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Richmond's New Celtic Cross

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medium_celtic.4.jpg--August 7, 2002

A fitting monument to our Celtic pioneers now overlooks the picturesque St. Francis River and the Mackenzie Bridge in Richmond. A magnificent Celtic Cross, made of solid Townships granite, weighing two tons, and surrounded by an iron fence complete with shamrocks, was unveiled this past weekend in the town's Memorial Park.

An enthusiastic crowd of about 200 were on hand to witness the moving ceremony, many of them descendants of the first Irish and Scottish families who came to the Townships back in the 1800s. Flapping in the summer breeze above the monument was the colourful flag of the St. Patrick's Society of Richmond & Vicinity, the organizers of the event.

Following speeches by mayors from around the region and blessings from both a Catholic priest and a Protestant minister, a bronze plaque was unveiled with the names of all those who had contributed to the $18,000 project. All individuals, no businesses," emphasized Bob Dalton, President of the St. Pat's Society.

The Celtic Cross, together with an Irish history study now in the works, are the culmination of months of hard work by the St. Patrick's Society, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. According to Dalton (right), the organization is the oldest Irish society in "mainland Quebec." With an Irish sense of humour clearly in his blood, he says that when people remind him about the Irish society in Montreal, he says: "Do you call Montreal the mainland? The only thing linking Montreal with the mainland is the bridge!" Kidding aside, Richmond's St. Pat's Society was founded back in 1877, making it one of the oldest organizations of its kind in Canada. Dalton believes that only Montreal and Toronto are older.

medium_celtic.2.jpgLONG OVERDUE
But why a monument now? There are several reasons. The St. Pat's Society believed that it was "long overdue" that the Celtic settlers of the area be honoured. According to the programme for the event, these pioneers "made it possible for us to continue our Celtic cultures in the new world." Dalton also believes that the current younger generation is losing its sense of history, its connection to the past. He hopes the efforts of his group will help re-instill a "sense of pride."

Addressing the crowd, Dalton said that the cross was for all the Celtic pioneers of the area, not just the Irish, but the Scots and the Welsh, too. And there were many who congregated in the area beginning in the 1840s. They came for different reasons. In the case of the Irish, at least, Dalton believes that many came to Richmond to farm because the type of soil, the terrain, and the river were similar to what they were used to back home. The railroad was another draw. Richmond was a major rail hub, and a large number of Irish labourers got jobs on the railway. They (and apparently the Welsh, too) also came to work in the area's slate quarries. So in honour of all of these pioneers, the cross is engraved with the shamrock (for Ireland), the thistle (for Scotland), the lily (for Wales), and the rose (for England). But the shamrocks on the fence and the flag flapping proudly in the breeze made it quite clear this weekend who had accomplished the monumental feat of erecting this remarkable Celtic Cross.