St. Patrick’s Day, 1991

On this day in 1991, it was sunny and warm in Montreal—so warm that my roomie and official Irish pal Aengus Finnan and I forgot it was St. Patrick’s day. Instead of heading to a pub, we took off on our bikes with our guitars on our backs to see if there would be a jam at the monument in Parc Champlain.

On the way there from our apartment in NDG we saw a bunch of trucks and trailers on Atwater Boulevard. What the heck? Then we spotted a couple of guys we knew from an open mic, Hugh and Donald, sitting on a flatbed trailer. It had a hand lettered sign hanging off of it reading “Drunk Poets Society” and they were earning the name. Besides the sign and themselves they had three young women aboard, plus a guy with an electric keyboard. They called us over to join them, just as we realized that they were literally the last float in the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade, which was marshalling right by Dawson College.

We hopped up, got out our guitars and quickly ran the chords of “Star of the County Down” with Kevin the keyboard player, just in time for our “float” to join the parade. We proceeded to play that same song for the next two hours, with the young ladies gamely waving and swinging their legs as the parade crawled down St. Catherine Street.
Did I mention the two of us looked like (were) hippies, scruffy in tie-die and thrifted clothes and long hair and beater guitars? With our bikes lying next to us on the trailer, which was undecorated but for the sign? And that by the time we came along the crowd had been drinking for a few hours already?

Between the gals and the poets and the keyboard and the sign and ourselves, the spirit of the day somehow emerged and took flight. There were an estimated 350,000 people in the crowd that day, and they roared as we went by.

That was a long, long time ago. I know a fair few Irish songs, I’ve sat in many a session and played some hilarious St. Patrick’s Day gigs, and I’ve had the honour of playing with some brilliant Irish musicians, but I somehow doubt if I’ll top that one.

Enjoy the day, however you celebrate. I love the Irish. I think everyone loves the Irish. And everyone loves a parade!

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