Canada, DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Griffintown, History, Ireland, Montreal, Quebec

Montreal’s Griffintown

Once again my wife and I ventured out from our COVID-19 confinement – rest assured we remained in our large hamster ball, wore masks, and maintained proper social distancing. We decided to stroll – or roll – through the part of Montreal known as Griffintown.

Griffintown (once known affectionately by residents as The Griff) was the original home to thousands of Irish immigrants during the famine and fever that struck Ireland during the mid-nineteenth century. It bore a similarity to Manhattan’s Five Points, not only in the make-up of its population, but in geographic shape. If they survived the horrific conditions on what became known as ‘coffin ships’ due to the high rate of mortality on them, the new arrivals were first quarantined at Grosse Isle in the St. Lawrence in an effort to stem the spread of fever. Only then could they come to Montreal. Griffintown is close to the docks where many immigrants found work.

We have often strolled through this part of town, which as you can imagine is much changed today. A bit of a hatchet-job on the area in the early sixties, and now expanding gentrification, have changed the face of the district forever.

One thing we did this time was to follow an online audio tour of Griffintown that provided us with some background and history from former and present residents. Should you ever get the chance, I highly recommend GriffinSound.ca.

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DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Dublin, Humor, Ireland, Opinion

Leprechauns, Gordian Knots, And Earbud Wires

Tangle

I’m not one for things paranormal. The current spate of television programs featuring all kinds of ‘scientific’  devices to draw out suspected spirits leaves me, well, cold. Peoples’ take on the concept of “paranormal activity” varies; some are absolutely convinced there is no such thing, while others believe fully in the communication with those who have passed on.

… folks who don’t really believe but also don’t want to tempt fate by dissing those who do

Then there’s the middle ground made up of folks who don’t really believe but also don’t want to tempt fate by dissing those who do. On a recent trip to Dublin, my wife and I visited Old Kilmainham Gaol. During the tour, we were given a brief history lesson including the story of the many Irish Rebels who were executed in the jail yard in 1916. A woman asked the tour guide if, given the rich history of the place, there were any ‘documented’ paranormal occurrences.

The tour guide responded with what sounded very much like a well-rehearsed answer. No, there are no such occurrences.  Then she quickly – perhaps too quickly – informed the questioner that the Office of Public Works, which now runs the museum, does not allow for paranormal testing of any kind. Hmmm. Afraid of what they may find? I wonder.

Kilmainham Gaol

Kilmainham Gaol main hall. Many Irish revolutionaries, including the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising, were imprisoned and executed in the prison by the British.

Mind you when it comes to leprechauns I’m a little more receptive to the possibility. I base this solely on the fact that I regularly painstakingly, carefully, indeed meticulously coil my iPhone earbuds then place them on a table. Yet when I come to use them again they are twisted into a knot that Alexander the Great would have been tempted to use his sword on.

Yet when I come to use them again they are twisted into a knot that Alexander the Great would have been tempted to use his sword on

It does not require scientific proof to realize that the ‘Little People’ are toying with me. Sometimes as I sit cursing loudly while trying to undo the Gordian knot that has mysteriously appeared in the cord, I can hear inexplicable guffaws and chuckles.

No wonder they have invented wireless earbuds.

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DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Dublin, Easter, History, Ireland, Politics, Travel

Dublin: History You Can Touch

Proc

My wife and I recently took a trip to Ireland. There are so many aspects of this wonderful country that strike the visitor. But perhaps chief among them is the history, both ancient and modern, in which Ireland is steeped.

… and you thought Jesus Christ was the only one who rose on Easter

One-hundred and four years ago, on this day in 1916, a group of rebels in Dublin and other Irish cities, launched yet another attempt to throw off the iron fist of the English. In what would become known as the Easter Rising, (and you thought Jesus Christ was the only one who rose on Easter) 485 people were killed during the six days of fighting.

Of those 54% were civilians, 30% were British military and police and 16% were Irish rebels. More than 2,600 were wounded. Many of the civilians were killed or wounded by British artillery and machine guns or were mistaken for rebels.

As insurrections go this one, based on the immediate end result, failed miserably. The huge numbers of British troops quashed the rebels and arrested the leaders.

Gaol

Kilmainham Gaol yard where executions took place.

In a show of obdurateness, the British made quick work of incarcerating, courtmartialling, and executing the leaders of the rising. The result of this rush to judgment was to make these men and women into martyrs. 

