Friday March 17, 1876 was, of course, St. Patrick’s Day. Coverage of the Hamilton’s celebrations dominated the issues of the Hamilton Spectator both on the 17th and the 18th of March, 1876 and the articles are reprinted, although slightly abridged, below :
St. Patrick’s day broke in anything but auspiciously. The streets and sidewalks were sloppy, a high wind was blowing from the east, and an unpleasant sleet fell for some hours, but, as the day wore on, the weather became brighter and pleasanter than anyone could have expected. A stranger would have known by the crowds which lined the streets mixed here and there by a wearer of the green, and the handsome Irish Banner which hung from the window of St. Patrick’s Hall, that this was the anniversary of Ireland’s Patron Saint, and that the Irishmen of this city were gathered together to do honour to the memory of the greatest of missionaries. At nine o’clock, the procession commenced to form between the City Hall and the market in the following order:
St. Patrick’s Benevolent and Literary Society.
Father Mathew Temperance and Benevolent Society
The Sarsfield Branch of the Emerald Association.
At half-past nine, the procession moved off, the band of St. Patrick’s Society playing
“The harp that once through Tara’s Hall,
“The soul of music shed.”
The whole procession was very imposing, but the appearance of the Sarsfield’s
deserves special mention. They are certainly a splendid looking lot of young fellows, and, as they march along to
“The Wearing of the Green,”
they presented quite a military appearance. On arriving at the Cathedral, the procession filed slowly in and occupied the centre aisle. High mass was sung by Father O’Connell, assisted by Father Maddigan. At the conclusion of the second chorus, by the choir by the choir, Father Lennan ascended the pulpit and preached a sermon from the following text: “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you and ordained you that ye should go and bring forth fruit and that your fruit should remain.” St. John 15 Chap, 16 verse.
At the conclusion of the mass, and after the clergy had left the church, St. Patrick’s band, from the choir, struck up, “St. Patrick’s Day’” changing to “The harp that once thro’ Tara’s halls,” and with the strains of that glorious tune streaming through the Cathedral, the procession marched out and reformed in the street. On command of the Marshal, the procession moved through the following streets, the bands playing national airs: Down Park to Mulberry, from Mulberry to Bay north; Bay to Sheaffe; Park to Barton; thence east to Macnab, Burlington and James south; James to Stuart east; on Stuart to John; John to Rebecca; thence east on Rebecca to Wellington south; on Wellington to Main, thence west to Walnut south; from Walnut to O’Reilly, Cherry, Maria, John and Main; thence west on Main to James, James to King (south side) and around the small fountain to the north side of King; west on King to Ray, Ray to York, and Merrick to James, to St. Patrick’s Hall.
Along the line of procession, the streets were filled with an admiring crowd, and at some points they were cheered.
On arriving at St. Patrick’s Hall, the procession dispersed.
After the procession had broken up, the societies entered the Mechanics’ Hall, where addresses were delivered by Mr. John Brick, President of the Emeralds, Mr. Brown, President of the Father Mathew’s Temperance Association, Mr. Murphy, Mr. Maloney, Mr. Cheevers and Mr. Donovan. The latter gentleman made a stirring speech in which he congratulated the societies highly on their appearance and the manner in which they had conducted themselves. They had commenced the day as Catholics, and ended it as Irishmen. Some people said there should be no St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Englishmen on their anniversary knew well enough how to boast the flag that braved a thousand years, and Scotchmen on St. Andrew’s day met together and spoke proudly of Caledonia – the land of the mountain and the flood, and he did not see why Irishmen should hide themselves when they gave expression to the warmest feeling of their hearts – “God Save Ireland.”
Mr. Fahey was then called upon, and is addressing the audience as we go to press.
Yesterday afternoon after the procession had broken up, the societies entered the Mechanics’ Hall for the purpose of listening to speeches from fellow Irishmen. Mr. Cleary, President of the St. Patrick’s Benevolent Society, occupied the chair. Around sat the Presidents and chief officers of the different societies together with the delegation from Guelph.
Mr. John Brick, President of the Sarsfield Society, was called upon, and, on rising, highly complimented the members on their appearance in the procession. He hoped that everyone would conduct themselves well, so that on the next morning, no one could point the finger of scorn at them.
Mr. Brown, President of the Father Mathew Benevolent Association, delivered an impressive address, in which he hoped, as they the members of the Temperance Association were many now, that they would be ten-fold a year hence. He referred to the children’s branch of the Temperance Society, and said it was a proud thing to see little children marching in the procession with badges on their breasts.
Mr. Murphy, Vice-President of the St. Patrick’s Society, was received with great applause, and made an extremely eloquent speech, in which he touched on some points in the history of St. Patrick.
