincent of the Catholic Men’s Hostel expressing an interest on behalf of the United Irish Societies in organizing a Christmas show to the benefit of the Hostel’s residents. He subsequently wrote to tobacco and soft drink suppliers soliciting donations.

On December 15, 1967 the United Irish Societies of Montreal promoted a Christmas Drawing at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Cavendish Boulevard, the proceeds going to welfare and social services. Mr. Austin Wilson was the Chairman. A cheque in the amount of 154$ was donated to the Montreal Children’s Hospital for the purchase of a special wheelchair.

The Christmas Draw was held  in the Oak Room of the Windsor Hotel the following year. The tickets were sold for a modest sum of 5 for $1.00 or $.25 per ticket. In 1979 prizes of alcohol were eliminated, replaced by cash prizes. In 1981, the price of tickets increased to $1.00, which remains in effect today. In 1992, total prizes increased to $2,000

The tradition of giving back to the community continues today with the next generation of members assuming positions of responsibility within the organization. While we have to look no further than Janson Quessy and the work he is doing with the Christmas Draw, we can also look to members such as Kevin Murphy, Leigh-Ann Killin, Kim Provost, Danny Doyle jr., and Shawn Doyle who are all playing their part in ensuring this organization continues successfully for generations to come, giving back to the community and advocating when necessary. With the next generation, the Societies has a bright future for years to come.

Ken Quinn, Historian

Michael Collins Finishes Irish Diaspora Run to Raise Awareness and Funds to Commemorate Famine Irish at Ireland Park in Toronto — IrishCanadianFamineResearch

Robert G. Kearns, the Chairman of Ireland Park Foundation and founder of Ireland Park, welcomed Michael Collins at the end of his run, along with members of Michael’s family, William Peat, Executive Director of Ireland Park Foundation, Fergus Keyes and Victor Boyle who are directors of the Montreal Irish Memorial Park Foundation, and members of the public. […]

via Michael Collins Finishes Irish Diaspora Run to Raise Awareness and Funds to Commemorate Famine Irish at Ireland Park in Toronto — IrishCanadianFamineResearch

Remembering Aloysius “Al” Darbyson

pmc10 0314 pats parade 0192 (2)The first recollection I have of Al Darbyson was an encounter at Hurley’s Irish Pub one evening in March in the mid to late 1990s. In those days, the Marshals’ pre parade meeting took place in one of the many downtown pubs, quite probably Cheers! on Mackay Street in this case. I can’t recall the meeting, not for any reason of over consumption but because they all followed the same format. The Parade Director gets up, introduces everyone of special note in attendance, and goes over final details of the upcoming parade.  Questions are asked of the Parade Director, many the same by the same marshals year in year out. Although fantastic social occasions, it was easy for one meeting to blend into the next in my memory over time. Continue reading Remembering Aloysius “Al” Darbyson