The result of this rush to judgment was to make these men and women into martyrs

Even many Dubliners who were opposed to the rising as a means of achieving freedom were deeply moved by the executions. The deaths fueled a movement that, over the next six often bloody years, would lead to independence for at least a part of Ireland. 

As you make your way through the streets of present-day Dublin you are reminded constantly of the violent struggles that took place a mere century ago. Beautiful architecture, statues, and memorials show the signs to this day of bullets from the past. Maybe these mementos of a worse time contribute to Dubliners’ great sense of craic!

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COVID-19, DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Health, Ireland, Montreal, Opinion, St. Patrick's Day

COVID-19 and St. Patrick’s Day Dinner

MadgeSham

A cup of tea before St. Patrick’s Day dinner.

My maternal grandmother, and all of her siblings, was born in London, England. Her parents were Irish and, once married evidently made the decision to move across the way to England to seek a better life. So while my grandmother was English on paper her blood was 100% Irish. I suspect had the DNA testing been popular back then this would have been borne out, but we have only her word for it.

While in England she met and married my grandfather, a first-generation Canadian who was recovering from war wounds. After the Great War she moved to Montreal with her husband and never saw England again.

So while my grandmother was English on paper her blood was 100% Irish.

Her Irish ancestry played a major role in her life, particularly at St. Patrick’s Day.  It is interesting to note that the celebrating of St. Paddy’s Day has long been more the purview of the Irish diaspora than those actually in Ireland. Long an ‘exporter’ of people, the number of folks who can lay claim to Irish heritage around the world is massive. Within the last several decades the Guinness marketers, never ones to miss an opportunity, have gone to great lengths to celebrate the day in Dublin.

Whether or not my great grandparents made a big deal of St. Patrick’s Day is unknown to me. Regardless, their daughter, my grandmother, was wont to go all out come March 17th. The dinner table would be festooned in green, including pots of shamrock (in truth this was a reasonable facsimile as real shamrock is essentially impossible to find in the Canadian climate). Joints of beef and lamb would be centre-stage, supported by umpteen different vegetables and gravies.

Madge

My maternal grandparents

Montrealers are proud of the fact that ours is the longest continuous running parade in Canada if not the world – uninterrupted since 1824 (until this year’s COVID-19 postponement, but that’s not a cancellation yet!). Yet growing up in our family the parade was not a big deal. We all went at some point in our childhood, but the family gathering was always the focal point.

… but I sure would not have wanted to be the person who told her that St. Patrick’s Day dinner would have to be canceled this year!

Fast-forward to the Coronavirus present day: my wife and I celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with a few Quarantinis, also known as cans of Guinness while listening to Irish music on YouTube and reminiscing about our recent trip to Ireland.

I like to think my grandmother would have obeyed the directive to exercise social-distancing, but I sure would not have wanted to be the person who told her that St. Patrick’s Day dinner would have to be canceled this year!

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DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Ireland, Montreal, Opinion, Travel, Vacation Time

Airlines’ Preferred Seating Scam

 

Musicians

I am not an experienced traveler. For various circumstances, I did very little traveling for many years. Things have now changed and my wife and I are venturing out into the broader world. We have just returned from a week in Ireland; my wife’s 60th birthday present to me. Over the next little while, I will post on this absolutely wonderful experience. But first some bitching.

The first culprits, and perhaps the most culpable, are airlines

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry; so why is it always open-season on tourists?

The first culprits, and perhaps the most culpable, are airlines. My wife booked our flights a full six months in advance. Yet when we checked-in with Aer Lingus in Boston (we flew Montreal-Boston-Dublin) we had been seated separately. Not merely a row apart, or an aisle between us, but I was in row 9 while my wife was in row 47. That’s an entire cabin away.

Seats

The check-in kiosk computer gave us an option to change seats – for a significant fee. Wouldn’t you think that seats would be assigned sequentially? If two tickets for a flight are bought it seems only logical that you would seat these people together. Or perhaps a family of four – mom, dad, two kids under ten – should be seated together. But no. There’s no cash in that.

I have been told that some airlines actually have applied algorithms that break-up bookings in an attempt to squeeze extra money out of passengers. Isn’t it bad enough that the fares are wicked, the seats require a shoe-horn to get into, and the food looks good on the menu, but only two options are ever really available?

