Saturday, March 17, 2012

189th Saint Patrick's Day Parade in Montreal -------Happy St Pat's Day to You All

LIVE PHOTO BLOG: Planning to attend the parade on Sunday? We'll be doing an all-photo live blog of the event and you can contribute to it. Just take a photo of the St. Patrick's festivities on your mobile phone and send it to Check out the parade as it happens at, starting at noon.

Parade 2012

Montreal's St. Patrick's Parade is not the oldest in North America: New York claims that honour. But it just might be the most consistent, according to Don Pidgeon, historian of the United Irish Societies, which has organized the annual celebration since 1929.

The parade has been held without fail for the past 188 years, notwithstanding blizzards, Fenian raids and the luck of the Irish, Pidgeon said.

"It had its periods when it was supposedly not to run, but it ran anyway," said Pidgeon, 75, a Dorval resident who grew up in Griffintown.

"There were times, like a few years ago, when we had a major snowstorm and the media said, 'Oh, it's going to be discontinued,' and the plows pushed the snow to the side and the parade continued," he said.

Organizers pride themselves on a long-standing tradition of inclusiveness (in contrast to U.S. cities like New York and Boston, where gay, lesbian and bisexual groups have boycotted the parade for excluding them).

"This has been the secret. Without the tolerance and spirit of sharing, we wouldn't have been able to continue to this day," Pidgeon said.

"We put a hand out to everyone and say, 'Come and not only be a participant, come and see our parade as well.' "

Here's a primer on the annual event, held on the Sunday closest to St. Patrick's Day.


The St. Patrick's Parade is one of Montreal's most inclusive celebrations. That spirit of tolerance dates back to 1759, when Irish soldiers with the British garrison celebrated St.

Patrick's Day with a banquet. Initially, both Protestants and Catholics were prominent in the St. Patrick's Society of Montreal, founded on St. Patrick's Day, 1834. But as Irish Catholics became more numerous - making up one-quarter of the city's population in 1861 - the parade became more exclusively Roman Catholic and religious in theme. In 1851, firemen associated with the Protestant Orange Order tried to disrupt the parade by trying to drive a fire engine through it.


The St. Patrick's Parade became associated with Irish nationalism in the late 19th century, as the movement for Home Rule attracted widespread support in North America. Irish flags and pro-independence banners decked the parade route. The Fenians, an American movement dedicated to Irish independence, staged raids against Canada in the 1860s and '70s and were suspected of being behind the assassination of Father of Confederation Thomas D'Arcy McGee in 1868. But community leaders like Father Patrick Dowd of St. Patrick's Church helped steer the parade's focus away from political issues.


The parade route didn't always follow Ste. Catherine St. When St. Patrick's Church opened in 1847, it became the focal point of the procession, which started in Old Montreal. In the 1860s, as the Irish community spread across the city, the parade route alternated each year between the east and west ends. The western route toured Griffintown while the eastern one headed to St. Mary's Church on Panet St. In 1918, when organizers suspended the parade because of tensions over First World War conscription, Ste. Anne's Parish held a parade in Griffintown. In 1993, the pageant went ahead despite a blizzard that dumped 41.2 centimetres of snow.


Organizers have long tried to discourage excessive drinking during the annual St. Patrick's celebration. In the 1840s, the temperance movement, founded in Ireland in 1838, held grand processions in the Montreal parade, urging bystanders to take a pledge to avoid liquor.

But alcohol-related problems have persisted. Two years ago, 20-yearold Alexandre Hamelin was killed when he was crushed under the wheels of a flatbed truck during the parade. The tragedy led to renewed warnings by organizers that drinking and rowdiness will not be tolerated.


Businessman Paul Loftus, a longtime Montrealer born in County Mayo, Ireland, is Grand Marshal of the 189th Montreal Parade - a position that dates back to the birth of the annual event. Past Grand Marshalls include former prime minister Brian Mulroney, Father John Walsh and the late politician Frank Hanley.

The parade queen and princesses became a feature of the parade in 1956. Keira Kilmartin, 21, wears the crown this year.

The green line along the parade route on Ste. Catherine St. was first painted in 1963.


Sunday's parade at noon will proceed eastward along Ste. Catherine St. W. from Fort St. to Phillips Square, taking at least two hours.

The route has been shortened in recent years because of construction in the Quartier des Spectacles. For more information, visit

LIVE PHOTO BLOG: Planning to attend the parade on Sunday? We'll be doing an all-photo live blog of the event and you can contribute to it. Just take a photo of the St. Patrick's festivities on your mobile phone and send it to Check out the parade as it happens at, starting at noon.


Catch a glimpse of past celebrations since the 1824 founding.

        Cheers ! HF&RV -Les


Les F said...

Ahh so the parade is on Sunday,the 18th of March.....
I guess you wouldn't want to encourage drinking & partying in Montreal on a Saturday.....................nope,.Sunday it 'Tis
........Are all you 'Tavern Irish' ready ?
again our friend Ken's Dad gets credit for that term........I love it.. lol
Cheers ! HF&RV - Les
of course Happy Saint Patrick's Day to all the real Irish folk today too (even though they are outnumbered

Les F said...

and on Saint Patrick's Day even the Irish put aside the Colour Problem in Ireland

Color(colour) segragation............the Orange & the Green

Cheers ! HF&RV - Les

Les F said...

Here are some of the photos that appear in today's online Gazette.....

HF&RV - Les

Les F said...

You can follow the parade via the live blog,where people are sending in photos of the parade route through their phones etc.......& Montreal is also in for some early summer weather as the temps are headed for double digits for a while,.and that will bring out everyone from there winter hibernation...won't be long now & all the great places around Montreal, Verdun etc will be in full swing,.the greenbelt along the river, the mountain, the Lachine Canal for tours etc .........ahh nothing more welcome than spring & summer in Montreal.
We are green with appropriate for the St Paddy's Parade

...Cheers ! HF&RV ....- Les