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


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

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

Thomas D’Arcy McGee

It has been two months since my last blog. Life gets busy at times and that has to take priority. Since we last met activities in the community are taking place. Notably, the annual Walk to the Stone took place on the usual date, the last Sunday of May. By all accounts it was well attended. Bloomsday Montreal recently wrapped up another festival.

With life getting busy things are status quo concerning the Historian portfolio but I’d like to share with you developments from the last few days. D’Arcy Quinn, great great grandson of Thomas D’Arcy McGee, contacted the St. Patrick’s Society in an effort to be able to enter the crypt where McGee’s remains. I got involved in my capacity as a Society vice president along with its Historian, Peter Shea. I wanted to make sure a connection was made between Mr. Quinn and the cemetery. In the end he was able to make a connection on his own. But as a result of our correspondence we agreed to meet last evening. He had to be a good guy; he’s a Quinn afterall. Continue reading Thomas D’Arcy McGee

Saving the Famine Irish exhibit comes to Montreal — IrishCanadianFamineResearch

The Saving the Famine Irish exhibit is at the Centaur Theatre in Old Montreal this week and it will cost you nothing to see it. It’s well worth the price of admission. Don’t delay.

Ken Quinn, Historian


Saving the Famine Irish exhibit comes to Montreal By Gloria Henriquez A special opening reception at the Centaur Theatre for the “Saving the Famine Irish” Exhibition, Monday, April 11, 2016. MONTREAL – It is a story of survival and compassion. The exhibit comes from Connecticut’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University, which hosted the exhibition from March 17, […]

via Saving the Famine Irish exhibit comes to Montreal — IrishCanadianFamineResearch

Commemorations in Montreal of the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland

Fifty years ago Canada was preparing for its’ Centennial as a nation and Montreal was preparing for the 1967 International and Universal Exposition, Expo 67. As those preparations were being made, Ireland and the diaspora were marking the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising. Continue reading Commemorations in Montreal of the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland

Selection Evening has Come a Long Way

This time next week, a new queen and four princesses will have been crowned and will be well on their way to ably representing the community through the season.

This year marks the 61st anniversary of the Queen’s Selection. In recognition of sixty years of holding this event, last year the United Irish Societies invited queens and princesses from years gone by to attend and to be recognized on stage during the evening.   

Continue reading Selection Evening has Come a Long Way