Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

This March 17 let’s celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with more than just drinking green beer!

St. Patrick’s Day observes the death of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. The holiday has evolved into a celebration of Irish culture with parades, special foods, music, dancing, drinking, and a whole lot of green.

Ireland and its people – at home and also as the legendary diaspora in North America – have always punched above their weight. Irish culture has had a major influence on contemporary literature and music, and its people have shaped the character of many Canadian communities, such as right here on Cortes Island.

Peggy Newsham was one such lovely Irish immigrant to Cortes. She contributed much to the Cortes Island Museum & Archives, and a circle of herbs in the museum’s Heritage Garden is a tribute installed in her honour.  From a post we originally published on Facebook on March 11, 2021:

“Peggy emigrated from Belfast to Vancouver at the age of 16. In 1937, she met Dolly (Jeffery) Hansen, and together they travelled on the Union Steamship to Cortes Island. Peggy worked for Alice Robertson at Burnside in Whaletown, helping with gardening, livestock, and household chores. She moved to Manson’s Landing in the late 1960s, where she was active in the Community Club and took part in many social activities. She was crowned ‘Queen of Cortes’ by acclamation on Cortes Day in 1979.”

In one of the Museum at Campbell River blog posts, curator Beth Boyce recalls,

“When I was a child, I would visit my great-great-aunt in her tiny cabin at Smelt Bay. My aunt, Peggy Newsham, was the Queen of Cortes. She was tiny, at under five feet tall, but she was a feisty Irish lady, more than making up for her diminutive size with a big personality. I remember she had a driver’s license that was only legal on Cortes Island. When visiting the island recently, I was told that islanders would see her barrelling down the road in her VW bug and pull over to get out of her way.”

For more information about Peggy Newsham, stop by the Cortes Island Museum to check out our Informational Files and browse through an album of memories about her (available at the museum). You can also visit our online Collections database, https://collections.cortesmuseum.com, and search for Peggy Newsham. This year, we also have on display a selection of vintage St. Patrick’s Day postcards from the Gilean Douglas Collection and a selection of Irish kitchen towels.

So this March 17, wear green, celebrate the small things to be grateful for among family and friends, and raise a glass to the spirit of St. Patrick!

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