Friday, December 21, 2018

How to make traditional Irish potato cakes or "boxty"

A recipe for traditional Irish potato cakes – better known as boxty. 
Traditional Irish potato cakes, or boxty, are mostly associated with the north midlands of Ireland in Connacht and Ulster. The people of Mayo, Sligo, Donegal, Fermanagh, Longford, Leitrim and Cavan are particularly big fans of this delicious and simple style of potatoes.

It is thought that boxty dates back to the days of the Irish Famine, presumably to make the potatoes stretch further. There are a couple of different recipes, but all contain finely grated, raw potatoes served fried.

There are some variations on the classic recipe, such as boiling the patty like a dumpling or baking it like a loaf. With the demands of the modern palate being more diverse, some people add spices or vegetables into the mix. However, the plain old griddled style is the original and is wonderfully tasty.

Over the last couple of years, as the Irish have become more interested in their own cuisine, the popularity of boxty has risen. It's now quite normal to see boxty on a menu in a restaurant in Ireland, whereas a decade ago it would have still been considered a 'peasant dish.' However, boxty has always been popular as part of Irish home cooking.

As one traditional (if woefully out-dated) rhyme explains: 

Boxty on the griddle, 
Boxty in the pan, 
If you can't make boxty, 
You'll never get your man.


1 cup raw, grated potatoes 
1 cup leftover mashed potatoes 
1 cup all-purpose flour 
2 tsp baking powder 
2 tsp salt 
2 eggs, lightly beaten 
1/4 cup (about) milk to mix 
Butter or oil for frying 
Sugar (optional)


Place the grated raw potatoes in a clean cloth and twist to remove excess moisture.

Whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder.

Combine flour mixture with the raw potatoes, the left over mashed potatoes, and the eggs.

Add enough mix to make a batter.

Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat and add butter or oil.

Drop potato batter by the tablespoon into the hot pan.

Brown on both sides (about 4 minutes per side).

Butter each boxty and serve hot with or without sugar.

Yield: about 4 servings

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Predicting the transmission of rare, genetically based diseases

Researchers have traced the origins of a rare genetic disease to two Quebec founding families in the 17th century...more

Friday, November 16, 2018

Taiwanese Pepper Pork Pie Recipe

Have you heard of Taiwanese Hu Jiao Bing? It literally translates to Pepper Biscuit! But don’t let the name fool you, these pepper pork pies are so much more than that.

Hu Jiao Bing are pastries filled with a mixture of pork, scallions and fragrant with aromatics and white pepper. The crust should be crispy but not doughy whereas the filling should have the right ratio of lean meat, fat and chopped scallions. Traditionally from Taiwan, these are an immensely popular street food at night markets which are abundant throughout the country. At one specific market called Raohe Night Market, tourists and locals alike are willing to wait in line for over an hour just to get a taste of the famous pepper pork pies there which are one of the major attractions of the market.

This recipe can be altered in many ways to suit your liking. Typically, the chopped scallions are stuffed into the bun separately with the meat filling instead of incorporating it in altogether. This is done so that the flavors of the fragrant, pungent scallions are more pronounced. However, I’ve gone against the norm by mixing it in together with the pork filling, simply because it’s so much easier to wrap. For most home cooks, we rarely tackle recipes like these are they can be very time-consuming. Many people end up putting in less filling as it makes the wrapping process so much easier. Unfortunately, what you get in return is a sad pastry with little meat and all crust...more

Perfect fare for something a little different for the upcoming holidays!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Long-lost 325-year-old Quebec City fortifications found

Archeologists in Quebec City have discovered the first fortifications built in 1693 to protect New France from a major attack, in what is considered the first reinforced palisade of that era.

