The Irish were in Canada from the earliest times. Apart from, in all probability, having discovered North America years before the Norsemen, the Irish came to Canada in the service of the Kings of France. Although many changed or disguised their names for obvious reasons, the War Office in Paris lists over 400,000 Irishmen who served in the Armies of France from the midseventeenth to mid-eighteenth centuries.
Some of these "Wild Geese" were undoubtedly sent to New France in various French Regiments, and we know for certain that the distinctive uniform of the Irish Brigade, red faced with green was seen in Montcalm's Army for several years before the Battle of Quebec in 1759. Many formed connections with the French settlers and took up residence here.
After the Conquest, Ireland was represented in Canada by members of the British Army who often followed the lead of their predecessors and settled in Quebec. The first recorded St. Patrick's Celebrations in Montreal were held by the various Regiments garrisoned here, organized by the large number of Irishmen serving in them. With the resumption of trade and commerce with British North America, Irish merchants, principally from the Province of Ulster, arrived in Montreal and set up shop, establishing businesses and· commercial dynasties that, in many cases, exist to this day.
By the first third of the 19th century, realizing the rapid growth of the Irish population of Montreal and their ethnological and cultural importance, a group of Montreal citizens decided, after mutual consideration and much deliberation, that it was incumbent upon them to form an organization which would be indicative of their value to the community, but which was of greater importance, to maintain their ancient traditions.