But, there’s a solution! DO NOT pay for “preferred seating” unless you want a specific seat (e.g. by the emergency exit)

On our return flight, Air Canada Boston to Montreal, they seated us four rows apart. Anything to screw tourists I guess.

But, there’s a solution! DO NOT pay for “preferred seating” unless you want a specific seat (e.g. by the emergency exit). Rather about an hour or so before boarding go to the airline representative at the gate and explain the situation. On both occasions, we were able to arrange logical seating with no mention of an additional charge.

The airlines will try, but don’t give in!!

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Beer, DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Humor, Ireland, Montreal, Opinion, St. Patrick's Day, Wordpress

Is It Safe To Come Out Now?

Embassy16

Is it safe now? Can I come out from under the bed and get back to doing my usual things? Can I stop playing invisible?Is the mayhem that is St. Patrick’s Day weekend in Montreal finally over? It’s been a few days, but I want to be certain. There are two days a year that I would just as soon hide from than join in, they are New Year’s Eve and St. Patrick’s Day.

If you read this blog with any regularity you know that I am fond of bars. Except when they are chock-full of amateur drinkers hell-bent on ingesting as much alcohol as possible in the name of an Irish saint. The saying that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day sure does apply when it comes to imbibing.

Except when they are chock-full of amateur drinkers hell-bent on ingesting as much alcohol as possible in the name of an Irish saint.

Most days I drop by a particular bar late in the afternoon for a few cold beers, a chuckle or two and a bit of conversation. On her way from work my wife picks me up and we go home for dinner. The bar is an Irish themed place that, as you can imagine, draws an exceptional number of people come St. Patrick’s Day.

The good folks at Guinness provide bars that sell their beers with a wide variety of decorations; banners, posters, plastic glasses, coasters and even T-shirts. So every March my usual watering hole undergoes a physical transformation. That’s not a big deal. Even the constant Irish music during the lead up to parade I can take for a week or so. The increased prices are all just common business practice as anyone who has ever bought an airline ticket during high-season understands. It’s all about supply and demand.

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No, the problem as is so often the case is the people. On the Sunday of the parade arrive in droves. Some before the parade, some after. A line soon forms outside, regardless of weather conditions. Should they be lucky enough to get in, they belly-up to the bar – all bar stools have long since been removed to allow more traffic – and order drinks that are served in plastic cups. For these drinks, they pay an inflated price in cash – no credit or debit cards on this day. No running of tabs either; payment is due upon receipt of drink.

It’s crowded, dancing is not a good idea, but tell that to the 250-pound guy wearing a long green wig and Guinness T-shirt over green jeans.

Ditties that are commonly called Irish drinking songs are played by various bands throughout the day often invoking those well into their cups to dance. It’s crowded, dancing is not a good idea, but tell that to the 250-pound guy wearing a long green wig and Guinness T-shirt over green jeans.

Many folks traditionally take off the Monday after the parade, so even though it’s a Sunday, the day and night are long allowing for maximal revelry. I feel sorry for these people who will pay the real price in the morning. I feel even sorrier for the staff who have to wade through this green sea of humanity with drinks and food. 

But now most of the decorations are gone, the bar stools are back, glass has replaced plastic for holding drinks while plastic has replaced cash when paying. Phew … only another 363 days to go until St. Patrick’s Day 2019!

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
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DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, History, Humor, Ireland, Media, Politics, Wordpress

The Orange and the Green

Known as The Orange and the Green, or The Biggest Mix Up, this Irish folk song illustrated the lighter side of the religious divide that caused so much harm during The Troubles.

Oh it is the biggest mix-up that you have ever seen
My father he was orange and my mother she was green

Oh my father was an Ulsterman, proud Protestant was he
My mother was a Catholic girl, from County Cork was she
They were married in two churches, lived happily enough
Until the day that I was born and things got rather tough

Oh it is the biggest mix-up that you have ever seen
My father he was orange and my mother she was green

Baptised by father Reilly, I was rushed away by car
To be made a little orangeman, my father’s shining star
I was christened David Anthony, but still in spite of that
To my father I was William while my mother called me Pat

Oh it is the biggest mix-up that you have ever seen
My father he was orange and my mother she was green

With mother every Sunday to mass I’d proudly stroll
Then after that the orange lads would try to save my soul
For both sides tried to claim me, but I was smart because
I played the flute or played the harp, depending where I was

