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


Don Pidgeon Will Not Be Forgotten

On Monday the voice of a United Irish Societies treasure fell silent when my friend and fellow past president passed away peacefully at home.

2011 Mass in park 033
Reading at the Mass in Griffintown-Saint-Ann Park

The last time I saw Don was in late November when he was spending some time at the new super hospital. I was off work that day, was headed in to town, and thought I’d drop in unannounced to say “Hi”. The sun was shining and he had a beautiful view from his window, so beautiful that he was enjoying a late morning nap in his chair. I could certainly relate. Warmth and sunshine beaming through a huge window is a recipe for a good nap. So Don didn’t see me. We were often in touch via e-mail. I would send an e-mail asking a question or simply to say “Hi” and to see how he was feeling. My last e-mail to him was sent Sunday evening to let him know an old friend sent his regards, having explained to the friend was gravely ill. Before that I sent a quick e-mail letting Don know we miss him and that we hoped to see him at one of the many Irish events if his health permitted. Don replied in an uncharacteristically short e-mail “Thanks, Don”


Continue reading Don Pidgeon Will Not Be Forgotten

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

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.

The Easter Rising was an armed rebellion in Ireland during Easter Week in 1916, mounted by Irish republicans and organized by seven members of the Military Council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, to end British rule and establish an independent republic while the United Kingdom was primarily occupied with World War I.

The Rising began on Easter Monday, April 24, 1916. After proclaiming an Irish Republic, after six days of insurrection,  and after seizing strategic locations in Dublin the British army suppressed the Rising. There was also insurrection in other parts of Ireland as well. Patrick Pearse, schoolmaster and Irish language activist, agreed to an unconditional surrender on April 29. Fifteen activists were sentenced to death, including the seven signatories of the Proclamation, and were executed by firing squad in early to mid May.

Despite the apparent Republican defeat, the Rising was the beginning of the rebirth of a nation. In 1918 republicans won seventy three out of 105 seats in the general election to the British Parliament.

On April 12, 1936 the Republican Irish of Montreal met at the Windsor Hotel under the auspices of the Irish Unity Club, under the presidency of Denis Quinlan, to commemorate the memory of those who died during the 1916 Easter Uprising in Dublin and to hear  J.S. Wallace predict the gradual disintegration of England’s world influence and the acquisition by the Irish people of “liberty and freedom from oppression.”[1]

 In 1966 the Irish community of Montreal again came together to commemorate the events of 1916[2]. A multi organization organizing committee was struck under the chairmanship of Gerald Carroll, Vice President for Canada of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and member of St. Patrick’s Society, the Gaelic Athletic Association, and Innisfail Social and Sports Club. His fellow committee members included John Kenny, Past President of the United Irish Societies and Secretary of Innisfail Social and Sports Club, Denis Leyne, Secretary of the Gaelic Athletic Association, William Fahey, Treasurer of the Innisfail Social and Sports Club and member of both the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association and the Gaelic Athletic Association, Cathal McAlester, President of the Tara Golf Association and member of the Gaelic Athletic Association.

To mark the anniversary in a unique way, a special Mass and breakfast was organized for Easter Sunday, April 10, 1966. Mass was celebrated at Saint Patrick’s Church with the breakfast taking place at the Queens Hotel. The guest speaker on this occasion was Reverend Father Reynolds, a native of Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, Ireland. Cost was two dollars per person.

An invitation only evening of recitation and song  was planned for Monday, April 11 of that year.

One hundred years have passed and the ocean separates us. We and our families are indebted to those responsible for the birth of the nation that today we know as the Republic of Ireland.

Ken Quinn, Historian

[1] Montreal Gazette, Republican Irish Meet, April 13, 1936, p. 11

[2] United Irish Societies of Montreal archives

A Tribute to Tom Fitzgerald (1935-2015)

On Saturday September 5th former Director of Organization Tom Fitzgerald passed away in Montreal at the age of eighty. Thomas Walter Fitzgerald was born June 26, 1935 to Patrick Fitzgerald and Catherine Rimmer and was baptized July 7, 1935 at St. Ann’s Church in Griffintown. He leaves behind his son Tom and daughter-in-law Cindy of New Hampshire along with his grandchildren Shelby, Lucas, and Alexis. Of course Tom was a brother of our late past president, Patrick J.B. Fitzgerald, and brother-in-law of Past President Mabel Ann Fitzgerald.

A brief review of the UIS archives indicates Tom was a Deputy Parade Director from at least 1972, and likely a marshal before that. From 1972 through 1996 he played an important role in the direction of the parade. Continue reading A Tribute to Tom Fitzgerald (1935-2015)

John Gilroy – a Community Treasure

John Patrick Gilroy was born in early 1937 to Bridgit McCann and John Gilroy[1]

Gilroy 1958
John in 1958

From his childhood John has been either a participant in the annual Saint Patrick’s Parade or has been involved in its organization. He participated in his first parade in 1948 with Belmont School when Rev. Michael O’Brien of Saint Anthony’s Parish was honoured as Grand Marshal. In the early 1960s John was appointed delegate from Saint Gabriel’s Parish to the United Irish Societies meetings, which took place at the Windsor Hotel. His first year as Deputy Marshal was in 1965 and his involvement in the Parade continues uninterrupted to this day.

John chaired numerous committees on the United Irish Societies Executive Committee over the years however the two he is most known for are the Program and Entertainment Committees, which he chaired for a combined 37 years.

John at UIS 85th Anniversary

While the United Irish Societies likes to claim John as its own, many Irish organizations lay claim to him as well. John is, or has been, a member of many organizations including the United Irish Societies of Montreal, Innisfail Social & Sports Association, Comhaltas Ceoltori Eireann, Bernadette Short School of Adult Irish Dancers, and in the past, the Ancient Order of Hibernians and served as president of the Innisfail Social & Sports Association.

John is a hidden community treasure. Forever setting up and tearing down audio equipment for shows and events and always with camera in hand, his dedication to the community is unquestioned and unwavering.

For his many years of loyal and dedicated service to the community, John received the Simon McDonaugh Humanitarian Award in 1995 and, in April 2001, outgoing President Elizabeth Quinn presented John with Gold Card Membership in the United Irish Societies of Montreal for his extensive commitment to the organization.

John’s dedication to the United Irish Societies’ Entertainment Committee, to the Program Committee, to Innisfail Social & Sports Association, and to the numerous other organizations he is a member of, all in the name of promoting the Irish culture in the City of Montreal, made him a most worthy recipient of the Liam Daly Heritage Award in 2014.

Outside of his Irish-related activities, John enjoys taking pictures of fire trucks and fire department related activities. His photos are known to pop up on websites such as on

John with His Excellency Declan Kelly

In the summer of 2013 John was hospitalized with serious issues. Eventually fixed up and nursed back to health, the effects of John’s illness make it impossible for him to lift heavy equipment and, generally, to lug things. With this reality, John advised UIS President Beverly Murphy that he declined to continue in the role of Entertainment Committee Chairperson, putting an end to this chapter in John’s life on May 6, 2014 when President Murphy announced the news at a meeting of the Elected Executive & Past Presidents.

Though John is no longer a member of the Executive Committee, he remains omnipresent at United Irish Societies’ events, helping with sound equipment and taking photos as well. The United Irish Societies of Montreal is indeed fortunate to have John Gilroy among its membership.

Ken Quinn, Historian

[1] Quebec, Vital, and Church Records, Drouin Collection