The discovery was made by an archeological firm, Ruralys, that was overseeing renovation work on a building on Sainte-Ursule street, after a worker found a small piece of wood sticking out of the black sand...more

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A Teacher's Story by Joe Lonergan

A Teacher’s Ghost Story by Joe Lonergan

Thirty some years ago when I was teaching at St. Patrick’s High School I used to remark that the kids were gentler with each other than when I was in school. Now I feel we were all much the same over time and that not a lot has changed. One day at the end of September, I heard a commotion and stopped a group of Secondary I kids who had been chasing another one... or so I thought. I had not had a good look at whom they were chasing as I had come up on the situation quickly and just as suddenly it was over. Their quarry was long gone. It had seemed like an apprehended bullying which made me a little angry but I chose not to show this in front of the little ones. I hoped it was just a game of tag out of place. I was teaching mostly Secondary IIIs at the time. The following week when I was having lunch in my department room another teacher told me she had had a similar experience. “Where Anne?” I asked. “Down near the cafeteria” she said.

“Did you see who they were chasing?” 
 “Only a fleeting glimpse, not really,” she answered, “I was more concerned with the bunch after him; I called them up short.”

I asked the Secondary I teachers if any particular child seemed likely to be the victim but drew a blank. One teacher however was aware that six or seven kids hung around together in the cafeteria area.

“How are they?” I asked.
“Oh alright,” she said, “a little wild, you know Sec I boys, no worse than that.”
The next day heading back from the cafeteria to the teacher’s lounge I heard a commotion at the end of the hall from which I had been walking away. I turned and went down but all had returned to the normal bustle. I asked a student what had been up. 
“Dunno Sir, just Sec I kids havin’ fun!”

 “If I were to speak to a Sec I which one would you suggest Carol?” I asked a Sec I teacher. She suggested I talk to Joe Dolan as he was “a nice intelligent kid.” I asked the Director of Discipline if I could go ahead and he said sure; he had his hands full with the other four levels.

 Carol’s classroom was across the hall from mine and we could each see the front of each other’s room. Carol taught Joe during one of my few off periods. I asked her if she could send him in to see me. She agreed to send him the next day after he turned in his Math test; he always finished well before the others.
“Excuse me Sir, Miss said to come and see you.”
 “Yeah! Hi Joe. Is Mike Dolan you dad?”
 “Yes Sir,” he said smiling with the same lightly freckled face as his dad.
“I was in class with him when we were small Joe, tell him Joe Lonergan said Hello!”
 “OK, I will Sir.”
 “Joe, can you tell me who the Sec I kids have been chasing down around the cafeteria area?”

The smile on Joe’s face turned to one of looking perplexed. He shrugged and said, “Oh, wow, you know about that? I don’t know who the kid is. We all thought he was in another Sec I group but it turns out he’s not in any of them. He’s weird, we never get a real good look at him.”
 “Weird?” I asked.
“He dresses weird, old looking clothes, no body dresses like that... and he’s scrawny, he seems to be anyway, I never got close to him. He really runs fast.”
 “You chase him?” I asked.
 Joe was uncomfortable. “Yes Sir, but like, it started out we were just curious and went to see him, he looked so weird... but he took off like a scared rabbit.”
 “You still chase him?”
 “Well, yeah, we sort of want to see him up close Sir. He does not come often but if we spot him... well, like we’re curious.”
 “Do you think he’s a Sec II?” I asked
“I don’t think so, they’re in the old building like us and we never see him there, so nope, I don’t think so. And he’s too small to be Sec III, IV or V.”
 “OK, fine Joe.. Listen Joe if you see that kid just leave him be will you. He is obviously scared.”
 “OK Sir! ...Sir, talk to Jimmy McGrandle, he says he almost caught him.”
I started laughing, “Jimmy McGrandle? I was in school here with Jimmy McGrandle when I was a kid. What a village! It must be Jimmy’s boy. Jimmy was fast too,” I said, 
 Ok, thanks again Joe, I will. You had better get back to class.”

