O’Gallagher laid to rest

"Marianna. Where do I start?"

James Callery would know as well as most people. It was he who donated the Celtic Cross that stands on McMahon Street, a monument not only to the rich Irish heritage of Québec, but to Marianna O'Gallagher's undying commitment to have their voices, both past and present, heard.

Callery spoke Monday afternoon to the crowd of between 400 and 450 people who attended the funeral service for Ms. O'Gallagher at St. Patrick's Church on Avenue Salaberry.

"Marianna and Grosse Ile were one!" said John Masterson, of Toronto, who said via email last week that he was thinking of traveling here for the funeral. "This is a very sad week. Ar deis De a anam dilish' - on the right hand of God my her soul rest!"

Ms. O'Gallagher died May 24 at Laval Hospital.
Glenn O'Farrell, former President and CEO of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, spoke of the "grateful Irish nation" she leaves behind.

"Marianna O'Gallagher left a very, very rich legacy," he said.

Church official Fred Scallen, a "very good friend," said it was rare to have a crowd so large in recent memory, but not a surprise considering Ms. O'Gallagher's impact on the Irish community in Québec.

"Much of Marianna's concern has been to keep alive the memory of the Irish people in Québec," said Father Gaston Lessard, who led the funeral Mass.

What brought the Irish people to Québec, he said, was the suffering brought on by famine and disease that they were experiencing in their homeland.

That suffering was "something we didn't want to know in Ireland," said Callery, noting that Ms. O'Gallagher had records of the ships that came here from Ireland, many of them riddled with disease.

She is considered largely responsible for the monument that now stands at Grosse Isle, where many immigrants died before realizing their dreams of living a better life in the New World.

Ms. O'Gallagher was born in Sainte-Foy to parents of Irish descent: Norma O'Neil and land-surveyor Dermot O'Gallagher. She had five brothers and one sister.
She taught for many years at St. Patrick's High School, where she acquired a reputation for her infectious enthusiasm, wit and passion for community history.

In 1973, Ms. O'Gallagher founded a community organization called Irish Heritage Québec, which seeks to preserve and promote local Irish history through popular activities such as lectures.

In 1981, she launched her own publishing company, Carraig Books, specializing in works from Québec with an Irish connection.

During the 1980s and 1990s, she served on a government advisory committee, working tirelessly to commemorate the Irish famine and its consequences for Québec and Canadian history. She was subsequently instrumental in the creation of the Grosse île and Irish Memorial National Historic Site in 1996.

"Many of you are here today," Father Lessard said, "because of the ... tradition that Marianna has brought to us."

Ms. O'Gallagher will be interred at St. Patrick's Cemetery on Chemin St. Louis.