65 Tony O’Loughlin

 

Tony O’Loughlin

  • Tony O’Loughlin, born 1949, in Belfast – Grew up on Binginian Drive and Norfolk Drive, at the top of the Falls Road – educated at St Theresa’s, St Finian’s and St MacNissis College. He worked in the community at Divis Flats in the lower Falls, Belfast at the height of the Troubles during the early 1970’s – It was from family, school teachers and the Belfast community that Tony acquired his enduring love and respect for Irish culture. The Troubles provided some of the drive and feelings of responsibility to promote Irish culture (If a Peoples can not militarily be defeated then they will be assimilated by wiping out their culture – if they loose their culture they loose their identity)  

  • He emigrated to Canada in 1977 to work as a volunteer with Bishop O’Grady in the B.C. interior, where he worked mainly with the First Nations population for 4 years. He remained in Prince George for 10 years – While there he founded and for many years ran the Prince George Celtic Club (recently the Celtic Club celebrated their 30 year anniversary). He relocated to Nepean Ontario in 1987 and then to Kingston Ontario in 1989. A year later Tony founded and directed Kingston Irish Folk Club (he continues to be President today and has been since its founding in 1990)

  • An article in the 27th April 1990 Kingston Whig Standard newspaper stated that remains had been dug up by workmen while working on steam lines on the grounds of Kingston General Hospital. The article went on to say the remains were part of a mass grave of an estimated 1,400 Irish Famine victims buried on the grounds of the Kingston General Hospital in 1847 – (The mass grave was unmarked for the initial 50 years until an Angel of Mercy monument was place there. However in 1966 a small number of remains and the monument were move several kilometers away to an obscure corner of St Mary’s cemetery.) The result was that the mass grave of Irish Famine victims on the grounds was, once again, unmarked. The hospital expanded and built over the mass grave but did not even put a marker there to acknowledge its existence. Tony walked around Kingston, was surprised that there were no plaques or monuments (except for  the Angel of Mercy monument in an obscure corner of St Mary’s cemetery)  to acknowledge Kingston’s Irish “Famine” related history. Kingston, the Heart of Loyalist Canada, a city proud of its history, had many historical markers but none to acknowledge the 50,000 Irish famine victims who arrived on Kingston’s shores in 1847, the mass grave of an estimated 1,400 on the grounds of Kingston General Hospital nor the estimated 300 Kingstonians who died helping the Irish Famine victims. Tony, to help rectify this tragic situation in Kingston founded The Kingston Irish Famine Commemoration Assoc (1995).  As President and founder of this organization he took a lead role in directing the Irish Famine assoc to erect a plaque to mark the exact spot of the Irish mass grave, and also to erect a Celtic Cross monument, situated on the shores of Kingston in the newly named An Gorta Mór Park to acknowledge Kingston’s estimated 1,500 Irish Famine victims (erected in 1998).

  • He also initiated and took a lead role in the Kingston Irish folk club to erect a Celtic Cross monument in Kingston’s upper cemetery (1813 till 1865) where an estimated 10,000 mainly Irish and Scottish immigrants are buried (it is also the site where the estimated 300 Kingstonians who died helping the Irish “famine” victims were buried in 1847). In 1894 all headstones were leveled and the area covered over and made into a recreational park. The Celtic Cross monument erected 2002 was the only visible sign that this park, with its ball areas and swings etc is in fact a cemetery.

  • Tony, while researching Kingston’s, at best neglected, Irish history, came across several references to the several unmarked mass graves of the Rideau Canal’s Irish labourers. Many of these labourers toiling long hours under horrible working conditions, died from accidents and malaria. Many of these newly arrived Irish immigrants suffered greatly, endured the prevailing anti Irish sentiments, died a horribly death. While there have been many monuments erected to Col By it was not until Tony again took the initiative and lead role in 2000 and directed the Kingston Irish Folk Club that the first monument anywhere along the Rideau Canal to acknowledge the labourers was erected (a drinking memorial fountain across the road from Kingston City hall erected May 2000). Tony also initiated and took a lead role in erecting other monuments to acknowledge the estimated 1,000 Irish labourers and their co workers who died building the Rideau canal e.g. a plaque erected at Chaffey’s lock (2001), a granite Celtic Cross monument erected in Doug Fluhrer Park (2002), as well as a 7 foot high cedar Celtic cross erected at Jones Falls (2007). Tony also initiated and co-founded the Rideau Canal Ottawa Celtic Cross Committee.

  • In addition to initiating and taking the lead role in erecting several monuments to previously, at best, little acknowledged unmarked graves of Irish immigrants eg Kingston’s est 1,500 An t-Ocras Mor (The Great Hunger) victims, the estimated 1,000 Irish labourers and their coworkers who died building the Rideau canal, the estimated 10,000 mainly Irish and Scottish buried in Kingston’s Upper cemetery Tony runs a community Irish dance school, organizes regular Irish music socials and workshops on various aspects of Irish culture including Irish music, dance, Celtic art and local Irish Canadian history.  

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