The following week I got to speak to Jimmy. He told me his dad was in fact James McGrandle and that he had been transferred this summer to Quebec City... and yeah, his dad went to school here when he was small. I asked him about the chasings and his involvement.
“Yeah,” he said, “I thought I’d catch him ‘cause he headed for the sports supply room across from the stairwell but when I went in he wasn’t there.”
 “Where do you think he went?” I asked.
“Well there’s a door and a short stairwell that goes down from there but it was locked. I don’t know what’s down there.”
 “OK thanks Jimmy, tell your Dad I’m teaching here!”
 “OK Sir. Hey Sir, it smelled real earthy there.”
 “Earthy?” I asked “What do you mean earthy?”
 “I mean it smelled like earth, like mud when I went in there. I’m just sayin’.”
Not knowing what to make of that I again said goodbye and sent him on his way.
 I didn’t teach last period so after prepping for the next day I went and asked the Principal Mr. McKenna if I could borrow his master key. He said fine but to please get it back to him before I left that day. I headed for the place Jimmy was describing. I knew vaguely the school repairmen kept some hardware on site and had a bit of a workshop down there. I went down into the workshop and noticed a door on its south wall. Opening the door I was hit by what was indeed an earthy smell. I found a light switch within and turned it on. What lights came on were of transparent glass but the wattage was poor. There was a staircase of only four or five stairs to a lower level with an earthen floor. I explored. There was a long passage that ran south under equipment rooms off the high school gymnasium above. The passage way was about 12 feet wide with the school’s foundation to the left. To the right the earth rose up to leave a crawl space under the gym floor of about three feet. I went to the southern end of the passage that revealed great pipes and valves. Along the way there was a trap to one of the supply rooms above and a couple of boarded up windows in the foundation wall. 

I headed back from where I came, up the little flight of stairs to the workroom and back up to the first floor. I brought Mr. McKenna back the key and headed home. That night after supper and helping to get the kids to bed I decided to drop in on my mother who only lived a block away. When I got there I was soon telling her about my visit to the school’s lower regions. “Oh Joe, don’t be going down there,” she said, “It’s the old cholera cemetery down there. It’s not safe”. 
I just laughed and said, “Aw mom!”
She was right about the school having been built over the old cholera cemetery. It was part of the old graveyard that had served as the first St. Patrick’s Cemetery. My mother would have been only six when they dug the excavation for the old school. But she was 45 by the time they dug for the new school. She had heard about all the bones uncovered in 1955. The same had happened when they excavated to join the new and the old school with a wing in 1968.

I decided to go back a week later after hearing another teacher complaining about “a chase”. I went down, switching on the light and again noticed the earthy smell. I sat on an old wooden classroom chair that had ended up there and took the place in. I was thinking about the cholera epidemics that had struck Quebec as far back as 1832. They recurred five times including in 1854. Now talk about whistling in a graveyard, I had been half whistling Johnny’s Gone For a Soldier. All at once I thought I saw some slight movement in the dark area that shrank to a crawl space and the hair literally rose on my neck. The smell of earth was over-whelming and, believe it or not, I somehow saw a scrawny child in the gloom.
“Who are you?” I asked. 
 A little boy’s voice answered in a half-whisper, “Níl Béarla agam.” I knew this was Irish though I have very little Irish. It means I have no English. I was gasping.
 He repeated nil Béarla agam and added, “Siúil a Rún” or Shule Aroon, the old air behind Johnny’s Gone for a Soldier. My mind was spinning. My whistling the melody had brought him to me. He was only a wispy wraith in the gloom but the odor of earth was choking strong. I was amazed to find my teacher instinct greater than my fear. “Cad é do thrioblóid mo mhac?” I asked him. What is your trouble my son?
“Ba mhaith liom mo mháthair agus mo athair,” he answered. I want my mother and my father.
 I thought and then promised him, “Amárach.” Tomorrow.
 I knew he had to be a cholera victim. I imagined his parents had survived the epidemic. Their remains probably had been transferred to the mass grave in the new St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Sillery. I left quickly and yelled back from the top of the stairs, “Amárach, mo mhac, as grá duit,” Tomorrow my son, for love of you. 

My mother phoned that night and asked me if I was OK. She told me she had dreamt that I was a little boy again and it had frightened her.

The next day I went down with a shovel and plastic gloves to where the wraith had stood and in a little time I had uncovered the skeleton of a child and a few other bones for good measure. I put them in a plastic bag, took them out to St. Patrick’s Cemetery and buried them in the mass grave area. I made the sign of the cross and spoke it aloud in Irish.

“In ainm an Athar agus an Mhic agus an spioraid Naoimh. Amen.”

I have never told anyone this story before. Days after I re-buried the remains, I awoke one night from a dream. I can’t remember the dream other than hearing the air to Shule Aroon and a child saying, “ Go raibh maith agat. Tá síocháin agam anois. Mo ghrá thú.” Thank you. I have peace now. I love you.

Happy Halloween! Irish Heritage Quebec

Written by Joe Lonergan - administrator of Facebook site Irish Heritage Quebec
-reprinted here with permission

I posted a ghost story on my own Facebook page for Halloween. You may or may not want to read it. While is only a story, it carries a lot of factual of our local Irish heritage.

There was a great fear of contagion during the cholera epidemics that struck Quebec City in 1832, 1834,1849, 1851, 1852 and 1854. These carried off 8373 victims of all classes, creeds and ethnicity. A great many were Irish and those who were Catholic were mostly buried in St. Louis Cemetery illustrated here. It became St. Patrick’s Cemetery in 1856. In 1879 St. Patrick’s Cemetery between Grande Allée and what is now the north side of Maisonneuve was closed. There was an exhumation order to move human remains to 
the new cemetery in Sillery. My experience at St. Patrick’s School forces me to believe that at least in the case of the cholera section the order was not applied. In 1918 when the school and later extensions were built there were repeated disturbances of remains and some re-interment in the new cemetery. Inevitably some separation of family remains would have occurred when remains were transferred to the new St. Patrick’s Cemetery.

For the interested, one Irish superstition was that a spirit could not cross water. The old St. Denis stream and Belle Bourne Creek on the way and just before the new cemetery would have constituted obstacles. 

They are now only dry or damp ravines. If I could talk to Mary Lonergan, my great grandfather's aunt who died of cholera in July of 1854, I would say, “Ah there now Mary, sure isn’t there a bit of a bridge?” Her remains may actually still be in the schoolyard. Note the chol. for cholera in the margin of her interment entry. Note as well the John Fitzpatrick and Francois Nadeau who were present for the burial. I am not certain but looking at the 1852 and 1861 Census makes me assume that Fitzpatrick is the graveyard attendant and gravedigger while Nadeau made rough coffins. They are present at all the burials at St. Louis Cemetery in 1854.

May they all rest in peace wherever they are.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Fire at Hochelaga School

On February 26, 1907, fire broke out in the Hochelaga School on Prefontaine street. Sixteen young children perished in the fire, along with the school principal, Sarah Maxwell, who lost her life attempting to rescue many of the children. Names of the children are listed below.

The fire apparently broke out just before 2 p.m. and by 3 p.m. the bravery of some had resulted in most of the children being saved but tragically 16 children and their beloved principal Miss Sarah Maxwell - perished - leaving Montreal just reeling from shock.

It was  a 4 story building and the older children were on the bottom floors & the younger children were on the upper floors. The newspaper gives conflicting renditions... but it seems that there was smoke and that wasn't unusual as they had a faulty furnace. By the time anyone realized the danger, it was too late to get the children out.. as the stairwells were full of thick smoke. Miss Maxwell and the teachers herded the children back to the safety (?) of the upper room. 

Meanwhile there was an ice house almost directly across the street and the workers there saw the flames and ran to fire ladders - to reach the upper windows. Not enough ladders were found...but of the ones that were, the men were able to save many children, thanks to the fact that Miss Maxwell and the teachers..were lifting the children (6-8yrs olds) out the windows to the men. 

Though relatively young, this was an enormous feat on the part of these women as the children must have been heavy . One story says the fire dept only saved 2 children.. (didn't get there in time) and almost saved Miss Maxwell..but an explosion prevented that. Another story says Miss Maxwell just collapsed from fatigue. At least 50 children were saved.  -- 

The confusion that followed was "unreal" - as desperate parents arrived on the scene searching for their loved ones. Many had been taken to homes nearby and the bodies had been taken to the morgue. The newspaper had full coverage of the anguish (and in some cases relief) of the parents who feared the worst and later found their children alive. The inconsolation  of the parents who lost children is difficult to read.

