Montreal Gazette, 25 June 1868, page 2
La St Jean Baptiste
Yesterday the feast of St John the Baptist, the patron saint of Canada, was as bright and as sunny a day as the most fastidious Saint could desire. The public took every advantage of the fair weather, and everyone donned his gayest attire (the French Canadian without a black frock coat and a beaver hat is a man with soul so dead, who never to himself has said &c) and went forth with a national maple leaf at his button hole and joy in his countenance. Preparations were made in every French quarter of the city to do honor to the day. Flags floated on every root and from every window, tiny bunting swung in the mild June air in many coloured festoons over the crowded streets. The sidewalks were gay and green with maple trees, and thronged with spectators in festive attire, many of them disappearing behind white badges blazoned with our national emblem and enemy the beaver, with a dressing of maple leaves, or sinking under the weight of a collar gorgeous with the same.
ST JOHN THE BAPTIST
Is a scriptural and a well-known saint, so well-known that our labours as biographers can be easily dispensed with. It is not quite so easy to say why he was named patron saint of Canada, unless we assign the exquisite reason that it was discovered on the feast of St Lawrence. Very few indeed can tell the reason why, but we believe its true origin dates from a proclamation by one of the earliest Bishops of Quebec, who selected this patron because his feast was celebrated in the summer time, and again because he was the patron saint of many of the early colonists drawn from Bretagne. Others again assign it a more ulterior signification and say it was selected because the early colonists and martyrs wished to be under the tutelage of a pioneer saint, of one crying in the wilderness of the “going before,” preceding the fuller and grander avatar of the nation. It is a pretty idea; but much as we could wish to give the more poetical version, we think the other the more correct. The feast of St John the Baptist was celebrated in Montreal by the society for the first time in 1834, the late Mr. Duvernay being credited with its paternity. The society held an out-door fete in a garden, and we believe that after the melancholy manner of the times, it was celebrated by about three dozen and a half speeches. On dit also, that on that memorable occasion a young student sung for the first time a song written by him at college, and entitled
O Canada, mon pays, mes amours
He was rather a clever young fellow, touched a little with Anglophobia. Three years later a reward was offered for his head, and thirty-three years later he was elected a baronet of the United Kingdom by Queen Victoria.
Yesterday was the largest and the most brilliant ever seen in the city. The programme was as follows:–
French and English flags
Scholars of the Christian brothers schools, four deep
Scholars of la Maitrise St Pierre
Grand banner of commerce
Societe des Commis-Marchands
Societe St Ignace
Societe St Michel des Saints
L’Union St Jacques
L’Union St Pierre
Societe St Antoine
Carpenters and Joiners
L’Union St Joseph
Congregation St Michel
Section St Joseph
Section St Jacques
Scholars of the Normal School
Scholars of St Mary’s College
Scholars of the Montreal College
Association St Joseph, by sections
The Literary Circle
Sections de la Ville
The Chasseurs Canadiens
Detachment of the Hochelagas
The fourth and last detachment of Political Zouaves
The grand banner
The managing committee
The medical faculty
The secretaries and treasurers
The President of the St Jean Baptiste Society of Ottawa
The President of the Canadian Pontifical Zouave Com.
St John the Baptist
The procession was under the guidance of a number of marshals on horseback and order was maintained by a detachment of city police.
In the ranks of the procession were to be noticed His Worship the mayor Mr. William Workman, Mr. George E Desbarats, the Queen’s Printer of Ottawa, and a multitude of prominent citizens. Every French Canadian of any note walked in one or other of the societies forming part of the procession. Among others was Alfred Larocque, the Canadian Papal Zouave, so sorely wounded in the fight at Mentana, now looking well and hearty, although with his arm in a sling, and bearing on his breast two medals and a cross, the mead of Canadian valor shown within sight of the walls of the city of the Caesars. St John the Baptist himself was the attraction of the procession. A little boy named Giroux, some 12 years old, pretty as a girl, with a lamb-skin draped around him, his limbs covered with gauze and wreathed with flowers, leaning on a shepherd’s crook, in a carriage drawn by four splendid gray horses, looking out of his round dark eyes upon the vast crowd above which he was slowly borne. Such was the representation of Canada’s Patron Saint. A child, that would grow to be a man, young yet even as our national existence, but capable in the days to come of achieving all that is possible.
The number of people in the procession may be estimated at 4000, and in the streets at 12 000. The procession formed at eight o’clock at the building of the Union St Joseph, St Catherine street, whence at 8:30 it defiled along St Catherine, St Lawrence Main, Craig, St Peter and Great St James street, to the Place d’Armes and
THE PARISH CHURCH
The church was decorated with all possible colour and richness. Maple branches, their fresh green growing a little sickly, waved everywhere in the aisles; festoons of red, white and blue, with flags of every device, were hung overhead. The church was crowded with worshippers, high over their heads as they knelt glittering the banners of the different societies. Within the choir where the white-robed choristers, the officiating priests, in robes gorgeous and stiff with gold, and at the extremity the great altar, with its golden ornaments, its long tapers, its smoking censers of silver, its coloured lights, its crimson drapery.
Mr. Barbarin conducted the musical services with a choir of two hundred voices. Haydn’s second mass was performed with an orchestral accompaniment. At the offertory Lambillotte’s Justs est palma was sung by Messrs Maillet and Lamothe. The great feature, however, of the music was the chimes, rung on a peal of ten bells, varying in weight from 500 to 5000 pounds and ranging from the ut to the second mi. The chimes are rung from a keyboard, much the same as that of a piano, planned by Mr. JB Labelle, the well-known organist, and executed under the direction of Mr. Barbarin by Mr. Bougeault, architect. The Carillon de Notre Dame is not new, by any means. Its initial performance was on the occasion of its benediction on the 29th June, 1843, but since 1854 it has not been used. On the eve of this festival it rung out the Angelus, and yesterday did good service. Hundreds of feet aloft they tolled out “God Save the Queen,” joined by the grand organ, the immense congregation rising to their feet in loyal respect. And when the service of Mass was over, and the long line of the procession was again filing from the church, merrily tolled out the good Canadian airs, A la Claire Fontaine, En roulant ma boule, and Vive la Canadienne. The gayer national refrains were scattered down through the air and the sunshine upon the dwellers and the roofs of the city mingled with the familiar air of the graver National Anthem.