A little remembrance of St. Patty’s Days gone by

  • History   Friday, March 11, 2022   Betty Jo Belton

Celebrating St. Patricks’ Day looked a little different in nineteenth century Stratford. The only mention of it to be found in the March 1876 issues of another Stratford Times newspaper preserved at Stratford-Perth Archives is a small notice that “preparations are being made for the celebration on next Friday of Ireland’s great day, the 17th of March.” Elsewhere, it was announced that there was to be a sacred concert in St. Joseph’s church with music of the old masters and a lecture on Irish History delivered by Rev. E.B. Kilroy. The next week, it was reported that the event at the church attracted a large audience “to do honor to Ireland and the memory of St. Patrick.” 

Ten years later an amateur production of an operetta replaced the sacred concert and lecture – though it was still a religious event in a way. The March 24, 1886 Stratford Times included this review of a performance “on St. Patrick’s Night for the Benefit of the Poor.”

“The performance of Gilbert & Sullivan’s comic opera, “Pinafore,” on Wednesday evening last, by our local amateurs, was a splendid success, and was, we are glad to say, greeted with an overflowing house, standing room being at a premium. The St. Vincent de Paul Society is to be congratulated upon the result of their efforts on behalf of the poor. The setting of the piece was very fine, all the scenery being new and specially prepared for this performance. Of the leading characters we can not speak too highly; their acting and singing “has hardly ever” been surpassed in Stratford amateur circles. We notice with pleasure the new and valuable additions to their ranks, and nothing would now seem to be wanting for the successful performance of some of Gilbert and Sullivan’s newer and more difficult operas, say, “Patience,” or “Iolanthe,” neither of which are familiar to Stratford audiences… Without wishing to be considered too critical, we would suggest the adoption of the boatswain’s costume (blue blouse and white duck trousers, with blue cap) by the sailors, and a “plumper and rounder” get up for “Buttercup” … The sisters, cousins, and aunts were charming, great taste being displayed in their selection of costume. The small “Middy” also looked well and acted his part nicely. We would like to go into detail in praising the various leading characters, but space won’t permit. In a word, amateur performances do not often combine such musical and dramatic talent as were brought out in this performance. Great praise is due to the able accompaniment…and we would add that we will go to see it again (even speak it low – at a further small outlay on our part) for the pure pleasure which the performance gives us, to say nothing of the worthy object which for its own sake ought to have unqualified support.”

Times Past from Stratford-Perth Archives (stratfordpertharchives.on.ca)