Saint John, New Brunswick

The Irish Influence on Saint John

St Patrick Street   ST. PATRICK STREET - Originally located in the old East End, this street, along with Erin and Albion Streets, disappeared in the 1967 Urban Redevelopment. In 1989, the former Dock Street, fronting York Point and City Hall, was proudly re-named St. Patrick Street, in a public ceremony attended by renowned Irish entertainer Carmel Quinn.

    MARKET SQUARE - Formerly Market Slip, this inlet has long been a centre of transport and commerce. Today's modern complex, built on the facade of old buildings, encompasses the site of York Point, formerly a ghetto of working-class Irish Catholics, and now one of the most prestigious housing sites in the city.

    THE NEW BRUNSWICK MUSEUM - Housed in Market Square, this upscale museum contains historical and decorative arts exhibits relating to the Irish in Saint John and New Brunswick. A special Irish historical display has been mounted in 1997, under the direction of local genealogist and historian Peter Murphy. The museum's archives, located in another building on Douglas Avenue, have a wealth of original documents and other research material relating to the Irish presence in New Brunswick.

    SAINT JOHN REGIONAL LIBRARY - Also housed in Market Square, this modern library displays the St. Patrick's Society exhibit case featuring historical artifacts on its first-floor reading area. The second floor reference section and Special collection room contain research and genealogical materials about the Irish in Saint John.

   YORK POINT - The actual point at the foot of Union Street, with its Hilton Hotel, waterfront development and modern high-rise housing, was the Irish Catholic district of the previous century. It was here that Dr. James Patrick Collins, the martyr of Partridge Island, lived and established his practice. It was here that the York Point Orange and Green Riots broke out in 1847 and 1849. And it was here that the great Saint John Fire of June 20, 1877 started, destroying over half the city.

   Partridge Island PARTRIDGE ISLAND - This historic gateway to Saint John can be viewed in the distance from almost any part of the waterfront. Guardian of Saint John Harbour, Partridge Island was named by the French explorer Samuel de Champlain, and has a long immigration, quarantine and military history. The 10 hectare (24-acre) island was designated as a quarantine station in 1785, making it the first such station in North America. Floods of Irish and other immigrants passed through this "Ellis Island of Canada," and it also served as a military base. The quarantine station closed in 1941 and military operations ceased in 1947. The island has been declared both a National and Provincial Historic Site.

   DAVID LYNCH SHIPYARD - It was from this site at Mill Pond near York Point, (at the foot of Main Street near the present Tim Horton's Coffee Shop,) that David Lynch, a prominent shipbuilder from Londonderry, Ireland , launched some of the largest and best of all New Brunswick-built wooden ships. Shipbuilding and its related industries provided the economic lifeblood of Saint John in that era, and the Irish played major roles, from owner, builder, labourer and crew.

   St. Patrick's Square Celtic CrossST. PATRICK'S SQUARE - This small green spot, Reed's Point at the foot of Prince William Street, was re-named in the 1967 Centennial to honour citizens of Irish heritage. It overlooks Partridge Island, and a replica of the island's Celtic Cross stands in the square. In 1997 the park was again refurbished by the city, and a Memorial Marker erected by the St. Patrick's Society and Famine 150 was unveiled by Hon. Mary Robinson, president of Ireland.

    LOYAL ORANGE ORDER NO. 1 VERNER LODGE - This historic building at Germain Street housed the LOL unit established in 1843. It amalgamated with other city lodges in 1968, and the building currently serves as a law office.

    NO.1 AND 5 CHIPMAN HILL - These two buildings, designated National and Provincial Historic Sites, were erected for brothers-in-law Aaron Hastings and Robert Armstrong, two city merchants of Northern Ireland ancestry. The buildings feature striking "trompe L'oel" interior fresco paintings. Another of their in-laws was William F. Smith, the Protestant builder who superintended construction of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

   THE SAINT JOHN CITY MARKET - One of the oldest and most colorful of its kind in Canada, the block-long market has served generations of merchants and customers, including a large proportion of Irish.

