Master's Oral Exam - Helene-Jane Groarke, Individualized Program (INDI)
Becoming Irish: How Irish Catholic Identity Was Performed and Changed in the St. Patrick’s Day Parades of Toronto and Montreal (1858 and 1866)
Helene-Jane Groarke, MA
Concordia University, 2018
This thesis argues that by comparing the Toronto and Montreal St. Patrick’s Day parade of 1858 and 1866, it is possible to see how the traditions were invented and changed in order to create distinct Irish Catholic identities. The comparison allows us to clearly see how the Toronto parade became more and more Irish nationalistic and secular, opposing themselves to a Protestant Toronto, while Montreal’s Irish Catholic community used the tradition of parades to insert themselves more and more clearly in the city’s narrative by highlighting their Catholic and loyalist affiliations. Through a performance studies and ritual studies lens, the actions and symbols of the St. Patrick’s Day parade will be analysed to demonstrate that Toronto’s parades became increasingly nationalistic in tone between 1858 and 1866 to culminate in an open debate
on the existence of the parade by the influential members of the Irish Catholic community whereas Montreal’s parade used the performances of the day to insert themselves, passively in 1858 and actively in 1866, into Montreal’s and Canada’s society. Looking at the discourses of the leaders in both cities as well as the newspaper coverage demonstrates the fluidity of an immigrant Irish Catholic identity which adapted to its social, geographical and historical contexts which was as dependent on dynamics within the community as it was with outside forces. This thesis contributes to the study of the experience of Irish immigration to Canada by providing an interdisciplinary work grounded in cultural history and strengthened by performance studies.