Irish Place Names: St. Bride's
In 1926, a group of Irish immigrants made their way into the northern frontier near St. Paul. They named their new community St. Brides, and, according to historian Merrily Aubrey, they came to establish a colony underwritten by a British benevolent society.
The British Empire family scheme was organized in England under the aegis of the Soldier Settlement Board after World War I. Father McDonnell, in his capacity as an immigration agent, travelled to Ireland in 1926 to bring young couples to Canada to farm.
The land they settled on had been purchased from the Saddle Lake Cree and there were about 50 quarter-sections in all. Each couple received a quarter-section and this, of course, was equivalent to the standard homestead land grant of 160 acres.
In order to get started, they also received a loan through the British Empire Family Scheme to buy livestock and equipment. If the settlers could last there ten years, this loan was cancelled, so that wasn't a bad way to start. They were also given 25 years to pay for their land.
As is it turned out, the couples at the St. Brides colony needn't worry too much about missing their homeland.
The Irish influence in the area was further underlined by the name of the school. The Celtic School District was established in 1929 to educate the area's children, and, if you travel nine kilometres north of St. Bride's, you'll find Cork, which was settled nearly 15 years earlier and named after the city in Ireland.
The colony of St. Brides is named in honour of St. Bridget, who, along with St. Patrick, was one of the two patron saints of Ireland.
It is possible that she was a real person in antiquity. She certainly pre-dated the arrival of Christianity to Ireland and was a deity honoured by the Celts.
According to legend, she was the daughter of Dagda and the wife of Breese. Bride was the High One, the Sky Goddess, and the deity of light and fire. Her particular area of influence was most appropriate to this little Irish colony in the wilds of northeastern Alberta, whom I am sure sometimes wondered, "Why the heck did we come here?" She was the protector of cattle, crops, fertility, household arts, knowledge, poetry, and wisdom. And, like any good system of beliefs, when Christianity was making its inroads into pagan Ireland, Bridget became a saint. And the honour they gave her was that she was the midwife at the birth of Christ.
On the Heritage Trail,
I'm Cheryl Croucher.