Remembrance Day

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
We will remember them.

In all my years on this earth, for the first time I experienced the solemnity that is Remembrance Day in Montreal where we remember those who fought for our freedom, in particular for those who did not return home. Continue reading

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Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Today I started taking my forced vacation days. Over the last few years I have been compelled to liquidate the excess in my vacation bank at work before the end of the calendar year. In planning my day off I had planned to:

  1. Visit the archives at Concordia University
  2. Visit the Bibliothèque et Archives Nationales du Québec (BAnQ)
  3.  Meet a journalist to help her with an article she is working on

Continue reading

Air India Flight 182 – Thirty Years Later

On the shores of Lac St. Louis in Lachine on The Fur Trade at Lachine National Historic Site is a monument erected to the memory of those who perished in the Air India Flight 182 disaster, which happened June 23, 1985.

On Tuesday evening a number of the leaders of the Irish community in Montreal attended a ceremony commemorating the 30th anniversary of the day Air India Flight 182 exploded off the shores of Ireland, killing all on board. The Irish welcomed the families and friends of the victims into their homes as bodies and wreckage were recovered.

IMG_0157And so it was fitting that members of the Irish community joined the families of the victims on this 30th anniversary. Also on hand was Government Leader in the House Hon. Peter Van Loan and Honorary Consul General of Ireland Dr. Michael Kenneally and his wife Dr. Rhona Richman Kenneally. I was particularly struck by the story of Mahesh Sharma, who told me that he was first going to Australia on business before joining his family in India. One of his daughters was set to travel to Australia with him however when his other daughter also expressed an interest in going to Australia, the decision had to be made that neither could go to Australia. They both boarded Flight 182 with their mother and maternal grandmother and perished in the explosion. How does one go on with life after losing one’s wife and children?

Also on that flight was a teacher from Loyola High School. Although I never had the privilege of having Mr. Mukerji as a teacher, I have never forgotten him. We at Loyola all knew his story. After years of attending night classes after full days teaching high school physics, Mr. Mukerji finally completed the work required to attain his Phd days before leaving on a two month vacation in India.

Thirty years on, those who lost their lives have not been forgotten. Let us hope that tragedies such as this one are a thing of the past.

Changing of the Guard

2009 Walk to the Stone

Ken & his friend Don

At a meeting of the United Irish Societies of Montreal’s Elected Executive and Past Presidents on May 12th President Danny Doyle reported that longtime historian Don Pidgeon had declined to continue in the position, after which my name was put forward. I hesitated a moment. I mean, succeeding a man who has been the face of historical Griffintown since 1991, a man who speaks with absolute ease in front of audiences, a man who is universally respected within Montreal’s Irish community, a man who personally endorsed my nomination is both a humbling and a frightening prospect. After that moment of hesitation, I accepted the nomination.

Don rose through the ranks of the organization. He was Recording Secretary for two years in the mid 70’s before moving on to Vice President and then President. Despite his elevation to the ultimate position, Don is best known as the historian of the United Irish Societies.

I am both humbled and overwhelmed at my new assignment within the United Irish Societies. From 1928 to the present is a lot of history. So you can imagine the amount of history in the Irish community from the 1760s to the present. Overwhelmed is a good word.

I plan on using newer technology / social media to get my message to as wide an audience as possible. This is all so new to me that I continue to reflect on the value I can add to the United Irish Societies as its Historian.

All I hope in the coming weeks is that my words and actions make my predecessor, my mentor, my colleague, and my fellow members proud. I am a work in progress but I am confident that my friend Don will approve.

What a Year!

What a year!

The last twelve months (or so) have been absolutely fantastic.

At the end of April 2014, NDG Baseball fêted Lionel Geller as he moved on to the next chapter in his life after dedicating thirty seven years to the children of Cote-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grace. The day of the intimate dinner, Borough Mayor Russell Copeman announced that Loyola-2 Field at Loyola Park will be renamed Lionel Geller field. This is truly a fitting way to honour such an icon.

In June I assumed the position of St. Patrick’s Society of Montreal Secretary, a position I was eager to do well in. We got the membership list in order, migrating it to an Access database from an Excel spreadsheet and trying our best to update members’ contact information.

However that gig was cut short in the Fall. There was some movement at the upper levels of the Society’s board and, after which, I was invited to continue sitting as an Officer of the corporation but now as a Vice President. It has been a pleasure to sit as a vice president. I continue to learn about the organization each and every day. My responsibilities have not changed all that much, although responsibility for the membership list remains with the new Secretary.

