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Memories of Montreal St Patrick's Days

Montreal - with its lively Irish-Quebec traditions - always had huge St Patrick's Day parades. My parents would take me as a kid, and I recall the many red-faced men waving from their rather ordinary flat-bed trucks, touched with a strand of green something. The highlight for me was always the horses, and the horse-s--t, and the musical marchers stepping with the luck of the Irish down the littered streets. It was usually bitterly cold - sometimes zero or below. After the parade my mother would want an Irish coffee, and we'd go and have something green to drink - as I got older, coloured beer. My father, Irish-Canadian (his Mom from Belfast) would sing us Bing Crosby songs from the album Shamrocks and Shillelaghs. Who threw the overalls in Mrs Murphy's chowder...

Winter was breaking, the town was festive, - it always seemed like a good omen for the rest of the year. As I got older, Winter Carnival debates would sometimes fall around that time. Debaters from across the world would gather at McGill for tournaments - I won top speaker at several of these in my late teens, early twenties. My best memory of the period was when I was 21, and read poetry at McGill, for my English girlfriend of the time, a Ms. Smith. It was a good reading with bands and other poets, in the student union.

22 years ago, I can still barely recall the thrill of having written a new poem for someone I loved, still fresh with discovery of poems and language. 22 years later, I no longer drink - and poems come less readily - but with an Irish wife and many Irish friends, the day still holds great meaning to me.
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