Défilé de la Saint-Patrick à Québec
Défilé de la Saint-Patrick à Québec


Source: Quebec City and the Quebec City St. Patrick’s Day Parade

According to some sources, nearly 40% of the population of Quebec City is of Irish origin. While it is virtually impossible to confirm this percentage, it is certain that the ties between the city and its Irish population are close, deep and firmly rooted.

The Irish presence in Quebec City was most evident in 1816, when many Irish settled in the city. In the 1830’s, thousands of them disembarked on the docks. This massive immigration movement culminated in 1847, the worst year of the Great Famine in Ireland. More than 90,000 immigrants, mostly Irish, crossed the Atlantic to the port of Quebec. But about 17,000 of them, infected with typhus, died at sea, at the quarantine station of Grosse-Île or in the cities of Quebec and Montreal, where the epidemic spread.

At that time, the Irish found work in the wood coves of the Quebec City area, often loading ships bound for Great Britain. They settled in the Cap Diamant area, Près-de-Ville, the suburbs of Saint-Jean and Saint-Louis, in St-Roch, Cap-Rouge and especially in Sillery, where they formed the majority of the population in 1861.

The Irish in Quebec City participated fully in the development of the city. Over time, they are found throughout the business world in trade unions, press, politics, sports and cultural activities. There were also many marriages within the local population: a merging that profoundly modified the social fabric of the city. Today, many Quebecers have Irish origins, often hidden under French names.

It goes without saying that the Irish community’s contribution to Quebec culture is significant. Thus, St. Patrick’s Day in Quebec City is a great opportunity to celebrate this long-standing relationship!

Défilé Saint-Patrick Québec
Défilé de la Saint-Patrick à Québec

Quebec personalities of Irish origin

Patrick McMahon


First catholic priest of Saint Patrick’s church, immigrated to Quebec City around 1817. In 1833, the English-speaking Catholics of Quebec City celebrated the first mass in the new church.

Dr. Edmund Bailey O'Callaghan


Doctor and politician who arrived in Quebec City in 1823. A fervent Patriot, he fought alongside Louis-Joseph Papineau until his exile to the United States in 1837, when a price was put on his head.

John Hearn


He was an important merchant in the lower town, a city councillor, a member of the provincial legislature and, above all, a valued leader of the Irish community, whose interests he defended throughout his life.

Charles Joseph Alleyn


A native of Cork, he was a city councillor and mayor of Quebec City and a member of the Government of the United Province of Canada. While in office, he had to fight a cholera epidemic (1854) that mainly affected the thousands of immigrants who disembarked on the docks.

Richard Henry Leahey

ca. 1852-1889

Important trade union activist and labor leader. He was involved with the Société de bienfaisance des journaliers de navires in Quebec City, one of the first Canadian unions. Founded in 1857, it brings together the many Irish longshoremen of the region.

John Cannon


Master Mason, architect and politician who played an important role in the organization of the social and religious life of the Irish of Quebec.

Owen Murphy


The son of a farmer from Stoneham, he worked in the insurance and railroad industries before becoming mayor of Quebec City from 1874 to 1878. He then became a prominent figure in provincial politics.

Joe Malone


Born in Sillery, he was the star player of the Quebec Bulldogs (Quebec City Hockey Club). He helped his field hockey team win the Stanley Cup twice (1911-12 and 1912-13).

James Carrell


Journalist and editor, founder of the Daily Telegraph in 1875, a penny newspaper aimed at the working class and especially at the Irish community, whose interests he defended all his life.

Rita Brown


She was active in St. Patrick’s parish, caring for the orphans of the St. Louis Brigid’s Home in the 1940s. She also founded the Guild in 1968, a volunteer organization serving the elderly.

Rosemary Power


Actress, director and television host in the 1950s. She was also the first and only woman to head the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec, between 1977 and 1989.

Larkin Kerwin


Physicist and professor at Laval University, where he was the first lay rector. He was also president of the National Research Council of Canada and of the Canadian Space Agency, which he helped found.

Marianna O'Gallagher


Founder of the Irish Heritage Quebec in 1973, an association dedicated to the Irish heritage of Quebec. She has written several books on the history of the Irish in Quebec City.

Défilé de la Saint-Patrick à Québec

Did you know...

Défilé de la Saint-Patrick à Québec

… the shamrock is the Irish symbol most often associated with St. Patrick’s Day festivities around the world?
According to legend, St. Patrick used it as an image to convert the Irish people to Christianity, depicting the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, separate but one.

Défilé de la Saint-Patrick à Québec

… multiple families of French origin adopted Irish orphans in 1847?
In 2000, Ireland presented Quebec City with a gift of a Celtic cross in recognition of the solidarity and hospitality shown by its inhabitants during the Great Famine in Ireland.

… traditional Quebec music has borrowed a lot from Irish tunes.

… the addition of potatoes to the daily menu comes largely from the Irish community?

… the city’s first police force in the 19th century was composed of a majority of Irish people?

… the Irish in the Quebec City area have long been renowned for their horse breeding?

… surnames of Irish origin have been ‘Frenchized’, such as O’Brennan which became Aubry?