English Community gathers to celebrate Marianna O'Gallagher's birthday as she turns 80

Photo: Frank Scardina

The board of Irish Heritage Quebec, from left to right, Joe Lonergan, John O'Connor, Nancy Thomas, Marianna O'Gallagher, Daniel O'Dowd and Mark O'Brien.

Some 100 well-wishers and friends packed the basement of McMahon Hall for a party to wish Irish historian Marianna O'Gallagher a happy 80th birthday last week.

"It was super -- a real old fashioned party," the guest of honour said afterwards of the special celebration organized by Irish Heritage Quebec to pay tribute to its founder and president.

"It reminded me of the earliest birthday I can still remember," said O'Gallagher. "I was in Grade 5 and the teacher sprang a surprise birthday for me."

"She has done so much for the Irish community," said John O'Connor, a board member of Irish Heritage Quebec and one of the birthday party organizers.

He pointed to O'Gallagher's work documenting Irish history in Quebec City and lobbying for the recognition of Grosse- Île -- the island in the St. Lawrence where thousands of Irish immigrants escaping famine in Ireland arrived and were quarantined, many later dying -- as an Irish Memorial National Historic Site.

In the spirit of Irish tradition, the party for O'Gallagher featured a sing-along led by Quebec City singer Helen McCauley.

Along with speeches, gifts bestowed on O'Gallagher included a painting of a Celtic cross and a rare copy of George Gale's 1915 Quebec Twixt Old and New.

The Irish heritage party followed O'Gallagher's own family celebration three days earlier on March 21, when 40 members of the O'Gallagher, O'Neil, and Conway families held a birthday dinner at the Manoir du Spaghetti on Chemin St. Louis.

The restaurant is located in the old family home -- the house O'Gallagher grew up in.