Friday, October 12, 2018

The Very First Irish Canadian?

In the 2006 census – about 4.4 million people in Canada described themselves as being of Irish origin. 350 years earlier, in 1663, the first census was held in the outpost of Ville Marie (modern-day Montreal). It listed 3035 residents. Among them was a man who became known as Pierre Aubry. However, his name on arrival in Ville Marie was not Pierre Aubry – it was Tadhg Cornelius O’Brennan. And Tadhg was the first recorded settler in the territories that later made up the modern state of Canada.

So, what brought Tadhg to this part of the world a full 200 years before many of his Irish Catholic neighbours?

Tadhg came from the O’Brennan families of north Kilkenny. As we discussed in The Tribes of Ireland book – they came from the old Irish tribal lands known as the Osraighe (Ossary) which covered most of modern County Kilkenny and part of south County Laois. The chief family of the area were the Fitzpatricks – but many “Tuatha” were governed by families such as the O’Brennans for hundreds of years.

However, by 1652, Oliver Cromwell had swept through the island in a brutal campaign which culminated in the “Act of Settlement”. This piece of legislation effectively confiscated the majority of Irish Catholic-owned land. Among the land affected was that belonging to the O’Brennans for hundreds of years previously.

The displaced Irish were give the choice to go “To Hell or to Connaught” – although many ended up as slaves in the West Indies – and over 30,000 ended up as soldiers in the armies of France and Spain, becoming the “Wild Geese” that we know today.

Tadhg O’Brennan was one of those who chose to join the armies of France at the age of twenty. He moved to the Celtic region of Brittany in Northwest France, and this was one the regions to supply soldiers and planters to the new colonies in North America.

Tadhg turns up near modern Montreal – in what was known as Ville Marie – for the first time in 1661. He is recorded as being in the employ of a local farmer, and we hear of him only because he was one of a number kidnapped by a band of Iroquois. He remained a captive from March to October and was one of the lucky few to escape with their lives. By the Ville Marie census of 1663, Tadhg had become known as “Thecle Cornelius Aubrenan“.

The same census recorded that while there were 1,293 single men in Ville Marie – Tadhg among them – there were only nine single women of child-bearing age. This prompted King Louis XIV of France to send on “les filles du Roi” (daughters of the King) to help the situation out a little. These “daughters” consisted of 770 women who arrived in the new colony between 1663 and 1673. In fact, more than 95 per cent of French-Canadians can trace their ancestors to women in that group. Naturally, this group also caught the attention of Tadhg.

Tadhg tried hard for seven years to win himself a bride from each new boat arrival of “les Filles du Roi” – but eventually realised that he needed to head downriver to Quebec City to increase his odds of success. This he did – and on July 31, he met Jeanne Chartier. Tadhg and Jeanne were married September 10, 1670. The newlyweds settled in what is now the island of Montreal, and had seven children – three girls and four boys. Four of the children died before the age of five. The last two girls, born in 1679 and 1681, died soon after birth.

Tadhg retired at the age of 51 and died four years later, in November 1687. He was buried in Pointe-Aux-Trembles under the name of Pierre Aubry and was survived by Jeanne and three of their children. We can guess that Tadhg lived a hard and uncertain life – far from all the familiar culture and people he knew so intimately up to the age of 20. He did what he could to survive and push ahead.

Louis Aubry, who kindly shared this story and the documents related to his ancestor Tadhg, points out that he now has 5600 descendants of Tadhg on his database living in North America. And I guess few realise that while many bear the surname Aubrey – they are descended from a man with one of the more common names in the north of County Kilkenny.

- reposted from A Letter from Ireland

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

I'm the 'Baby Champ"

I lived with my grandparents and mother in Montreal while Dad was overseas with the occupation troops in Europe. My uncle was also still living at home and he and I had great times together. 

We had a running joke about who was the baby champ. Of course I was the baby champ and he would always tell me that's right. I would stand up on the table, wave my hands in the air as a boxer would do after winning a fight. Those were very good times, some of the best of times.

I sometimes wondered as an adult where 'I'm the baby champ' originated, I guessed it was just a family nickname for me, I had no idea it actually had a meaning. 

Many years later in the states my mother is rehabbing after breaking her hip. We began speaking of the past, we somehow got to talking about that saying, 'I'm the baby champ'

Not long before I was born, Northern Electric came out with an affordable radio called, Baby Champ. There was one in the house on Rivard Street and between my grandparents, my uncle, and my mother who asked me who is the baby champ? I would say, I am!

