While we are still a couple days away from the actual St.Patrick’s Day, you would never know it in the city of Saint John.
Celebrations and commemorations are well underway in the city for St. Patrick’s week, always a fun time for the entire family.
St. Patrick’s week actually began on Friday with the raising of the Irish flag at Saint John City Hall.
There are many who refer to Saint John as Canada’s most Irish city and there are a few statistics to back up those claims.
“I’ve just recently done this research and there was a point in the late 1800’s, and I can’t tell you the exact date, the census said that over 50 per cent of the population of Saint John was Irish”, said Marijke Blok provincial president of the Irish Canadian Cultural Association.
“Either directly Irish or born here and of Irish decent.”
On Sunday, people also had the opportunity for some somber reflection as they attended a memorial service at St. Patrick’s Square.
The president of the local St. Patrick’s Society, Tom Gribbons says the Irish were one of the many waves of refugees to come to Saint John, which is especially poignant today.
“The Syrian refugee crisis brings it all back to life in a very real way,” Gribbons said.
“I think it’s important this year to celebrate our Irish heritage but also to think about what it means in today’s context.”
The culmination of St. Patrick’s week will be Thursday’s St. Patrick’s Society dinner. For former Saint John Councillor Hugh Fitzpatrick, this year will mark his 51st consecutive dinner.
“I’ve got a guest coming with me who’s 99 and he’s Lebanese and he’s been going longer than I did,” Fitzpatrick said.
Restoring Partridge Island
You can’t talk about the Irish culture in Saint John without mentioning Partridge Island.
The iconic piece of land at the entrance to Saint John Harbour served as a quarantine station and housed thousands of people during the peak of the Irish immigration in the 1800’s.
There is a move to make the island more publicly accessible again. The MP for Saint John says results of a feasibility study into the possibility will be released this week.
“The report looked at a road out to Partridge Island and different options and ideas for the island”, said Wayne Long. “Some are feasible and some are not feasible.”
Long says he remains committed to restoring the island.