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.

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Where Were You Ten Years Ago?

Any baseball fan living in the Montreal area in 2004 remembers where he, or she, was 10 years ago today. After years of decline on and off the field due to many reasons, Major League Baseball relocated the franchise to Washington, DC.

After the disappointment of 1994, when the players’ strike shortened a season that surely would have seen Nos Amours go deep into the playoffs, owner Jeffrey Loria purchased a controlling interest in the team in 1999 from Claude Brochu. Loria seemed to do everything in his power for the Expos to fail in Montreal. He failed to close the deal on a new downtown ballpark, a definite must for the team’s long term viability. He failed to reach agreements on television and English radio broadcast for the 2000 season, reducing the team’s media visibility and depriving the team’s fans across the Montreal area of the opportunity to follow their favourite players.

It’s lucky for the Expos that, in 2002, Major League Baseball was obliged to field a team in the Metrodome in Minnesota. Failing that, both the Expos and the Twins would have been eliminated. Because of the complexities of scheduling a 162 game season for each MLB team, both teams on the chopping block were given a reprieve.

In December 2002 the MLB ownership shuffle took place. The Marlins’ John W. Henry purchased the Boston Redsox. The Expos’ Jeffrey Loria purchased the Florida Marlins and Major League Baseball purchased the Expos, unable to reduce the number of teams in the league before 2006 per the collective bargaining agreement signed with the Players Association in August 2002.

On September 29, 2004 MLB announced the franchise would relocate to Washington for the 2005 season, ending a thirty five year love affair between Montreal and Nos Amours. The final score that night in the final game in Montreal was unimportant. What was important, for the more than 31 000 fans in attendance including myself, was the chance to cheer for Nos Amours one more time. Many stayed long after the game was over, looking around the stadium nostalgically one last time.

Ten years later, baseball is still vibrant in Montreal. Baseball Quebec, the dominant youth baseball federation in the province of Quebec, would likely tell you it is a struggle to attract new players to baseball as would the leaders in Little League Quebec. It hasn’t been easy. Both federations are doing an admirable job.

Yesterday in NDG, ExposNation, Derek Aucoin, Easton, and NDG Minor Baseball hosted a very successful 2nd annual Pitch and Catch Rally at Loyola Park. Approximately 100 kids of all ages were given the chance to hit off former Major Leaguer Derek Aucoin for two hours. The number of ball players, people in Expos gear, and media in attendance clearly shows the interest in baseball at the highest levels is still here.

Now, if those 100 kids could invite two friends to play baseball with them next year, and those two friends invite two friends to play baseball with them next year, and so on and so on… the art of baseball will be that much stronger in 2015 and for years to come.

United Irish Societies of Montreal Celebrates 85th Anniversary

The United Irish Societies has its beginnings in 1928, organizing its first parade in March 1929. The first executive chosen for the organization was John I. McCaffrey, President, who was choir director and organist at Griffintown’s St. Ann’s Church. His Vice President was Herbert Potter, Secretary of the St. Patrick’s Society. The responsibility for Publicity was given to John Loye, an Irish historian, who also assumed responsibility for the design and lineup of the parade’s content. William Hickey, member of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, was the organization’s Secretary. Patrick Quinn was the organization’s Treasurer.

President Beverly Murphy with Ambassador Ray Bassett

President Beverly Murphy with Ambassador Ray Bassett

During dinner, guests were entertained by the Marie-Claude Rousseau School of Irish Dance as well as by Lisa Forget and Terry Clahane. When dinner concluded, the dance floor opened up to the many guests to celebrate and dance, and dance they did!

Event chairperson Millie Griffin-Gagnon and her team are to be congratulated for the attention to detail they placed into the organization of this celebration.

Time will tell if this celebration was a dress rehearsal for the upcoming 200th anniversary of the Saint Patrick’s Parade in Montreal in 2023.