Then followed a campaign (seems to have been the brainchild of the Montreal Star - but I've only looked at that newspaper.) They  asked children to send in their donations for a fitting "memorial" to Miss Maxwell.  I've found 13 "installments" so far and this certainly will interest all of you who had family in Montreal at the time... but I can't possibly type up all these names. The idea was (and here's where we come in) to help future Montrealers know the bravery of this one lady by making a "memorial" to her memory that no one could forget." 

Maxwell, Sarah school principal 
aged 31 (lived 479A St Urbain St with her mother)  

Anderson, James Frederick aged 6½ 
94 St Germain St 
only child of JF Anderson
Andrew, Annie Jackson aged 8  
dau/ Henry Jackson Andrew 
63 Cuvillier St  

Davey, Edna aged 5½ yrs,  
14 Marlborough St  
dau/ John Davey

Forbes, Cecilia aged 6  
59 Cuvillier St  
dau/ Thomas Forbes
Golson, Edith aged 6 yrs & 8 months  
311 Stradacona St,  
dau/o John Golson  

Hingston, Gladys aged 6 
dau/ Wm Hingston  
57a Rouville St

Jackson, Albert Edward aged 6  
of 22 Wurtele St  
son of John H Jackson
Johnson, Joseph aged 7 
424 Cuvillier St  
younger s/o Thomas Johnson  

Lampton, Ethel aged 5½ yrs 
dau/ George Lambton

Lindley, James Pilkington aged 6  
119 Alwin St, identified by father James Pilkington Lindley
Lomas, John aged 6  
s/o George Lomas 
111 Davidson St.
McPherson, James aged 7  
333 Prefontaine St. 
son/ James McPherson (nb: the school was on Prefontaine St)
Rich, Lillian aged 5  
28 Marlborough St.  
dau/ Harrison Rich 
identified by Thomas Williams
Spraggs, Mabel aged 3 
dau/o A Spragge, builder,  
1726 St Catherine St East

Spraggs, Myrtle aged 8 
dau/o A Spragge, builder,  
1726 St Catherine St East

Zimmerman, Wm John aged 7  
only child of W Zimmerman of 411 Alwin St
 - identified by father  

- courtesy Pennie Redmile

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.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

St. Anne's Ward, or the Transformation of an Irish Montreal Neighbourhood: 1792-1970 - Sylvain Rondeau

Established in the 19th century, St. Anne's ward occupied the entire southwest area of Montreal. It was known as an Irish neighbourhood.

From Faubourgs to Ward

The ward originally consisted of two faubourgs, or suburbs, that had sprung up in the 18th century. The Faubourg des Récollets (also called St. Joseph) was located just outside the fortification gate adjoining the Récollet property. Running through the faubourg was St. Joseph Road (the future Notre-Dame Street), which later became Upper Lachine Road. Lying between the St. Martin River to the north and the Petite Rivière to the south, the faubourg had virtually reached its occupancy limit by the start of the 19th century.

Experiencing less rapid growth in the 18th century, the Faubourg Sainte-Anne, located further south, extended over a larger area where urban development did not begin until the early 19th century. It was crossed by the other road leading to Lachine, Wellington Street. The St. Gabriel farm was situated here. The southern section of this faubourg has long been known as Point St. Charles, a name still associated today with this area of southwest Montreal.

The incorporation of the City of Montreal led to the creation of municipal wards, including St. Anne's ward, which absorbed all of the former Faubourg Sainte-Anne as well as the southern part of the Faubourg Saint-Joseph in 1845. The ward was then bounded by St. Joseph Street (Notre Dame Street) to the north, McGill Street to the east, the St. Lawrence River to the south and the limits of the City of Montreal established in 1792 to the west.