Oh it is the biggest mix-up that you have ever seen
My father he was orange and my mother she was green

One day my ma’s relations came round to visit me
Just as my father’s kinfolk were all sittin’ down to tea
We tried to smooth things over, but they all began to fight
And me being strictly neutral, I bashed everyone in sight

Oh it is the biggest mix-up that you have ever seen
My father he was orange and my mother she was green

Now my parents never could agree about my type of school
My learning was all done at home, that’s why I’m such a fool
They both passed on, god rest them, but left me caught between
That awful color problem of the orange and the green

Oh it is the biggest mix-up that you have ever seen
My father he was orange and my mother she was green

Yes it is the biggest mix-up that you have ever seen
My father he was orange and my mother she was green

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
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DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, History, Humor, Ireland, Montreal, St. Patrick's Day, Wordpress

St. Patrick’s Day and Danny Boy

St. Patrick’s  trivia: The iconic Danny Boy is actually called The Londonderry Air.  Which should never be confused with a London Derrière.

LondonderryAir

To get you in the mood …

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
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DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Ireland, Opinion, Review, Vacation Time, Wordpress

Avoid Big Travel Sites if You’re Looking For a Motel, Not a Hotel

Windjammer_1

As I wrote earlier we went on a little vacation recently. We found lovely accommodation and, weather aside, had a great time. Being a big proponent of the vast resources of the Internet, I tried to track down information online regarding a suitable motel. That’s mmmmMotel, not hotel. M not H. Not a great experience.

All those travel sites – Trivago, Expedia, Booking.com – really love hotels, but seem to balk at listing family owned, one-off motels.

All those travel sites – Trivago, Expedia, Booking.com – really love hotels, but seem to balk at listing family owned, one-off motels. I guess there’s no money in it for them. Motels, or motor lodges, are a traditional American vacation mainstay. Park your car – for free – and settle into a seaside, pool-equipped, pet-friendly, motel. No room service, no points cards, just a clean economical place to stay.

So if the big travel sites snub motels, how does one find them? Having done extensive research I would suggest looking up “innkeepers associations” by state instead of motels. But the best system in my opinion is to just go to the area you are interested in and do some person to person haggling. Look for those vacancy signs then go in and see what develops.

We were looking for a place not too far from Boston, having learned over the years that a rainy day in a motel at the seaside is not conducive to a good vacation.

We were looking for a place not too far from Boston, having learned over the years that a rainy day in a motel at the seaside is not conducive to a good vacation. Whereas a quick jaunt into Boston offers a world of interesting attractions to keep your mind off the bucketing rain. Heading south from Portsmouth, NH along Ocean Boulevard, past the immense estates overlooking the Atlantic, we found few vacancies in this Friday late afternoon. But as we neared Hampton we came upon a motel that, in addition to the flag of the USA, proudly flew a Canadian and an Irish flag. Given my citizenship and background I figured this was an omen.

The Windjammer By the Sea is a gem. Far enough – a few kilometres – from Hampton Beach and all the tacky touristy stuff to be found there, yet close enough to the restaurants for convenience, the Windjammer afforded us precisely what we were seeking.

I was met by owner Anne Pouliot, fifty years away from Galway, Ireland but still sporting a lovely accent. Anne showed us the available rooms, told us the price, then suggested we carry on into Hampton Beach to see how her offer stood up. “You’ll be back, I know it” she stated.

Windjammer

Sure enough after a little comparative shopping we were soon back and checking-in. Our stay was grand. I can’t recommend this place more highly.

So the bottom line here is don’t bother looking on the big travel sites for motels, just throw caution to the wind and do it the old-fashioned way. And if you’ve decided to visit the New Hampshire coast, let me save you some time and gas and suggest you stay at the Windjammer! Tell them Deegan sent you!

DCS_Grad_2 DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DC on Twitter @DCMontreal and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

 

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History, Humor, Ireland

Feliz Cinco de Mayo; Happy Mexican St. Patrick’s Day

Today is May 5th, or Cinco de Mayo. Contrary to popular belief this has nothing to do with a much loved condiment nor a world famous clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. More importantly it is not Mexican Independence Day which is in September.

Rather it is a commemoration of the Battle of Puebla which took place in 1862. In Puebla State in mexico it us known as El Día de la Batalla de Puebla.

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Currently it has become a marketing tool for bars and restaurants all over the world to have a Mexican-themed party.

CincoStPat

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