Celtic Soul is a documentary film that spins a tale of soccer fandom spanning miles and generations. Jay Baruchel and Eoin O’Callaghan set out on an epic road trip that takes them through Canada, Ireland, and Scotland, as well as 200 years of ancestral and sport history.

Their destination is to cheer for Celtic Football Club in Glasgow, Scotland. Celtic FC is a Scottish team, but was founded as a charity for Irish immigrants in 1887 Glasgow. Their journey begins in Montreal - Jay hails from the Notre-Dame-de-Grace neighbourhood. On the film’s website (built right here at Plank), the pair explores some of Montreal’s Irish history. 

We’ve put together 10 tidbits of Montreal’s Irish connections for you to explore along with them.

#1. The most tenacious St. Patrick's Day Parade in North America

Montreal hosts the longest-running St. Patrick’s Day Parade in North America - occurring annually since 1824. In 1949, it was cancelled due to weather, but military and parish units ignored the decision and marched anyway. A major snow storm in 1993 dropping 1.5 feet of snow couldn’t stop it either.

#2. Ça ce peut que you're Irish

Some of the first Irish in Quebec were exiles serving in the French army - as many as 5% of the families in New France were Irish at the end of the 1600s. To evade British forces, many of them changed their names to French-sounding ones. So today’s Aubreys (O’Briens), Sylvains (O’Sullivans) and Allaires (O’Learys) can likely trace their heritage to those early soldiers. 

By douairaig, via Wikimedia Commons

#3. The Black Rock & Victoria Bridge

Many Irish immigrants were labourers, working on the expansion of the Lachine Canal in the 1840s and the construction of the Victoria Bridge in the 1850s. While building the bridge, the workers discovered the mass graves of those who, fleeing famine, had succumbed to the typhus epidemic of 1847. The Black Rock was dredged from the St. Lawrence while building the bridge and was erected as a memorial in 1859 to those lost. Jay and Eoin brave a blizzard to pay tribute to them.

#4. In the Irish 'hood

Pointe St. Charles and adjacent Griffintown were the neighbourhoods of those Irish immigrants who built the Victoria Bridge and Lachine Canal, and worked in the many factories. After you watch Jay introduce Eoin to poutine at The Point’s Paul Patates, check out the NFB documentary about the Irish legacy in Pointe St. Charles. 

Joe Beef

#5. Alligators, monkeys and bears, Oh my!

Joe Beef (nickname of Irishman Charles McKiernan) was a legendary tavern keeper and activist who claimed to refuse no one food. He was also known for keeping an odd assortment of animals including several bears, monkeys and an alligator. He is memorialized by a small park in Pointe St. Charles and a restaurant that bears his name in Griffintown. 

#6. Montreal's Joe Kennaway

Jay and Eoin get up “stupid early” to take in a Celtic FC game at Lachine’s Kennaway Supporters Club. The club was named after Joe Kennaway, a Scottish Montrealer born in Pointe St. Charles who played for Celtic FC between 1931 and 1939. He was inducted into the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame in 2000.

Eoin and Jay trying their hand at hurling in Celtic Soul

#7. Not that kind of hurling

Hurling is an ancient sport - older than the recorded history of Ireland. It’s played with a wooden stick (the hurley) that is used to hit a small ball (sliotar), either on the ground or in the air, between the opponent's’ goalposts. It is thought to have influenced the development of Canada’s beloved sport of hockey, as Jay and Eoin discuss with Paul Rouse, a hurling historian. 

#8. Get out on the pitch!

You don’t have to cross the pond to get involved in hurling and other Gaelic sports: the Montreal Shamrocks Gaelic Athletic Club was founded in 1948 to promote Gaelic Football and Hurling and welcomes new members. 

La Bolduc

#9. The Irish reel en français

Quebec’s traditional music is heavily influenced by its Celtic roots, with the Irish reel featuring prominently in many Quebec tunes. La Bolduc, for example, embodies the marriage of Irish and French Canadian both in her ancestry and her musical style. She sang mostly in French, with a few English phrases thrown in. She mixed French enumerative and dialogue songs with Irish and Scottish reels and “turlutage” (mouth music). Montreal hosts a number of sessions in various pubs where you can listen to traditional Irish and Quebec music, or join in yourself.

#10. Brendan Behan's Montreal

On the Irish leg of their road trip, Jay and Eoin visit the statue of Brendan Behan in Dublin. Behan was one of Ireland’s best known writers, Republicans and drinkers. During his 1960 visit to Montreal, he gave a memorable speech to McGill students, though his second engagement was cancelled. When asked what he thought of Montreal, he replied, “It could be worse; it could be Toronto.”

By William Murphy from Dublin, Ireland, via Wikimedia Commons

Celtic Soul is doing the film festival rounds, so check their showings page for a screening near you.

Feature image by Sandra Cohen-Rose and Colin Rose from Montreal, Canada, via Wikimedia Commons