The ward's history is intertwined with the major installations that were built there. The construction of the Lachine Canal in 1825 and subsequent work to expand it provided many unskilled labourers with employment. The building of the Victoria Bridge, which was completed in 1859, was also a source of jobs. Beginning in 1847, Montreal's first large factories were set up along the canal to take advantage of the hydraulic power generated by the locks. Like the Grand Trunk (future CN) railway shops, they turned St. Anne's ward into an industrial, working-class area. During the 1960s and 1970s, the closing of the Lachine Canal, the relocation of most industrial activity to other parts of Montreal and to the suburbs, and the building of highways led to the ward's decline.

Griffintown? Point St. Charles?

St. Anne's ward encompassed a number of different neighbourhoods, including Point St. Charles in the southwest, Griffintown in the northeast and Victoriatown in the southeast. Victoriatown disappeared in 1964 when work for Expo 67 was done.

In the last decades of the 20th century, one area of St. Anne's ward gradually came to play an increasingly important role in the collective memory of Montreal's Irish community. Formerly the Nazareth fief belonging to the McCord family, Griffintown owed its name to real estate developer Mary Griffin, who divided it into lots in 1804. Originally located between Mountain, William, Des Soeurs-Grises and De la Commune streets, its imagined territory extended beyond these initial boundaries. Factories and adjoining residential areas sprang up there beginning in the 1830s.

Point St. Charles is the name that was given to all of the former St. Anne's ward, the area between the Lachine Canal and the St. Lawrence River, at the end of the 20th century. Having progressively lost its industries, it evolved into a residential neighbourhood that saw renewed development beginning in the late 1990s.

An Irish Fief?
Contrary to popular belief, St. Anne's ward (and especially Griffintown) was not a solely Irish area. While a large proportion of its inhabitants (up to half in 1871) were of Irish origin, between a quarter and a third were French-Canadian, and others were English or Scottish. Moreover, the people who lived there accounted for only a third of all those of Irish stock in Montreal.

Nevertheless, St. Anne's ward played a major role in the history of the Irish community. During the great famine of the 1840s, thousands of people left Ireland to try their luck in the New World. Mostly poor, illiterate and from rural backgrounds, many of these unskilled workers settled in St. Anne's ward, finding jobs as workers or labourers at the nearby docks or factories.

During the first half of the 19th century, a steady flow of immigrants fuelled population growth in St. Anne's Irish community. This geographic concentration explained the inauguration, in 1854, of Montreal's second Irish church, St. Anne's, which became a parish in 1880. It also explains why this part of Montreal has long been represented municipally, provincially and federally by politicians of Irish origin.

Beginning in 1870, however, a number of factors contributed to the relative decline of this community. Immigration from Ireland dropped precipitously, while the social and geographic mobility of the city's Irish population resulted in some residents moving to other areas of Montreal, other regions of Canada or even to the United States.

In the 1920s, Italian and Eastern European immigrants settled in the area. In 1960 most of the people in Griffintown were of Italian or Ukrainian origin. By the early 21st century, the majority of residents of the former St. Anne's ward were French-speaking, living alongside people of all different backgrounds, some of whom had Irish roots. These Irish Montrealers, with their rich heritage, help to maintain the memory of the Irish character that used to be so strong in this neighbourhood.

A Working-Class Neighbourhood

In the 19th century, living conditions in St. Anne's ward were hard, especially because of the epidemics that struck Montreal. Being next to the river, the area was also frequently hit by flooding, with sewage and waste ending up inside the dilapidated houses, fostering the spread of mould, infections and disease. In the 20th century, these major scourges were better controlled, but the sorry state of the housing became even more evident.

An essentially working-class ward, St. Anne's was also the scene of a number of strikes. Fed up with their conditions, workers would down tools in an effort to force their employers to make improvements. In contact with fellow countrymen living in the United States, some Irish workers helped to spread trade unionism in Montreal and elsewhere in Canada.

In 1970 St. Anne's Church had virtually no more parishioners and was torn down. The demolition tolled the death knell for the Irish presence in the neighbourhood. A park on the site where the church used to stand is a reminder of the Irish community's history in an area that has been left to go to seed.