   ST. MALACHI'S CHAPEL - The modern St. Malachy's High School now stands on this Sydney Street site at King's Square. Bishop Pleiss celebrated Saint John's first pontifical mass in the uncompleted chapel in 1815. He dedicated it to St. Malachi, 12th Century Bishop of Armagh, Ireland. Among the 65 worshippers attending were several who had rowed across from Carleton on the West Side. After the opening of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in 1855, St. Malachi's became a school and lecture hall. The original building was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1877.

King's Square Bandstand   KING EDWARD VII MEMORIAL BANDSTAND - This ornate bandstand in King's Square was donated to the citizens of Saint John by the City Cornet Band. The band, formed in 1847, was one of the city's foremost marching bands. Considered an Irish band, it was comprised primarily of Roman Catholic members and remained in existence until 1986.

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception    CATHEDRAL OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION - This imposing building had its foundation stone laid in 1853, under the direction of Irish-born Bishop Thomas L. Connolly. Work on the building with mostly Irish labour under the direction of William E Smith, was so rapid that the first mass was celebrated at midnight on Christmas of 1855. However, finishing details took many more years and the spire was not erected until 1871.

Did you know..

    Fort Howe - a commanding hilltop overlooking Saint John Harbour, had a blockhouse (in replica today) and garrison commanded during the American Revolution by Capt. Gilfred Studholme, a native of Ireland.

   St. Mary's Cemetery, Loch Lomond Road - Opened in 1853, this historic cemetery reflects "a distinct, well-defined Catholic culture which had evolved in Saint John." Over 15,000 are buried here in marked and unmarked graves. In 1995 The Saint John Irish Canadian Cultural Association erected a memorial Celtic Cross inside the entrance.

St. Patrick's School   Saint Patrick's School This elementary and secondary school, on City Line West, is the only public building in Saint John to carry the name Saint Patrick.

    St. Peter's Church - Erected in the early 1880s on the site of the old Indiantown cemetery, this church, now staffed by the Redemptorists, is the first burial site of Dr. James Patrick Collins. His body was later removed to St. Joseph's Cemetery.

   Moosehead Brewery - Now Canada's oldest independent brewery, this international corporation was originally founded as Ready's Brewery by James Ready, whose parents came from Ireland. The brewery is now operated by the Oland family.

   The Diocesan Archives, 1 Bayard Drive - The archives contain extensive church records relating to many parishes around the province. The archives operate on part-time hours so it is advisable to call ahead for an appointment.


St. Patrick's Week Celebration   The Irish-Canadian Cultural Association (Saint John Chapter) - One of the city's newer Irish organizations, this group was formed in 1984, a year after the founding of the province-wide I.C.C.A. More than 300 attended its organizational meeting in St. Malachys High School. The group has succeeded in re-awakening an interest in the city's Irish history to provide recognition of the contributions of those of Irish descent. Each March, the group sponsors a high profile mid-winter St. Patrick's Week Celebration for all citizens.

   The St. Patrick's Society - This is one of Saint John's oldest Irish organizations, founded in 1819 "for gentlemen of Irish descent." Nearly all of its founding members were Irish born. In its early years it provided financial and other assistance for new immigrants from Ireland. The original society dissolved in the 1880's but was revived in 1929. The presidency alternates between a Protestant and a Catholic each year, and the society remains an all-male organization. In addition to its annual St. Patrick's Day banquet, the society has become more active in recent years in community endeavours and charitable fund-raising.

   Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Eireann - The saint John branch of this international organization is devoted to the preservation and promotion of traditional Irish dance and music. With an active membership, it holds regular musical sessions as well as participating in workshops with international performers and instructors.

   The Orange Order - Still active in Saint John, the Orange Order has consolidated a number of its lodges. Named after the Protestant leader William Orange who defeated his Catholic counterpart King James II in the 1690 Battle of the Boyne, it was originally established in Great Britain to maintain Protestantism. It was formed in New Brunswick to protect the interests of Protestants and Loyalists during the years of heavy Irish catholic immigration. Today, the various lodges concentrate on community projects and benevolent activity for their members.