The preservation of Montreal’s rich history of Irish settlement is once again in peril. After plans to build a park and preserve the Black Rock Irish Famine memorial erected in 1859 were put on hold, another landmark of Montreal’s Irish heritage is in danger. The Université de Montréal unveiled plans to begin construction in January over the foundation of St. Bridget’s Refuge.
Built in 1869 under the fundraising and supervision of Father Patrick Dowd, pastor of St. Patrick’s Basilica, St. Bridget’s was a place for the aging and infirm to find care, and for out-of-work women and homeless to find shelter. The home rescued many in need, particularly Irish still suffering the trauma of fleeing Ireland’s Great Hunger. After falling into disrepair in the 1970s, the building was torn down, but the grounds still served as a place solace to Montreal citizens – some of whom are fighting the loss of their unofficial park. “This is too important a part of the history of the Irish in Montreal,” Fergus Keyes, director of the Montreal Irish Monument Park Foundation. “A city that forgets its history has no soul.”
Director of HEC campus development Loretta Cianci has disclosed plans to incorporate the outline of the old foundation into the new building, and have seating made from its stone walls, but many argue that this is not enough. ♦
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