BOILY, Raymond, Les Irlandais et le canal de Lachine : la grève de 1843. Ottawa, Leméac, 1980, 207 p.

CROSS, Dorothy Susanne, « The Irish in Montreal », Master Thesis (History), McGill University, 1969, 308 p.

BENOIT, Michèle and Roger GRATTON, Pignon sur rue : les quartiers de Montréal, Montreal, Guérin, 1991, 393 p.

LINTEAU, Paul-André, Histoire de Montréal depuis la Confédération, Montreal, Boréal, 2000, 627 p

Monday, July 16, 2018

Dawes Brewery

Year unknown.
9 of the 31 Black horses owned by the Dawes brewery in Montreal.
The stables were in Griffintown

Entrepreneur Thomas Dawes founded the Dawes Brewery in 1811 on the banks of the Lachine Canal.

When he died, his two sons, Thomas and James, took over the company. When James died, his two sons went into business with their uncle Thomas. One of these two grandsons, Andrew James, eventually assumed ownership of the company and became president of National Breweries Ltd., a group of breweries including the Dawes Brewery.

This company was the first in Canada to employ the telegraph, using it to communicate between its Lachine facility and offices downtown.

A true family business, the company continued to be run by other descendants (including Norman J., Kenneth T., and Donald) between 1921 and 1952, although the brewery shut down its Lachine operations in 1927.

1943-1944 sign atop of Dawes brewery on St-Maurice St.

After that, the buildings were used for various purposes: a candle factory, the sale and repair of household articles, and now a museum. The Maison du Brasseur (Brewers home), Vielle Brasserie (Old Brewery), and Pavillon de l'Entrepot (Warehouse) now make up the Guy-Descary Cultural Complex.

Photographs courtesy of Roger Albert and Griffintown Memories on Facebook

Friday, July 6, 2018

Apocalypse for a horseman

FOR 40 YEARS, Leo Leonard has been operating the Griffintown Horse Palace. But a redevelopment plan for the area would turn his property into housing and commercial space.

Leo Leonard at his Griffintown stable on Ottawa St., with horse Rocky in the background. “People say I should turn the place into a zoo and charge admission,” he says.

During the Second World War you could hire a calèche to take you up to Mount Royal for $5. Today, if you can find a driver willing to make the four-hour return trip to the mountain, it would cost about $300.

“When I began driving in 1942, it was another era,” said Leo Leonard. He has owned the Griffintown Horse Palace on Ottawa St. for 40 years.

“Back then there were 62 carriages at Dominion Square outside the Windsor Hotel and another 25 outside the gates of McGill. Today, there are only 35 calèche drivers’ permits, and all the drivers are down in Old Montreal.”

The price of a calèche ride is $45 for a half-hour, $80 for an hour. Competition is stiff.

Horse-drawn carriages are an anachronism in the 21st century, and their future, as well as that of Leonard’s stables just south of the École de technologie supérieure on Notre Dame St. W., is up in the air.

The Southwest borough has designs on Leonard’s property, one of the last in the area to house horses.

A redevelopment plan unveiled in October for the neighbourhood has the stables, tack house and corral earmarked as an area for office and commercial space, and affordable and subsidized housing.

Inspired by Toronto’s Distillery district, an industrial area that was transformed into a gentrified neighbourhood, urban planners see Griffintown as an ideal site for redevelopment.

Heritage Montreal’s Dinu Bumbaru says while he wel- comes development in the area, razing the stables would be a mistake.

“They are not a great monument,” he said, “but they are the only remnants to remind us that the driving force behind the metropolis was the horse.

“There is room in the city’s heritage policy to keep Leonard’s stables, and perhaps integrate them into a … network of Montreal memory to remind us it is the unheralded blue-collar workers who make a great city.”

Leonard was born in Goose Village and raised in Griffintown. He is 81.

Known as Clawhammer Jack, he is probably one of the last residents to have lived and worked in the neighbourhood for eight decades.

