The return of the Montreal St. Patrick’s Day parade

Courtesy photo provided by Samara O’Gorman. Photo by Steven Soldano @stevensoldano

How Concordia Irish Studies student Samara O’Gorman is honouring her heritage

The month of March is a big deal for the United Irish Societies of Montreal and a cause for celebration for the students of the Concordia School of Irish Studies.

This year marks the return of the full-scale parade since it was suspended in 2020 due to the pandemic. 

The Concordian spoke with Irish Studies student Samara O’Gorman ahead of the parade, which took place Sunday, March 19. O’Gorman was selected as Queen of the Montreal St. Patrick’s Day 2023 parade.

“The Queen selection evening is run by the United Irish Societies of Montreal. It’s a common misconception that it might be a pageant but it’s actually a public speaking contest,” O’Gorman explained.

Young women of Irish descent from the Montreal area come together and compete. The competition is based on Irish history, community involvement, volunteerism, and the extent to which participants are ambassadors for the Irish community.

Lauren Tracey, VP of advertising and public relations for the United Irish Societies of Montreal, explained that the selection of the parade court goes all the way back to 1956. 

In 1956, the Queen’s Pageant Selection Evening was first held at the Sailors’ Club in Old Montreal, and the first young lady chosen was Patricia Ann Craig.

“Different parishes had promoted young ladies as Queen of their units in prior years, and in 1956 there was a Queen of the parade. At some point in subsequent years, the United Irish Societies decided, ‘Why not us?’ and began holding the Queen’s Pageant at the Sailors’ Club,” Tracey recalled.

The return of the parade this year has truly put into perspective what Irish culture in Montreal means to O’Gorman. 

“Something that I’ve learned to appreciate is how important tradition is, especially in the Montreal Irish community,” she said.

O’Gorman emphasized that the return of the parade is significant because it brings the Montreal Irish community together in one place. 

According to Tracey, Irish culture is represented in Montreal in a variety of ways, not just through the St. Patrick’s Day parade.

“One of the most prominent aspects of Irish culture in Montreal is traditional Irish music and dance. The Irish brought their music and dance traditions with them when they immigrated to Montreal, and these traditions continue to be celebrated today,” Tracey explained.

O’Gorman said there was one specific aspect of the parade that she was most excited about this year.

“At the end of the parade we are going to have a big Ukrainian group,” she said, referring to the community of Ukrainians new to Montreal who were invited to take part in the parade.

“If there is anything that the Irish people love to do, it’s to lend a helping hand and I think that narrative is really important right now.”

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