Mr. Maloney made a stirring speech, in which he congratulated his brethren on the manner in which the program had been carried out, and said it was a credit to the Irishmen of Hamilton.
Mr. Cheavers, President of the Sarsfields of Guelph, was called upon and enthusiastically welcomed. He said that their society in Guelph was a small one, but he hoped, ere next St. Patrick’s Day, they would be able to have a large procession. He had walked in many a procession, but never in such an impressive one as passed through the streets of Hamilton today.
Mr. Cor. Donovan, President of the St. Patrick’s Society, made a memorable address, which was warmly applauded by his hearers.
There being loud calls from the audience for Mr. Fahey, that gentleman was invited upon the platform. As soon as order had been restored, he came forward and said :
Mr. Chairman, Fellow Citizens and Fellow Countryman :
I am not a member or an officer of any society, and I therefore cannot claim any right to speak here as a representative, but vox populi, vox Dei ! The voice of the people has called upon me to speak, and in obedience to that voice, I address you! (Cheers.) Although I have not taken, an active part in your demonstration today, I was proud to witness it, because it was creditable to yourselves and gratifying to your friends and well wishers, and because, ever since I came to the years of discretion, I have been taught by a good old Irish father and mother to love the little island in the ocean where the grass grows green (cheers) and to keep this day sacred to the honour of that land – sacred to the memories of the past, the realities of the present and the hopes of the future. But remember, fellow countrymen, that I take no special credit to myself for this. I was born so. (Laughter). I claim no more credit for so doing that I claim for breathing the air, eating when I am hungry or drinking when I am dry, and, as free confession is good for the soul, I don’t mind telling you, sub rosa, that I do get dry sometimes, and that I have drowned the shamrock this blessed day – with all due deference to our friends of the Temperance Society. (Laughter and cheers). Were I of English parentage, I would join in singing the praises of that “meteor flag which has braved a thousand years of battle” and with all the proud pleasure evinced by our English fellow-citizens on their National Anniversary, or had an inscrutable providence predestined me to be a son of St. Andrew, I would flourish the thistle and haggis with the stoutest of them – (laughter) – but, being privileged, as I consider it, to come of Irish stock – of a race of poets, orators, warriors, and martyrs – I wear the colours which they wore and honour the day which they honoured. (Applause). I feel that a man should be proud of his race, with reasonable national pride, and should bear testimony to his love of race and creed in all proper ways. You, fellow-countrymen, have borne such testimony today. Your demonstration has developed all the elements of success – all the features which go to make up an ensemble of respectability. You have paraded the streets of this city, not for the mere love of parade, as some would have it – not for the perpetuation of ancient prejudices – but for the honour of your country and for the perpetuation of those glorious memories and great principles which have been as landmarks to our race through long centuries of misfortune, persecution, and, permit me to add, error. (Hear, hear) I am no indiscriminate eulogist. I know that you are courageous to ask me to flatter you, and I hope you consider me too courageous to think I would flatter you if you wanted me to. I know the Irish race is afflicted with defects. We are prone to jealousy – rash of action and speech – and per consequence, prone to dissension. (Hear, hear.) Therefore, I add – error. But we can draw upon our virtues for the full amount and leave a balance in our favour which even our enemies might envy. (Cheers) If we are quick to quarrel, we are ready to forgive; if we spend thoughtlessly, we earn honestly and give freely, and if we speak hastily, we at least speak forcibly and eloquently. There is no man for an emergency like an Irishman – whether to charge on an enemies’ guns, or to answer an opponent’s speech. (Cheers) In short, we are like the little girl described by the poet
“-Whose hair hung down on her forehead,
When she was good, she was good, but when
She was bad she was horrid.”
