Grosse Ile – The Genesis of the AOH Celtic Cross
The Genesis of the Celtic Cross at Grosse Ile
Speech given by Marianna O`Gallagher at the dinner offered by the AOH during the Centenary celebration of the unveiling of the Celtic Cross at Grosse Ile
There are many things to be said about monuments. They help us remember important things of the past. They help us remember important people of the past. They honour bravery, they commemorate tragedy, but they are an honour also to those who went to the trouble of putting them up.
My father used to recite a line or two:
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime
And departing leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.
If there are any footprints on the sands of time, certainly those of our Irish ancestors were planted on the sands of the
I think the idea of a monument to honour the past arises in the hearts of people when they fear that some event or people, particularly people are going to be forgotten.
The reason for my interest in the story of the Celtic Cross at Grosse Ile is the fact that my grandfather, Jeremiah Gallagher, born in Macroom,
In the 1880s, the Quebec Daily Telegraph, a newspaper founded by James Carrel in 1875, proposed that a monument should be erected on the
The feelings of the people on their return from GI you can find in Jeremiah Gallagher’s letter, sent later to the
Quotation from Jeremiah’s letter.
In 1897, mindful of the sad fate of so many of our kindred, and it being the 50th anniversary, our Division of the AOH organized a pilgrimage to the
However, the desolate and neglected aspect of the particular portion of the
After careful consideration of the matter in division meetings we have concluded that it is our duty to see that this hallowed spot where so many thousands of our country people are buried should be reclaimed, be becomingly enclosed and have a befitting monument, with suitable inscriptions (in Gaelic, in Latin, French and English) not only “in memoriam” of the unhappy Irish exiles but also as protest against the misgovernment of which they were the victims.
The Daily Telegraph’s work was local, but there was interest shared by many like Sir Wilfrid Laurier Prime Minister of Canada and Sir Charles Fitzpatrick Chief Justice of Canada; Senator John Costigan, Sir Richard Scott former Secty State.
BUT IT WAS
The AOH went about the preparations in very practical fashion:
FIRST St. Patrick’s School Cadet Corps was called into action. There were lessons given to the boys: the Irish language and the history of
SECOND The Quebec City Branch of the AOH in 1900 sent a delegation to the Boston National Convention. Father Eustace Maguire, the chaplain, and other members of the Quebec City Branch of the AOH attended. The national AOH voted $5000 for the monument. The Quebecers must have been convincing – the tone of Jeremiah’s letter was certainly letter above.
THIRD The AOH next applied to the Government of Canada for the right to use the top of Telegraph Hill for the monument. It was not difficult at the time to get things through government agencies either provincial or federal: for there were many Irishmen in government, either as elected members of Parliament, or in other roles: Charles Murphy was Secretary of State for the Dominion; Sir Charles Fitzpatrick was Chief Justice; John Costigan was a Dominion senator; PROV Charles R. Devlin was Minister of colonization and Mines in the Provincial Cabinet; John C Kaine was Irish Catholic Representative in the Provincial Cabinet; in the days when our existence was recognized.
FOURTH Through the AOH newspaper, international, a contest for the design of the monument was organized. Then AOH taxed every member of the order 10 cents – from the correspondence I cannot find whether it was a one shot tax, or an annual tax… be that as it may the money began to come in to the Quebec Division.
The results of the contest showed that by far the Celtic Cross in some form was the most desirable way of honouring the Irish people of the past… my grandfather Jeremiah Gallagher was given the task of transferring the idea into a practical monument.
As a civil engineer he knew all about the weights of stone and construction and all that. . . his father had been a stonemason in Ireland… and he himself had trained as an engineer at Ste. Anne de la Pocatiere – 1860s-– where, I might add, it is very likely that he heard stories of the heroic actions of the chaplains who served at Grosse Ile in 1847 – for many of those priests were graduates of the seminary of St. Anne including Father Bernard McGauran, himself from Sligo, head chaplain of GI in 1847 – Father McGauran later served as pastor of St. Patrick’s in Quebec, 1856-1874 – same time as Jeremiah lived here – Jeremiah taught English at the Seminaire in 1867 then later worked at City Hall in the Waterworks Department from about 1870 to 1914. Much of the correspondence I have is on stationery headed: Hotel de Ville – City Hall Bureau de l’Aqueduc Water Works Office Phone 400 . (Jeremiah had a phone at home too – one of the first in a home in
More than the above influences I think was the fact that he worked on the building of the
My father recounted that as more and more money came in for the proposed monument, the drawing that Jeremiah had sketched on the wall in the kitchen at 13 Conroy Street began to grow bigger and bigger.
NEXT Tenders were called for from quarries far and near – in order to get the right stone for the right price: Bids came in from the following quarries
Utopia Granite Works,
Maurice W. Flynn Westerly,
Eugene Sullivan and Sons, Barre
Fallon Brothers of
D.J. McCue Monumental Work,
T.C. Smith Marble Granite and Freestone,
The Stanstead Quarries in Beebe
CHOSEN: BEEBE in the Eastern Townships – granite – near Stanstead
There had been discussion about the quality of stone from the various places and a geologist’s opinion was called for. The sparkling granite of Beebe, Stanstead was chosen. It would withstand the raging easterly winds of winter….the salty winds. And it stands there today. (Table. . . bless the stone. . .) I will tell you more about that piece of stone at the end of my talk.
All this took nine years from the vote of the National Convention in 1900; and twelve years from the 50th anniversary of the worst year of the famine in
During the summer of 1909, the granite was shipped from Stanstead to
But before this happened there was a flow of letters between Jeremiah and Major Edward McCrystal, of the Fighting 69th in
The model for the Irish alphabet was sent to the sculptors by Major McCrystal – and that was only in the month of May – and plans were being made for the unveiling in August.
The four inscriptions on the monument are different: one states the day of dedication by the AOH; another lists the names of the Catholic priests who worked during the summer of 1847, noting those who fell sick , and those who died. The western side panel states a grateful blessing on those priests who came to the island so gallantly to care for the sick and dying.
There is more to say, especially about the work of the priests, both on the island in 1847, and the care of the orphans in the years following, but that can go to another day. Perhaps tomorrow
Through the 1920s and 30s there was a pilgrimage to Grosse Ile from
However…. Let this much be said – that the Irish across
Our foot prints in the sands of time have disappeared. They have been replaced by monuments like the one we venerate tomorrow, and by those that mark our place from coast to coast.
I’ll end with words from John Jordan’s book
“The world thinks better of a people who can thus keep green the memory of their dead.”