His permit to run his stable has a grandfather clause that states he can keep horses on the property as long as he owns it.

Leonard concedes, however, developers are eager to acquire his land, and perhaps the time has come for him to sell.

“I’ve always been in the horse business, but now I’m fed up with the industry,” Leonard said.

“People say I should turn the place into a zoo and charge admission,” he said with a chuckle.

Leonard bought the stables, which date from 1862, for $15,000 in 1967 when the city ran the Ville Marie Expressway eight blocks to the east, and people moved out of the neighbourhood.

He won’t say how much he wants for the property, which contains residential units, a tack house, a barn for eight horses and a small exercise corral.

“I’m not supposed to talk about anything, but, yes, agents have been coming around to talk to me about selling. We’ll see what happens,” Leonard said.

In addition to his property, he says, real estate agents are looking at a nearby scrapyard and an old paint shop next door.

Should he sell, Leonard isn’t sure what he’ll do if he no longer has horses to look after.

“I won’t go live in Florida, that’s for sure,” he said. “You’ll never catch me on a plane.”

Sunday, July 1, 2018

O Canada!

History of Canada Day
Canada’s national holiday is celebrated on July 1.

Canadians across the country and around the world show their pride in their history, culture and achievements. It’s been a day of celebration, where many festivities are held across the country, since 1868.

The Creation of Canada Day
July 1, 1867 : The British North America Act (today known as the Constitution Act, 1867) created Canada.

June 20, 1868 : Governor General Lord Monck signs a proclamation that requests all Her Majesty’s subjects across Canada to celebrate July 1.

1879 : A federal law makes July 1 a statutory holiday as the “anniversary of Confederation,” which is later called “Dominion Day.”

October 27, 1982 : July 1, “Dominion Day” officially becomes Canada Day.

The Celebrations Start
July 1, 1917 : The 50th anniversary of Confederation. The Parliament buildings, under construction, are dedicated to the Fathers of Confederation and to the courage of Canadians who fought in Europe during the First World War.

July 1, 1927 : The 60th anniversary of Confederation. The Peace Tower Carillon is inaugurated. The Governor General at the time, Viscount Willingdon, lays the cornerstone of the Confederation Building on Wellington Street.

From 1958 to 1968 : The government organizes celebrations for Canada’s national holiday every year. The Secretary of State of Canada is responsible for coordinating these activities. A typical format includes a flag ceremony in the afternoon on the lawns of Parliament Hill and a sunset ceremony in the evenings, followed by a concert of military music and fireworks.

July 1, 1967 : The 100th anniversary of Confederation. Parliament Hill is the backdrop for a high-profile ceremony, which includes the participation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

From 1968 to 1979 (with the exception of 1976): A large multicultural celebration is presented on Parliament Hill. This concert is broadcast on television across the country. The main celebrations (called “Festival Canada”) are held in the National Capital Region throughout the month of July. These celebrations include many cultural, artistic and sport activities and involve the participation of various municipalities and volunteer associations.

From 1980 to 1983 : A new format is developed. In addition to the festivities on Parliament Hill, the national committee (the group tasked by the federal government to plan the festivities for Canada’s national holiday) starts to encourage and financially support the establishment of local celebrations across Canada. Start-up funding is provided to support popular activities and performances organized by volunteer groups in hundreds of communities. Interested organizations can make a request to the Celebrate Canada program.

1981 : Fireworks light up the sky in 15 major Canadian cities, a tradition that continues today.

1984 : The National Capital Commission (NCC) is given the mandate to organize Canada Day festivities in the capital.

2010 : Festivities on Parliament Hill receive a royal treatment when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh join the festivities to celebrate Canada’s 143rd anniversary.

2011 : Their Royal Highnesses Prince William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, participate in Canada Day festivities on Parliament Hill on the occasion of Canada’s 144th anniversary.

2014 : Canadian Heritage organizes the 147th Canada Day celebrations. As we approach Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017, the government has given the Department the mandate to organize Canada Day festivities in the capital.

2018: Happy 151st Anniversary, Canada!