As I make my way through the archives of the United Irish Societies of Montreal the notion that the organization is one of tradition is further reinforced. The March 1978 President’s Newsletter lists the trophies to be awarded that year. They are:

William C. Hickey Memorial           Best All Round Unit
J.P. Feron                                             Best Float
Frank Phillips / John Campbell       Best Marching Unit
Palmar                                                 Best Military Unit
J. McMullen                                        Best Out of Town Guest Unit
Pat’s Men’s Wear                               Best Juvenile Unit
P.A.C.T.                                                Best High School Unit
Molson’s                                              Outstanding Effort
Molson’s                                              Best Band
Past Presidents                                  Best Guest Unit
Bishop Leonard Crowley                  Best Pipe Band
John J. Kenny Memorial                   Most Authentic Irish Unit

The oldest trophy in service is the original one, The William C. Hickey Memorial, named after a former Parade Director, Historian, and Charter Member of this organization. In 1978 it was awarded for the Best All Round Unit. Today, it is awarded for the Best Celtic Dancing Unit.

While the organization is one of tradition, it also adapts. Today there are some 20 trophies and categories that you can find on our website. Take a look and see which trophies remain from 1978, which ones have been repurposed, and which ones are retired.

90 years on, The United Irish Societies of Montreal continues to adapt and succeed.

Ken Quinn, Historian


Looking Back at 90 Years

This year the United Irish Societies of Montreal (UIS) is celebrating 90 years of existence. Originally an umbrella group of the English-speaking Catholic Parishes along with Irish organizations whose sole purpose was to organize a much simpler St. Patrick’s Parade than we see today.

Letter from 1931, from the UIS archives.

Even in the early days, the organization held some sway in the community. Although the contents of the archives in those early days are scant, an April 1931 letter from William Hickey  to John Loye acknowledging receipt of Loye’s resignation letter, which is not in the archives, suggests internal discussions were ongoing about the role of the UIS in the community.

“A general meeting is to be held, on the afternoon of May 17th. This meeting will attempt to decide whether the United Irish Societies should limit their efforts solely to the annual demonstration in honour of St. Patrick and such like feasts or include in their agenda matters affecting our people, extraneous to the above-mentioned”  – William Hickey jr. 

The minutes of the May 17th, 1931 meeting are lost however letters in the archives from subsequent years suggest the organization decided to become more of a voice in the community. For example, a series of letters in 1932 from John Loye to members of the Irish Free State delegation suggests two things. Firstly, it suggests that Loye’s 1931 letter of resignation was related to the vision he had for the UIS and that this vision included a greater footprint in the community. Secondly, it also suggests that the delegates to the UIS from the Parishes and sister organizations agreed with this vision.

Scan of Painting of 1934 Grand Marshal Christopher Carson, with thanks to the Carson family.

Today, as then, the organization reaches out to the community as much as it can. The Christmas Basket program is the jewel in our outreach endeavours, feeding roughly 60 families at a time of the year when money is tight. We have much to be proud of as an organization.

The UIS will be holding celebrations in the Fall. I have been tasked with putting together a photo montage for this celebration. As you can imagine, we have many photos to choose from. However the vast majority of our photos in my possession date from the mid 1990s to today. We also have photos that were graciously donated by members, however these generally date from the 1970s to today. If you or a loved one have photos from UIS events (Parade, Banquet, Selection Evening, meetings, other events) from 1928 to today you’d be willing to share  with us, or interesting documents, we would be most appreciative. We’re not looking to keep your photos though we will not decline a donation, I can assure you. We’re simply looking for electronic versions of your photos to display the night of our celebration. Should you not have the ability to scan your photos, I would be more than happy to borrow the actual photos for that purpose and return them.

You can contact me at

Ken Quinn, Historian

The Passing of a Past President

I know… I know…. I don’t write as many blogs as I should. I suppose it takes times like this to get me to get the creative juices flowing.

When I first joined the organization it was experiencing some unprecedented advances. For the first time in its history the UIS was led by a woman, Mabel Ann Fitzgerald. Michael Spears was her vice president.

Continue reading The Passing of a Past President

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

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