Some Memorials To Marianna O’Gallagher
Marianna O’Gallagher was my friend and I wish to write in her memory.
In as much as the Irish community in Quebec City endures, it will greatly be to her credit. The same could be said with regard to the Province of Quebec. Conversely it will be through no fault of hers if it weakens. I, and anyone who knew her, and has half a wit, must honour her achievements. We all took pride in her books, her research, and her awards. In her life’s work, she honoured our ancestors and kept their memory, she taught our children and she was a friend to us, her contemporaries. We all enjoyed her stories, her kindness and her sense of humour.
She was the founder of Irish Heritage Quebec of which I am now president. She was the heart and soul of the organization since its inception in 1973 and remained so until her passing.
She came from a family that arrived in Canada in 1851, in the wake of the artificial famine. They consistently treasured their Irish ethnicity. Her grandfather Jerimiah, her father Dermot and Marianna herself were all committed to the commemoration of the Irish emigration/immigration experience. The three of them in succession were central in commemorating the tragedy of Grosse Isle. They insisted that the degradation to which their people had been reduced was not of the Irish people’s doing. And the lives of Jerimiah, Dermot and Marianna, their extended families and their success in their chosen fields are all witness to that.
It was grand to see her in her role of Grand Marshal of the revived St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Quebec City. It was hard to know later that she would leave us, and I knew for she confided in me. She knew too that there was work yet to be done. Marianna will be missed. She has been mourned for. Those of us who wish to honour her memory and value our Irish heritage as she did should emulate her virtues. We should be about our work and get things done.
Joseph Lonergan, President
Irish Heritage Quebec
The following was delivered in the Canadian Senate by Senator Dennis Dawson a week after Marianna died.
The Late Marianna O’Gallagher, C.M.Hon. Dennis Dawson: Honourable senators, yesterday the Irish community of Quebec City, Quebec and, indeed, all of Canada laid to rest a great contributor to the Irish heritage of our country. I am sure that Madam Suzanne Duplessis would join with me — we were both MPs in the same riding in Quebec City — in agreeing that Marianna O’Gallagher, who died last week, deserves, by far, the title of “the greatest Irish Canadian of Quebec City.”
Her writings encouraged many to study the history of the Irish in Canada. Her work in the research and promotion of the Irish culture in Canada was recognized and respected not only in Quebec and Canada but also in Ireland.
In addition to being the author of several books on the subject — Grosse Île: Gateway to Canada, Eyewitness: Grosse Île 1847 and The Shamrock Trail — Ms. O’Gallagher was also the recipient of both the Ordre national du Quebec in 1988 and the Order of Canada in 2002; and on several occasions Irish heads of state and foreign officials have visited in her company.
She left us with a substantial list of contributions beyond the written word. When I was first elected as a Member of Parliament in the other place in 1977, 33 years ago last week, I was subject to her immediate lobbying on behalf of the Irish community.
I knew Marianna. I had the pleasure to know her because she was a teacher where I went to school and where I later in life became chairman of the school board. She came to visit my campaign office following the election and, even before I was sworn in as an MP, started to lobby me — yes, it is an honourable thing to do — on behalf of the Irish community to create and later promote the Grosse Île committee that she had formed many years before.
She came to me favouring the concept of giving access to this sad but important doorway to Canada. She succeeded beyond anyone’s dreams, humanizing Grosse Île’s history with victims’ personal anecdotes brought forward through the meticulous historical research for which she was famous.
Thanks to her, not only do we have the access that was denied before, but today Grosse Île, the Irish Memorial National Historic Site of Canada, is recognized as one of Canada’s greatest landmarks for its contribution to Irish heritage and to Canada’s link with the past.
Time after time, she asked me to visit the site with her and I mistakenly declined. She was and will remain our best guide to that chapter of our history.
As a descendant of a family that arrived on Grosse Île during that period, I always felt strong affection for what she was doing. I also live around the corner from the O’Gallagher family home in Sainte-Foy and held many political events in their old home that was later transformed into a popular restaurant.
Two months ago, Ms. O’Gallagher finished her illustrious career by serving as Grand Marshall at this year’s revival of Quebec City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. Yes, you heard me right — Quebec City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. It shows the extent of the involvement of the Irish community in Quebec, and it was all done in an environment unique to Quebec.
That all happened in cooperation with francophones in the Quebec City region, who exemplify multilingual and multicultural cooperation in Canada.
I was my personal pleasure to know her from my childhood until her death and to work with other members of her family, who are also outstanding examples of integration and collaboration among speakers of different languages in Quebec.
Please join me in thanking Marianna O’Gallagher for her contribution to our history.