We left Montreal for the states in December of 1952. My uncle married and moved away. My grandmother died in 1955. 

We were a family back then, a real family, with a grandmother and grandfather that loved me unconditionally, and I them. I was their 'baby champ' and I loved them so.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Dr. Deimel Linen-Mesh Co

In 1894 Dr. Henry Deimel took out a United States patent on the process for producing a linen fabric called 'linen-mesh' which he used to make underwear. 

According to him, the material allowed the skin to breathe better than wool. In the window of his store the brand is illustrated by a mannequin with a spinning wheel.

From the "Montreal Storefronts Exhibition" put on by the McCord Museum on McGill College Avenue. 

Taken in 1908 by William Notman & Son.
Store address in 1908: 312 Ste. Catherine Street West.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Immigrants from the North”: A retrospective about history

My mother in law, Rose Anna Morin L’Heureux, of Sanford, was only four years old when her family traveled by wagon from Roxton Falls Quebec, to Biddeford Maine, entering the US via the Old Canada Road, at the turn of the 20th century. They were among tens of thousands of immigrants who entered Maine via once rugged international passes. There’s even a historical society in Bingham where the history about this immigration and migration pattern are maintained...more

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Bonsecours Market and Bonsecours Church

The chapel is known as the Sailors' Church, since many devout sailors prayed here for safe passage. These seamen also donated votive lamps in the shape of model ships that you can see hanging suspended from the ceiling.

There is some interesting artwork from native Quebec artists inside the chapel, including 'Typhus' by Théophile Hamel - a poignant picture of nuns treating the sick - and, on the back wall, portraits of Marguerite Bourgeoys and Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve by Ozias Leduc. The ceiling of the chapel is decorated with beautiful frescoes that depict the life of Mary.

In the chapel dedicated to Marguerite Bourgeoys is a small oak statue of a Madonna and Child, which was given to Marguerite in 1672. The statue, which survived several fires, is said to have miraculous powers and was the object of veneration.

In the crypt of the chapel you can still see the foundations of the original building and there are even traces uncovered of a wooden palisade and a settlement of an indigenous tribe.

A small museum in the chapel and adjoining schoolhouse is dedicated to the life of Marguerite Bourgeoys. This pious woman opened the first school in the city and also helped and housed the young girls who were sent from France to marry settlers. In the museum the important events in her long and extraordinary life are visualized with the help of miniature figures.

The museum also gives you the opportunity to visit the tower of the chapel, which offers panoramic views of Montreal's Old Port.

In 1655, Marguerite Bourgeoys, in return for her unpaid work, requested the construction of a new chapel dedicated the Virgin Mary, after whom the settlement, Ville Marie, was named. When the chapel was finally completed thirteen years later, it was the very first stone church in the region.

In 1754 the chapel burned to the ground but already in 1771 a new church - the one we see today - was built over the ruins. Over the years the building was altered many times. In 1885 the steeple was built and an ornamental tower with an 'aerial chapel' and views over the St. Lawrence River was completed in 1893.

The chapel's current appearance is the result of a final alteration in 1953, when both the steeple and tower were lowered.

Bonsecours Market

By the mid-nineteenth century, the need for a central market was realized and construction of the Bonsecours Market began in 1844 with a design by architect William Footner. This public market officially opened in 1847 though interior work continued until 1852.

Bonsecours Market was home to Montréal's City Hall from its opening until 1878. Also during that time, architect George Browne added a Victorian concert hall in the East Wing of the market as well as an adjoining banquet hall, making it suitable for large parties and musical events.

The major purpose for Marché Bonsecours, of course, was as a market where Montréal citizens could come to buy produce from local farms. The market continued to serve in that capacity until it closed in 1963.

Marché Bonsecours is built in the neo-Classical style with a long facade and a colonnaded portico. These Doric columns were cast in iron and made in England. The silvery dome of the Bonsecours Market is its crowning glory and can be seen not only by most Montrealers from anywhere in the city but also served as a landmark for sailors on the St. Lawrence River.

Because much of the market was abandoned for a few decades previous to its closing in 1963, extensive renovations were made the following year and the market became the home to city government offices in 1964. In 1992, it became the information and exhibition center for the celebration of the city's 350th birthday and has remained an exhibition hall since that time.

Visitors to Marché Bonsecours, which is the headquarters of the Craft Council of Québec and the Institute of Design Montréal, can browse through more than a dozen boutiques and enjoy lunch or dinner at a selection of restaurants, including the unique theme restaurant, Cabaret du Roy, where guests can eat in an eighteenth-century atmosphere.