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A little Irish luck … and top public-speaking skills

Concordia student Samantha Cambridge will reign over the 2016 Montreal St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Left to right: Helene-Jane Groarke, Lara Mackenzie, Samantha Cambridge, Kelsey Farrell and Sydney Legare. | Photos courtesy Samantha Cambridge

It's official. Concordia undergraduate Samantha Cambridge is Queen of this year's St. Patrick's Day Parade.

The political science student received her crown from the United Irish Societies of Montreal after delivering a short oral presentation on an Irish topic of her choosing, and answering a surprise question from the judges.

Three of the four St. Patrick’s Day Princesses are also Concordia students: Helene-Jane Groarke, a master’s student in the School of Canadian Irish Studies; undergraduate sociology and anthropology student Sydney Legare, a member of the Institute for Co-operative Education; and Lara Mackenzie, an undergraduate student in marketing at the John Molson School of Business. The fourth princess is McGill student Kelsey Farrell.

We asked Cambridge to tell us a bit about herself, her presentation and her selection as the reigning monarch for Montreal’s largest and longest-running parade.


St. Patrick’s Day Queen Samantha Cambridge: “We get in touch with our roots while looking to the future.”

A sense of community

During my time at Concordia, I was able to study abroad at the National University of Ireland. I lived and learned in the beautiful town of Maynooth in County Kildare for two terms.  

After graduation, I’m hoping to pursue a career in a field that allows me to merge my two major passions: communications and travel.

Over the past few years, I have gotten the opportunity to take part in several work and study trips around the world. During my time at Vanier College, I participated in a research trip to Nicaragua. Most recently, I completed a summer internship on-site at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

I made lifelong friends, gained priceless skills and for three months I was honestly able to tell people I lived at the Happiest Place on Earth.

Growing up Irish in Montreal gave me a sense of community, increased my confidence and gave me a place I can always call home. It's going to be an honour to represent the Montreal Irish community during the 2016 Green Season. 

The uillean pipes: an Irish tradition

The selection evening was actually a public speaking contest. We did three rounds of oral presentations: one about ourselves, one about a special Irish topic and one in answer to a surprise question from the host. I did the second part of my presentation on the uillean pipes, which are the Irish national bagpipes.

They originated in Ireland over 300 years ago and are still played around the world today. Unlike the more popular Scottish Highland bagpipes, uillean pipes are played primarily indoors while seated, and most musicians actually don’t wear a kilt while playing. They also offer a much quieter and softer sound than other traditional bagpipes.

Uillean pipes are unique in their ability to play two full octaves of musical notes, as other bagpipes are limited to only one. They are an extremely difficult instrument to learn to play, by virtue of their complex design and relative rarity.

Traditionally, uillean pipers play a very wide variety of styles, and learn in a highly improvisational manner. They nearly went extinct in the early 20th century, but went through an international revival that kicked off in North American cities with strong Irish American ties. 

Campaigns to promote the pipes proved successful, and there is a small but healthy community of uillean pipers in Ireland, North America and Europe even today.

There are a wide variety of traditional and modern recordings available online, and annual concerts (called tionóls) are played in major North American cities each February. 

The surprise question

For the third part of the contest, the judges had us explain what we get out of taking part in the competition. I explained that I learned so much about the wonderful and accomplished young women that are part of the Montreal Irish Community.

We got to improve our public-speaking skills, while learning more about our community and peers. Every year, there are dozens of Montreal Irish women who take part in the selection evening and they're all hardworking, accomplished woman who give back to their community. We get in touch with our roots while looking to the future, and that is a truly special feeling. 

This year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade in Montreal begins at noon on Sunday, March 20, at the corner of Fort and Ste-Catherine streets.

Find out more about Concordia’s School of Canadian Irish Studies.


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