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

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An NDG’er Comes Home

Last year, NDG Baseball’s Board of Directors decided to bestowe its inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award on a native son who excelled for many years in his chosen profession. However, owing to his recovery from some health issues as well as the short turn around from the selection to the annual coaches’ banquet when such honours are normally awarded, it was mutually agreed that the award would be presented in 2015.

At the time of the selection, or shortly after, I was asked by Graham Nevin to work on media for this event despite stepping away from the NDG Baseball Board and I happily agreed.

Fast forward to July when I started to contact the usual media organizations. As is normally the case, I received zero feedback from the French language organizations and near 100% response from the English language organizations. I continue to regret that the French media is simply not interested in NDG Baseball nor a Quebecer whose career was of international reknown. I also continue to appreciate the English language media for the support it gives to NDG Minor Baseball when called upon.

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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.

Always Do Your Homework

This past Sunday I took advantage of a beautiful Summer day to visit Mount Royal Cemetery in Montreal. I confess I did not sufficiently do my homework prior to my visit and, as a result, did not find most of the grave markers I had hoped to find.

As I was exiting on the south side of the cemetery I took note of a sign advertising the Cemetery’s iPhone/iPad app. After downloading the app yesterday, I can say with certainty they have done a good job. Had I been aware of the app prior to my visit, I would have found many of the graves I wished to see, though not all.

Last year when I visited Cote des Neiges Cemetery I was able to find the majority of the graves I wished to see thanks in large part to their wonderful online database of people resting in the cemetery. While there, I even took note of interesting grave markers I had not intended on finding, such as those of A.L. Van Houtte and of Patrick Madden.

Resting in Mount Royal Cemetery are many interesting folks from all walks of life. Mayors and martyrs, policemen and firemen, clergy and lay people all can be found. Of the ones I wanted to find, I almost missed the monument to Thomas Lett Hackett, a young Orangeman murdered by Catholics as he was returning home from divine services on July 12, 1877.

For people interested in visiting their family’s graves but are unsure of their locations, the Cemetery does offer a free lookup. This isn’t as instantaneous a solution as the other cemetery on the hill however, prior to my next visit, I will do my homework (or get them to do it for me, for free).

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.

John Easton Mills, Montreal’s Martyr Mayor

This weekend’s Walk to the Stone reminds me about Montreal’s Martyr Mayor, John Easton Mills.

In his short time as mayor, John Easton Mills made a lasting impact on Montreal and Irish Montrealers. Although he was a member of the American Presbyterian Church he made a handsome donation toward the erection of St. Patrick’s Church, the church of the Irish Roman Catholics. He helped the Ladies of the Sacred Heart in their educational work, and devoted his entire salary to the newly-established Mechanics’ Institute. He cooperated with Bishop Bourget and others in the founding of the City & District Savings Bank.

He and his brother Cephas came to Montreal together to establish C. and J.E. Mills fur dealers. While Cephas moved to New York, John Easton Mills remained in Montreal and founded Mills’ Bank, and through it played a part in financing many major projects.

When the typhus epidemic reached Montreal, John Easton Mills rolled up his sleeves and got down to business tending to the sick alongside the doctors, nurses, and the clergy all the while fending off Montrealers, angry that the dreaded typhus reached Montreal’s shores.

In November 1847, as the cold weather gave hope that the worst of the epidemic was over, Mayor Mills was stricken by the very disease that killed thousands in the fever sheds in the Goose Village area. On November 12, 1847 he passed away and on November 15 was buried at the St. Lawrence Burial Grounds.

There is a street in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district named after John Easton Mills, far from his Beaver Hall Hill home, far from the fever sheds and Commemorative Stone, far from City Hall. One has to ask what thought processes went into the selection of this far away street as suitable for this honour?

In any case, as you walk to the Stone on Bridge Street this Sunday, remember Montreal’s Martyr Mayor, those who tended to the sick, and those who died of “ships fever” as they fled their home country in the hopes of building a better life for themselves.