Also in the Fall I stepped away from my responsibilities with NDG Minor Baseball after dedicating some time as its president and director of communications. It was an absolute pleasure to be associated with the best Little League association in the province. The work those moms and dads accomplish for the good of their children and community is exemplary and it was a real joy to be a part of that recipe for success.

Now we all know that March is a very busy month in the Irish community. There are meetings, receptions, balls, luncheons, and parades. There are four parades that we generally associate with, in fact. The big Montreal parade, Hudson, Chateauguay, and Quebec City are all close to our heart. Unfortunately this Saturday we will not be able to attend the parade in Quebec City due to a scheduling conflict with the United Irish Societies’ Banquet.

My role in this year’s parade in Montreal was to act as a commentator for Bellmedia’s Bell Local production of the parade, along with longtime UIS member Richard McConomy, who has a background in acting to complement his legal career. His experience in this area put my mind at ease, even though prepared 18 pages of information on the various groups participating in the parade with the help of UIS Parade Director Patty McCann. In hindsight I may have overprepared for this assignment but it was worth the effort to keep my mind at ease.

Richard McConomy and Ken Quinn froze mightily in the performance of their parade day responsibilities.

Richard McConomy and Ken Quinn froze mightily in the performance of their parade day responsibilities.

The role as TV commentator took me away from walking in the parade. I have to say I had mixed feelings about not walking in the parade, the first time I failed to do so since I joined the UIS in 1992. Despite those mixed feelings and the freezing cold weather on parade day, I had an absolutely fantastic experience on the TV podium with Me. McConomy. His experience certainly made up for my lack of experience and general nervousness. I tip my hat to him, to roving reporter Catherine Cleland, and the entire crew associated with the production. If they ask me back next year I will gladly agree to do it. I may buy ski pants if the weather is this cold, though.

The Irish Are Coming!

The Irish in Montreal have been organizing celebrations since as far back as 1824, when Michael O’Sullivan and the members of the Hibernian Society took it upon themselves to organize, for the very first time, a public celebration in memory of Saint Patrick. Michael O’Sullivan is an oft forgotten important character in Quebec society. A search of the Internet will net you some very interesting information about O’Sullivan including his commission in the Beauharnois battalion of militia in 1812, cited in dispatches in 1813 for bravery related to the Battle of Chateauguay, and much more. At the time of his death on 7 March 1839, O’Sullivan was a leading member of the legal profession in Lower Canada, having been rewarded with the post of chief justice of the Court of King’s Bench, Montreal District.

The foundations laid by O’Sullivan in 1824 were further reinforced by the creation of the St. Patrick’s Society of Montreal in 1834, of which O’Sullivan is listed as a Vice President. The Society was a non political, non sectarian organization, charitable in nature, that was then given the responsibility of organizing the annual parade. This responsibility continued until the 1890s, when the Ancient Order of Hibernians assumed responsibility for the parade. They maintained this responsibility through the 1928 parade, after which the newly created United Irish Societies of Montreal grabbed the baton and have been running with it ever since.

In the City of Montreal many official activities take place – the Parade, the Charity Ball, the Annual Luncheon, the Irishman of the Year Breakfast. The pubs will fill with revelers in the weeks leading up to the festivities.

Whether you’re Irish, or Irish for a day, be sure to participate in the activities surrounding the St. Patrick’s Parade, which takes place on Sunday March 22nd.

Something Different To Do (Go Canada Go)

Some Christmases I work as much as I can and some I take as much time off as I can. This year the plan was the latter. Having not gone anywhere on vacation this past summer I took little time off and, so, had some time to burn before the end of the year.

For the first time since 1978 Montreal hosted the World Junior Hockey Championships , this time in conjunction with Toronto. In late summer or early autumn the idea to volunteer at the championships crossed my mind, given that they take place over the Christmas holidays. So, I sent my name to Hockey Canada.

Thankfully, I was accepted as one of the 1500 volunteers after police background check. The organizing committee treated the volunteers like gold. They were fed, had the opportunity to go to several of the Team Canada games, had a kick ass volunteer lounge (with massages and foosball!).

My volunteer role at the Bell Center was as an IT Volunteer, which entailed making sure people could print, unjamming printers, and whatever other IT related issues could arise. Truth be told, the IT setup was so well done that most shifts I sat around watching SportsCentre, Spengler Cup games, or Junior games.

Other volunteer roles included Accreditation, Transportation, Hospitality, Social Media, Media and so many more.

I enjoyed my time volunteering, not hard labour so to speak. The people I worked with were fantastic, friendly, and professional. If you have the opportunity to volunteer at the World Junior Hockey Championships in 2017 when it returns to Montreal and Toronto you should do it. Or, if you’re in Finland next Christmas, volunteer then.

Go Canada Go!