Intercultural studies 

ANG 160 Fall 2005

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The Irish Community in Quebec city

by Sarah Barke

The Irish Community in Quebec City

            Since its meagre beginnings, Québec has welcomed innumerable settlers from Europe. Among these immigrants, there were French, British, Scottish citizens, but there were also an important number of Irish people. Dating as far back as to the year 1663, there has been proof of Irish immigrants living in Québec, although many sources state that it dates to even earlier than that. One reason there were so many Irish immigrants settling in Québec was because of religion. Depending on their own personal beliefs, they could join either the Roman Catholic or Protestant communities. Many Quebeckers can trace their genealogical tree and find an Irish ancestor somewhere down the line which makes Irish tradition that much more important.

Most people believe that Irish immigrants came to Canada mainly during the Irish potato famine crisis of 1845-1849. Some of these immigrants came and stayed in Canada but then settled in the United States. Unfortunately, more than five thousand immigrants did not finish the trip and are now buried in Grosse Île, near Montmagny. Contrary to popular belief, the more significant immigrations happened roughly two decades earlier. These immigrants were mostly farmers from Ireland coming to escape the conditions of home and provide better opportunities for their children. They settled mainly near the St. Lawrence Valley in the 1820s and 1830s.

            Among all of the immigrants that came through, the Irish Catholics were the easiest to conform to the Francophone Catholic culture. Since they shared the same religion, an Irish person could marry a Francophone person without it being regarded as disrespectful or wrong, as opposed to mixing the Protestant religion with the Catholic religion. Unlike their Anglophone and Protestant counterparts, these groups were more rural and guided by the clergy. Also, both groups felt hostility towards the controlling force, Britain, which also cemented the companionship.  

This Irish presence in Québec has helped it become the city it is today. The countless Irish pubs, the presence of an Irish school (Saint Patrick’s High School), an Irish cemetery (Saint Patrick’s Cemetery), an Irish church (Saint Patrick’s church), and the big anticipation surrounding Saint Patrick’s Day every year are all very important in keeping the Irish presence alive. The Irish community recognizes the unique heritage and culture that Ireland has to offer and tries to incorporate it and represent it accurately into the Québec-Canadian culture. The Irish community has become more and more important to the people of Québec City and many want to keep the tradition alive.

Many historians and genealogists take it upon themselves to relate the history of Irish immigrants in Québec as a province, and more specifically, Québec City. Marianna O’Gallagher is among one of these devoted people. She has written many essays and published numerous books recounting the trials and tribulations that the Irish have encountered in settling into this new land. Grosse Ile – Gateway to Canada, Eyewitness – Grosse Ile, and The Shamrock Trail are her more notable books publish from her own company in Quebec City, Livres Carraig Books. These books were also translated into French.

The Irish have greatly contributed to the Québec culture. Whether someone has Irish parents, grandparents or Irish ancestors going back a century, there is a feeling of innate pride that comes with Irish blood.