In our last post, we took a look at how Joyce and Bloomsday is celebrated in a few cities across the globe. Today’s post is about Bloomsday in Montreal—or more particularly, how Montreal’s Bloomsday is so unique in comparison to other cities.
So what is so special about Bloomsday in Montreal? Let’s start
by taking a look at the Montreal city flag. What symbols do you notice? Interestingly, each emblem signifies the four main ethnic groups that settled here throughout history: the French, the English, the Scottish and that shamrock located in the corner over there represents no other than the Irish. Looking at the itinerary of this year’s Festival Bloomsday Montreal (as well as previous others), you may have noticed how particularly Irish the theme is. And it’s not for the obvious reason that Ulysses takes place in Dublin and Joyce is an Irish man himself.
Montreal was once a place of work and settlement for the Irish in the first half of the 19th century. Irish workers travelled to Quebec to find employment as labourers either on the docks, the railway or on major building sites. In fact, Irish Montrealers were the largest number of individuals involved in the construction of important infrastructural sites, such as the Lachine Canal which opened in 1825 and the Victoria Bridge in 1860. It was also during the construction of the Victoria Bridge that led to the erection of the Famine Monument in Montreal that we know and commemorate today as the Black Rock.
It was also during this time that local districts, such as Griffintown and Pointe-Saint-Charles, were associated to the Irish community and identity. This part of Montreal celebrated their heritage and identity through social events such as concerts which played traditional Irish music, picnics, field sports such as hurling and Gaelic football, and holidays such as the St Patrick’s Day.
Today, although it is much more multicultural than in the early half of the 19th century, Montreal still provides opportunities for the Irish community and others who are curious by Irish culture to gather together and celebrate their heritage. Why wouldn’t Montreal celebrate Bloomsday and have members from Irish Societies, the School of Canadian Irish Studies and even a few of the Irish pubs honour and rejoice once of Ireland’s most important writers of the 20th century. And the way Montreal celebrates Bloomsday is quite multifaceted: through walking tours in the city’s streets, films, music, discussion and reading in various languages—we have it all and with a Montreal-Irish twist.
To check out this year’s events, click here
For more info on the Irish of Montreal, check out these two links: