Fifty years ago Canada was preparing for its' Centennial as a nation and Montreal was preparing for the 1967 International and Universal Exposition, Expo 67. As those preparations were being made, Ireland and the diaspora were marking the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising.
The Easter Rising was an armed rebellion in Ireland during Easter Week in 1916, mounted by Irish republicans and organized by seven members of the Military Council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, to end British rule and establish an independent republic while the United Kingdom was primarily occupied with World War I.
The Rising began on Easter Monday, April 24, 1916. After proclaiming an Irish Republic, after six days of insurrection, and after seizing strategic locations in Dublin the British army suppressed the Rising. There was also insurrection in other parts of Ireland as well. Patrick Pearse, schoolmaster and Irish language activist, agreed to an unconditional surrender on April 29. Fifteen activists were sentenced to death, including the seven signatories of the Proclamation, and were executed by firing squad in early to mid May.
Despite the apparent Republican defeat, the Rising was the beginning of the rebirth of a nation. In 1918 republicans won seventy three out of 105 seats in the general election to the British Parliament.
On April 12, 1936 the Republican Irish of Montreal met at the Windsor Hotel under the auspices of the Irish Unity Club, under the presidency of Denis Quinlan, to commemorate the memory of those who died during the 1916 Easter Uprising in Dublin and to hear J.S. Wallace predict the gradual disintegration of England’s world influence and the acquisition by the Irish people of “liberty and freedom from oppression.”
In 1966 the Irish community of Montreal again came together to commemorate the events of 1916. A multi organization organizing committee was struck under the chairmanship of Gerald Carroll, Vice President for Canada of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and member of St. Patrick's Society, the Gaelic Athletic Association, and Innisfail Social and Sports Club. His fellow committee members included John Kenny, Past President of the United Irish Societies and Secretary of Innisfail Social and Sports Club, Denis Leyne, Secretary of the Gaelic Athletic Association, William Fahey, Treasurer of the Innisfail Social and Sports Club and member of both the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association and the Gaelic Athletic Association, Cathal McAlester, President of the Tara Golf Association and member of the Gaelic Athletic Association.
To mark the anniversary in a unique way, a special Mass and breakfast was organized for Easter Sunday, April 10, 1966. Mass was celebrated at Saint Patrick's Church with the breakfast taking place at the Queens Hotel. The guest speaker on this occasion was Reverend Father Reynolds, a native of Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, Ireland. Cost was two dollars per person.
An invitation only evening of recitation and song was planned for Monday, April 11 of that year.
One hundred years have passed and the ocean separates us. We and our families are indebted to those responsible for the birth of the nation that today we know as the Republic of Ireland.
Ken Quinn, Historian
January 17, 2016