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.

Do the Irish Need a Reason to Gather?

The last Thursday of every month, the Ireland Canada Chamber of Commerce (ICCC) holds a Craic agus Comhrá, the Irish equivalent to the French cinq à sept, an after work get together.

At the last Craic the ICCC and the St. Patrick’s Society worked together to attract recent Irish immigrants to the event through the Irish Immmigrant Integration Initiative. This month, the ICCC is opening up their Craic agus Comhrá to the entire community.

So, tomorrow, whether you’re a recently landed Irish immigrant or you are descended from Irish immigrants from years gone by or if you’re merely interested in meeting members of the Irish community of Montreal, head on down to the Irish Embassy Pub & Grill on Bishop Street. The Craic starts at 5:30pm. It’s a great opportunity to meet old friends and make new ones.