Canadian Irish Migration Preservation Network (CIMPN) Wins 2024 Richard Evans Award!

Sherbrooke, Qc., April 29, 2024 – The Quebec Anglophone Heritage Network (QAHN) is pleased to announce the Canadian Irish Migration Preservation Network (CIMPN) as this year’s recipient of the Richard Evans Award in recognition of outstanding long-term contributions by an organization or group of volunteers to the preservation and promotion of Anglophone heritage in the province of Quebec.


The CIMPN is a not-for-profit Irish historical preservation organization whose members, led by president Kelley O’Rourke, are knowledgeable about the history and culture of Irish migration to North America. The group aims to serve a broad public, including genealogists, family historians, and academics. Members work to “preserve, foster and inspire the study and conservation of the history of these early migrants who came to Canada as far back as the 1600s,” and to “enhance the connection of our Irish ancestors with members of the global Irish community. We seek to highlight the Irish migrants’ significant contributions to the development of Canadian history and culture for generations to come.”

Most of the Irish migrants who first arrived in Saint-Colomban in the 1820s, before the Great Famine, were buried in a historic part of the local church cemetery located 60 miles northwest of Montreal. In 2005, a small group from Montreal, descendants of those early Irish immigrants, visited the historic Catholic church and cemetery in Saint-Colomban. To their dismay, they found headstones broken and in disrepair. They quickly formed a group, seizing the opportunity to preserve this history for future generations. The St. Columban-Irish Descendants began fundraising to restore the cemetery one headstone at a time. The work continues almost 20 years on.

In the beginning, Kelley O’Rourke worked to map the Saint-Colomban Cemetery using old maps, photos, interviews, and other documents. Future plans include an interactive online map with stories of some of the site’s missing monuments. “We’ve already unearthed a few. It’s very exciting,” she says.

The CIMPN ensures that its work also serves to help others by producing how-to guides, a headstone clean-up kit and bilingual how-to videos on repairing headstones. “It is our hope that we can set a standard with our restoration of the Saint-Colomban cemetery, and that it will encourage others to join forces to preserve other historic sites.”

Several years ago, O’Rourke spearheaded the creation of the not-for-profit CIMPN to manage project funding and share information more broadly. It has partnered with the St. Columban-Irish group, the Montreal Irish Memorial Park Foundation, and the Fabrique de Paroisse Saint-Colomban. To date, the group has erected three walls with memorial stones, and cleaned 33 headstones and straightened 19 others. On July 6, 2024, CIMPN members and friends will celebrate their second annual Heritage Day in Saint-Colomban, to continue bringing stories from the past into the future.

QAHN will be hosting an awards ceremony to formally recognize this year’s recipients of both the Marion Phelps Award and the Richard Evans Award. It will take place at the Maison Louis-Joseph Forget in Montreal on June 29, 2024, from 5-7 p.m.
NOTE: Space is limited and an RSVP is essential.
RSVP: [email protected].


About QAHN:
The Quebec Anglophone Heritage Network (QAHN) is a non-profit, non-partisan, province-wide organization engaged with its members in the preservation and promotion of the history, heritage and culture of Quebec -- and, in particular, of Quebec’s English-speaking communities. QAHN strives to advance the knowledge of the history, heritage and culture of those communities by informing, inspiring and connecting people through its activities and services. Membership in QAHN is open to individuals, families and organizations. Our current institutional membership numbers over 100.