“Last evening the Hamilton Opera House was crowded almost to suffocation on the occasion of the presentation of a banner to the Sarsfield branch of the Emerald Beneficial Association of this city.”
Hamilton Spectator March 10, 1876
With St. Patrick’s Day imminent, an interesting event took place, designed to help ease the religious hostility between Irish Protestant Hamiltonians and Irish Hamiltonians who were Roman Catholic.
When the curtain raised at the Hamilton Opera House, the full beyond capacity looked upon the stage filled with prominent Irish Hamiltonians of both the Protestant and Roman Catholic faiths.
As described in the Spectator :
“In front of the stage stood the banner supported by two young ladies, daughters of prominent citizens. The effect was beautiful, and the sight will not easily be forgotten by those who witnessed it.
After a brief introduction by the President, Miss Mary Kehoe stepped forward and read the following :
Hamilton, 9th March, 1876.
To the Members of the Emerald Beneficial Association, Sarsfield Branch, No. 1
MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN : On behalf of the Catholic young ladies of Hamilton, permit us to present you with the accompanying banner. In token of our high appreciation of your society as a repository of those great principles of civil and religious liberty and mutual benevolence, which are dear to all genuine Irishmen at home and abroad. As you will no doubt be pleased to observe, the banner bears the portraits of two men who, in their respective walks of life, have been eloquent, honest and courageous exponents of these principles; the one an Irish Dominican of the Catholic Church, whose voice has been heard on both sides of the Atlantic in vindication of the fair fame of his country and race; and the other a Protestant, and patriot, who asserted Ireland’s rights in the field, from the platform, and through the press, and whose life was laid down in a patriotic endeavour to assert the rights of his country in a constitutional manner. We need hardly explain that we allude to “Father Tom Burke” and honest “John Mitchell;” the priest who deems his duty to his country not incompatible with his duty to his God; and the Protestant who took no pleasure in contemplating the ascendancy of class or creed, but who, with a patriotic generosity, which his Catholic countrymen will never forget, acted upon the grand Christian principle of “doing unto others as he would that they should do unto him.” The one still lives to delight his countrymen by his eloquence, and edify them by his unostentatious piety and self-denial; the other, worn out by patriotic labours has sunk to rest, “by all his countrymen’s wishes best.”
But neither distance nor death can dim the halo of glory that encircles such names as theirs, names which Irishmen will never let die. In placing upon this banner the portraits of these two celebrated sons of Erin, we have been actuated by a desire to convey to you our appreciation of that love of Faith and Fatherland which your association is designed to cherish and cultivate none the less successfully because its broad and tolerant love of the Old Land recognises her worthy sons, whether clothed in the habit of a Catholic priest or the garb of the Protestant layman.
Irish Catholics are proud of the Irish Protestant head roll of honour, embracing as it does, the Grattans, the Currans, the Emmets, the Kubys, the Shears, the Butts, and a host of others; but we give voice to the sentiments of our race, when we thus place side by side with Ireland’s greatest patriot priest her latest fallen Protestant patriot.
May this banner be to you, all that it is intended to be, a guerdon of the past, a pledge of the future, and may the days soon dawn when all Irishmen, irrespective of class or creed, will acknowledge the worth of such men as these, and imitate to some extent their splendid example.
In conclusion, we beg you to accept this standard in the spirit in which it is tendered, assured as we are, that you will guard it wisely and well, and that when you unfurl it to the free air of Canada, it will wave above hearts as devoted to the cause of freedom and equal rights as those of the illustrious Irishmen whose forms are delineated upon it.
Mrs. Tom Kavanaugh,
After the band had played an Irish air, Mr. Thomas Maloney delivered the following reply :
To the Catholic Young Ladies of Hamilton :
Hamilton, 9th March, 1876.
LADIES : We cannot too warmly express our thanks for the handsome Banner of which you are the donors to our Society, and our appreciation of the good taste and patriotism which inspired the glit, and the tone of the admirable address which accompanies it. Ireland’s daughters enjoy a world-wide celebrity for virtue and patriotism, as well as beauty; and it is a source of pride to all good Irishmen to find that in this latter age and newer land their hearts still cherish that devotedness of Faith and Fatherland which moved the heroines of Limerick to deeds of valor that might add new lustre to the glories of the best disciplined and most chivalrous veteran soldiers.
We heartily endorse the fittingly expressed sentiments of admiration which you entertain for Father Tom Burke and John Mitchell, whom you justly describe as the Patriot Priest and the Patriot Protestant, whose genius and moral courage are amongst the most precious of our national heritages, and we shall never unfurl this banner to the breeze without recalling to mind the pre-eminent purity, the sparking wit, and burning eloquence of the one and the unswerving rectitude, high intellectuality, and disinterested patriotism of the other. We accept their portraits which you have committed to our care as sacred trusts, which we can never betray without proving recreant to all that honest manhood holds dear.
Our Association is a national, religious, and mutual benevolent organisation, whose members are good Canadian citizens, appreciating the benefits of “Home Rule,” which the illustrious Dominican priest, and the equally illustrious Mitchell demanded for Ireland in vain. Had it been granted her long ago, there would have been less of religious rancour, and more of material prosperity in Ireland; but as we can only pray with you for the coming day when every Protestant Irishman will be a John Mitchell, and when devotion to Ireland will be the proudest boast of every son of Erin, lay or clerical, Protestant or Catholic.
We need say no more, for we feel assured that when we tell you that words do not express our gratitude, and that we can only promise to so conduct ourselves as Irishmen and Catholics , as to give tangible evidence of the value which we set upon this gift from your fair hands, and the reverence in which we hold the names and fame of such men as good Father Tom Burke and honest John Mitchell, we but speak the honest sentiments of one and all.
John Brick, President,
P.J. Culhane, Secretary,
Thos. Maloney, Asst. Sec’y.
The Banner is an extremely handsome one, beautifully embroidered with Shamrocks and fringed with gold. On the obverse side is the figure of Father Burke. Above him in gold lettering is the sentence :
“The Prince of Preachers,”
And around the figure, and entwined with Shamrocks, the sentiment :
“The Spirit of a Nation Never Dies,’
And on the rock upon which he is represented as standing, are the words :
“Ireland’s Standard Bearer,”
And beneath that
“John Mitchell, M.P.”
In other news, a incident occurring in the hamlet of Sheffield, Beverly Township, was of note :
“Mr. Geo. S. Chapman don’t live in Sheffield anymore. For the last ten or twelve years, he carried on the boot and shoe business in that village, and was thought to be an honest man – blessed with a fair share of prosperity. A few nights ago, however, he levanted for Uncle Sam’s domain, and now his numerous friends are bemoaning his exit and the loss of sundry sums of filthy lucre with which they had entrusted him. His debts foot up to about $4,000, and his assets to the same figures minus a 0. When he will return is not definitely known .”
Hamilton’s principal downtown streets were enlivened on March 10, 1876 with the appearance of a new vehicle:
“Yesterday afternoon at half-past three the new horse hose carriage, built by Mr. Amor, was brought out for the first time. It was driven by Mr. Tom Brick through the principal streets and attracted considerable attention. It is certainly a handsome carriage and will be a great improvement in the fire system of the city. It is handsomely painted red, relaid with blue. It weighs 1150 lbs. without the hose.”
Finally sa short news item picked up the theme that the mild winter had an adverse effect on the ice harvesting industry on Hamilton Bay:
“Last evening while Master Frederick Wakeham was working on the Bay, he fell into an ice hole and had a narrow escape from drowning. He was carried home, and a short time afterward was attacked with fever. He is a bright, intelligent lad, and it is to be hoped he will soon recover.”