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Ross Murray's Border Report
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Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 03.02.10
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

Help me, I'm not Irish

I know I don't know a lot about a lot of things. Usually this is perfectly fine. There's no handicap in going through life without knowing, for instance, the history of Winnipeg, mainly because I don't care about Winnipeg and, frankly, Winnipeg doesn't care about me.

Okay, that's not entirely true. I do care about Winnipeg in some sense, the way I care about the neighbour down the street who I wave at when I walk by and whose car I once helped push out of a snow bank. If anything were to happen to her, I'm sure I'd feel bad, maybe drop off a casserole or something.

I feel the same about Winnipeg. And I'm sure Winnipeg feels the same way about me, only in a more minutely abstract sense as a citizen of Canada and potential future Winnipegger. Winnipegite? Winnipeg-o-my-heart?

There are also many things I once knew but have now forgotten, most of it from high school, such as how DNA works, sine and cosine, and how a boy and a girl can be perceived to be going out when they've never actually spoken to each other.

Among the many things I don't know a lot about is the Irish. I know even less about the Irish in Quebec. Less still about the Irish in the Eastern Townships.

Normally, this wouldn't be a problem. Like that whole Winnipeg business (I love you, Winnipeg!), I've gone pretty much my entire 40-plus years without having been challenged on my knowledge of the Irish experience in Canada. ('Grosse Ile was actually gross: discuss.')

If ever I were pressed on the Irish in Quebec, I would take the Trivial Pursuit: Canadian Edition approach. In this version of the game, you have a 50 percent chance of a correct response with one of three answers: Pierre Trudeau, Wayne Gretzky, or Céline Dionne. Using this approach, I would answer any question about Irish history by responding, 'D'Arcy McGee.' I'm not even sure who D'Arcy McGee was. I think he was a Father of Confederation. Either that or he played shortstop for the Montreal Royals.

As I say, normally this wouldn't be a problem. But now it is. That's because I've been invited to be the guest speaker at the Richmond St. Patrick's Society's annual banquet. From what I understand, this is like being invited to the Irish Vatican of the Eastern Townships. The problem is I'm a black-hearted Protestant from Nova Scotia descended from Scottish and British blood who continues to be taken aback every time he meets a French Quebecer named O'Connell.

What on earth am I going to speak about? (Or maybe the better question is: What were they thinking?)

Remember, I was once a newspaper journalist, which means I prefer making stuff up over doing actual research. I could possibly fabricate a tale of how D'Arcy McGee briefly ran a newspaper in Sutton called The Irish Incriminator, but I think the Society members would be on to me. Besides, Richmond folk don't care about Sutton and Sutton doesn't care about Richmond. (Okay, they do care about each other in a sense, the way you care about your neighbour down the street... oh, never mind.)

So I'm appealing to you readers (no, seriously, I am) to help me out.

What are some of the unique aspects of the Irish experience in the Townships? More importantly, any good dirt?

What makes Irish pride so strong, and can it be harnessed to power small engines?

In a fight between the Richmond St. Patrick's Society and the Sherbrooke Snowshoe Club, who would win? (Trivia: both clubs were founded in 1877. Look at me doing research!)

Do you have any grudges against the Irish in the Eastern Township? Come on, don't be shy. I'm willing to bring them to the table, get them out in the open so we can all move on and live a more harmonious existence. Yes, I'm talking to you, Sutton.

Send all information and anecdotes to ross_murray@sympatico.ca. Please, I'm counting on you. I really don't want to make a D'Arcy of myself.

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