This celebration, held in Montreal in 1808 was the first publication of a celebration of national identity in Montreal. It was probably the first time that the day was commemorated publicly. The description of the event, outside of its exceptional lavishness and amazing consumption of alcohol, is very indicative of how those of English descent and birth felt connected still to their homeland of England. This is an identity not only English however, but British too, invested in the institutions of the British Crown and government. They never celebrated the day like this again, either, which is an utter shame. It must have been a great party.
Montreal Gazette, 28 April 1808
St George’s Day
At the present moment, the revival of old customs, and the memory of the days of yore, must have a good tendency to stimulate our breasts, to rival the patriotism and virtues of our ancestors: we therefore conceive the following account of the celebration of St George’s Day, will not be unacceptable to our readers: we have endeavoured to procure the best information respecting it, in our power, and would be sorry if the statement is in any manner materially inaccurate.
Saturday last, 23d instant being St. George’s Day, was celebrated as such, by a number of gentlemen in this city, at the Montreal Hotel- at sun-rise, the standard of St. George was displayed in the centre of the Parade, the company consisting of about 30, were ushered into an anti-chamber, strewed with green branches, and surrounded with common board benches, such as have been in use long before the luxury of either carpets or chairs were known; here they regaled themselves with mutual pledging of cherry bounce, drank out of an ancient silver-cup; the ancient yeomen wore the Windsor uniform, shoes tied with leather, thongs and white worsted hose rolled over the knee.
About half past four o’clock, the ringing of a large bell announced the dinner to be on the table, a herald dressed in the Tabard of England, three lions, or passant in a field gules, and wearing an appropriate cap ornamented with a plume of white feathers, summoned the native Englishmen, and those of English descent by their Christian names, and respective counties they came from; each of whom handed another of the company into the Great Hall. The dinner was in the stile [sic] of neat elegance for which Mr. Dillon is so conspicuous. Grace being said by the almoner, the Herald entered and desired “Yeomen of England to eat, drink and be merry”. The Roast Beef of England, decorated with St George’s flag, was served up on a wooden trencher with a wooden gravy spoon, each yeoman had a half pint of wine only. The plum pudding was also served on a wooden trencher, and decorated with St George’s flag, and was ushered in by the Herald, reciting the following lines on the entrance of the plum pudding:
Johnny Bull, O together bring
That honest noble looking thing,
Plum-pudding known by name.
‘Tis like thyself with Jolly face,
O’er it the Pope might say a grace,
And eat it without shame.
After cheese was served, a cup containing a gallon of porter, with a toast therein, was handed round to the seneschal attending with his white band of office; thus was the Land of Malt pledged. After dinner an elegant dessert was placed on the table; in the centre of which was a representation of St George on horseback killing the dragon, on a white pedestal, with gilt moulding, on which were the following inscriptions:
Georgius Tutelaris Anglicorum
Martyrio Coronatus Est
IX Kal MA II Anno Domini
Hic Equitum Auratoe ordo periscetidis
Edwardo Tertio Rege
Castro Vindesorii condito
On each side of St George was a figure of Britannia. The wine was in magnum bonums, decorated with wreaths of red and white roses alternate; the glasses being filled, a server having five spurs and six Georges, enveloped in a white napkin, covered with a banner, was handed round to the fifth ancient yeoman, and the proxy of the sixth, who was absent; the ancient yeoman rose buckled, each spur on the left heel, and put on the George; the Herald then repeated, in succession, the pledges of the six ancient yeomen, according to their respective counties, in succession, the glasses being replenished, each pledge; the ancient yeoman standing and making a reverence to the yeoman pledged, a flourish of trumpets and kettle drums accompanying each pledge, after the pledges were over, the following toasts succeeded, accompanied by appropriate tunes, played by the band of the 49th Regiment. That was obligingly permitted to attend.
1st His Grace of the King of Yeongland} God Save the King
2nd The Duke of Cornwall} Waltz
3rd Her Grace the Queen and the young rose buds} Waltz
4th The Duke of York and English Chivalry} Duke of York’s Troop
5th The day we celebrate, and the land we left} flourish
6th The memory of Alfred the Great, and the wooden walls of Old England} Rule Britannia
7th His Excellency the Commander in Chief, and the forces in the province} Duke of York March
8th Brigadier General Brock, the 49th Regiment, and the glorious 2nd of April 1801} Fall of Copenhagen
9th Col Murray and the 100th Regiment} British Grenadiers
10th Magna Charta and the days of old} flourish
11th The memory of the Black Prince, and the heroes of Poitier and Cressy} Black Prince’s March
12th The memory of Harry the Vth, and the Heroes of Agincourt} march
13th The memory of Russell, Hamden, and Sidney, who bled for English liberty} flourish
14th The golden days of good Queen Bess, patroness of beef stakes (bumper)*
*Two trumpeters having the banner of Yeongland suspended from their trumpets, being placed behind the President and his Vice, then sounded a flourish.
The Herald then entered and recited the following lines:
1. Her Haggis and her singed head
St. Andrew’s Cross and oaten bread,
Let hardy Scotia boast
Let Erin of her murphies speak
And Taffy of his cheese and leek;
But England rules the roast
Flourish of trumpets and kettle drums
2. Meagre soup and stewed up frogs,
Not good enough for English dogs
To Frenchmen give relief.
A slice of solid English fare
Plum-pudding and roast beef.
3. But heaven please they never shall
Come even nigh into smell;
John Bull shall have it all.
At Boulogne, they may grin and laugh,
May lick their chops, sour claret quaff,
But long for beef and pudding call.
The Roast Beef of England was then played by the band.
After an armed champion was ushered in, and the Herald was desired to take “two trumpets, and attend the champion to the great gate of the castle, and there let him mount his steed and defy all the enemies of his Grace George King of Yeongland, and his faithful yeomen,” which was accordingly done, a white steed being ready caparisoned at the gate, the ancient yeoman then drank another bumper, the trumpets sounded a flourish, and the great banner of St. George was lowered; the following toasts then succeeded:
15th the bill of rights and glorious revolution} flourish
16th the memory of Wolfe, and the heroes of the Plains of Abraham} How stands the glass around
17th Perish our commerce, but let our constitution stand} Britons stand home
18th Gustavus, King of Sweden, may his magnamity and perseverance ultimately enable him to be the rallying point to the restoration of old times, and the days of chivalry} 49th March
19th The Queen, and the royal house of Braganza, now in the Brazils; may they flourish there with augmented strength and splendour} Austrian retreat
20th Perdition to the head, and palsy to the hand, that would continue contrive or sign any treaty that would infringe on our maritime rights} Hearts of Oak
21st The English fair, beyond compare.
The last toast was accompanied by singing the last verse of Rule Britannia- it being bout ten o’clock, when this toast was completed- a royal salute, the seneschal entered, broke ] his wand, and said, “I brake [sic] my wand of office, and thus terminate the Festival of St George of Yeongland; the united yeomanry of the British Empire may not enjoy themselves:” on which the President quitted the chair: the company enjoyed much hilarity and good humour; the toasts were drank with enthusiasm, as bringing pleasing sentiments to recollection: and it may be justly said, they were happy to meet, sorry to part, and happy to meet again.