(Laughter and applause) I feel that I should conclude. (Cries of ‘go on.’) Beware how you encourage me to go on, because, when fairly started, I am like that brook of which it is written that “men may come and men may go, but it goes on forever.” (Laughter). But what I wished to say before sitting down was that I was glad to witness the evidences of self-respect displayed today, and to hear the sentiments of unity expressed by the previous speakers. Let those feelings prevail amongst you, not only for today but for everyday throughout all the years. I do not wish to be misunderstood, and you know how easily – I was going to say how willingly an Irishman is misunderstood by people who wont understand. (Hear, hear and laughter) It is only a few days ago since a Protestant countryman of ours lectured in this city and gave his countrymen some good advice. He had no religious or political end to serve, and yet you may have observed how a city paper, “damned him with faint praise” as an advocate of an Irish party. Well, were he the advocate of the formation of an Irish party, censure of his advocacy would come with bad grace from the organ of what looks like a Scotch party and the advocate of a Protestant party in Quebec. (Cheers) I have never allowed my political action to be controlled by any authority save by my own free will, and I have always advised Irishmen to allow their political actions to be controlled by no other authority. It is not true that Irishmen, or Catholics of any race are bigoted, and are prone to band themselves together to the prejudice of their neighbours. (Hear, hear) Look at the Protestants whom Catholic Ireland returns to the Imperial Parliament, and then count me the Catholics whom Protest Scotland and England return! Call the roll of Ireland’s popular idols and watch the listening thousands do homage to the names of Gratton, of Curran, of Emmett, of Mitchell, and of Martin. Coming nearer to home, count the Protestants returned to Parliament by the French and Irish Catholics of Quebec, look at the separate schools, the separate asylums and hospitals and other privileges freely and cordially granted by the Catholic majority of that province to the Protestant minority, and compare the state of affairs in the Protestant provinces, and then tell me who are the bigots. (Cheers) They talk of illiberality. The charges of such writers and speakers as assert that ye are hostile to civil and religious liberty and inimical to free institutions, are false and slanderous, and we would be unworthy as a race and creed if we did not seize the first opportunity of flinging the mangled carcass of falsehood in the teeth of those who flung it forth. (Loud cheers). The union we desire is a union of the affections, for the elevation of our race and the benefit of our homes and country. Though most of us are not wealthy, those who tell us that we have “no stake in the country,” forget that we have the most direct interest in the country’s industrial and commercial welfare – in her manufactories and her workshops, whose prosperity we hope to see revived – because we are to a great extent, the toilers, the bone and sinew of the land. (Hear, hear) In fact, we have an interest in the national prosperity of the world. This is no mere local, isolated demonstration. Wherever civilization has planted an outpost, wherever religion has established a mission, wherever commerce or war has thrown forward a vanguard – on Australia’s sheepwalks, amidst China’s plantations – there are Irishmen today celebrating the day we celebrate, and honouring the land we honour, and we stand hand in hand girding the globe with an equator of love and patriotism. Upon Canada’s unmeasured acres, we seek to aid in building up a new nationality, by infusing Irish and French liveliness into the duller and less volatile English blood (laughter), and to leave such a memory behind us that when our graves are green in the church yard, our children and our children’s children will take these banners with stronger, and perhaps more fitting, but certainly with not more loving hands, and
Fling those banners to the wind,
Studded o’er with names of glory;
Worth and wit and might and mind,
Poet young, and patriot hoary,
Long shall keep them green in story.
(Long and prolonged cheering)
From an early hour in the evening up till half past eight o’clock, a constant stream of people kept pouring into the Mechanics’ hall from all parts of the city, and when the concert opened, the capabilities of the hall were tested to the utmost, many persons leaving their tickets at the door and going home as there was no standing room, every part of the house being crammed. The concert commenced after eight o’clock, Mr. Cornelius Donovan acting as chairman.
We noticed the following gentlemen on the platform: Mr. C. E. Pairce, President of the St. George’s Society; Ald. Foster, of the Irish Protestant Society; Mr. J. H. Hogan, Mr. Nicholas Powers, Mr. Donald Smith, Mr. Michael Murphy, and Fathers O’Connell, Lennan and the lecturer.
The first piece was a waltz by Offenbach, given by the St. Patrick’s Band. A marked improvement can be seen in the playing of this band, which now ranks among the best in the city.
Dr. Fligiano then sang the most of Moore’s exquisite melodies, “The Harp that once through Tara’s Hall, the soul of music shed,” with great effect, receiving a rapturous encore, to which he replied by singing another song in equally good style. Miss Nolan, the old favorite, then appeared and sand Meyerbeer’s solo, “Robert toi que Pamie,” exquisitely, receiving a well-deserved encore, upon which she gratified the audience by singing again. Mr. Fred. Fligiano sang “Wolfe” with great taste, although his voice was not quite powerful enough for the piece. The band next played a beautiful selection of Irish airs, after which Father Dowling, of Paris, delivered a most eloquent lecture on “Faith and Fatherland.” The lecture was full of thrilling passages, and was given in a most eloquent language, and fully equally the splendid oration he delivered on Daniel O’Connell in the Centennial of that great man’s birth last summer. The lecture was well received, and we regret that our space prevents us from publishing it in full.
The second part of the programme was opened by the band playing a selection, after which Mr. N.J. Power sang “The Minstrel Boy,” received with a rapturous encore. Mr. Augette sang “Si tu Sayans” with much taste. Mr. Audette fully interpreted Balfe’s difficult solo, and received a well-deserved encore. Miss Nolan sang “The Lament of the Irish Immigrant” so exquisitely that the audience insisted on an encore, which was gracefully accorded. The concert was brought to a close by the band playing the “Royal Irish” quadrille and the National Anthem.