St. Catherine Street Cricket Grounds as portrayed in the October 19, 1878 edition of the Canadian Illustrated News (St. James the Apostle Church can be seen in the background).

Published in the Westmount Examiner on August 6, 2009.

Few people are aware that the sport of cricket was once a major diversion in nineteenth century Montreal. In fact, at the time, the expansive St. Catherine Street Cricket Grounds encircled the downtown Church of St. James the Apostle on Bishop Street. From Sherbrooke to St. Catherine, MacKay to Mountain, this Victorian quadrangle accommodated cricket and lacrosse enthusiasts from all over.

With the rapid commercial development of St. Catherine Street in the early twentieth century, the sports field quietly disappeared from the local landscape. By 1907, it was no longer found in atlases of the city. Its historic influence, however, was felt for many years as the Bishop Street Anglican church was for long afterwards affectionately known as St. Cricket’s in the Field. Indeed, a steel grill protecting a stain glass ecclesiastic window from possible wayward cricket balls was only removed in September 2003 and with it went much of the story of cricket in Montreal.

Well not quite!

Pirates of the St Lawrence Cricket Club was formed in Montreal in the wake of the 2007 World Cup of Cricket. Indoor cricket in Westmount Park School was the spark. Nowadays, navigating the winter snow banks surrounding the school, Montrealers of many different origins seek out the opportunity to play their favourite sport. When the milder weather arrives, the team moves outdoors, usually gathering at various locations on the South Shore.

The fastest growing cricket club in North America, the Pirates have more than 100 men and women of 36 different nationalities participating on a regular basis – the most multi-cultural cricket club in the world. Several players have even played for their country’s national team before coming to Montreal.

In a slight twist of irony, with its annual snow cricket tournament, the Pirates of the St. Lawrence Cricket Club has even resurrected the sport on St.Helen’s Island, site of the first recorded cricket match in Canada in 1787. In point of fact, the Pirates engage in their beloved pastime whenever and wherever the opportunity presents itself. Beach cricket, corridor cricket, park cricket, and even quickly – improvised games at nearby metro stations have all been locations used by the resourceful bat-and-ball club.

Westmount Park School, spurred on by the Pirates’ activities, has decided to incorporate cricket in their gym program. Countless of the school’s pupils are from south Asia, and, for many, this is the first opportunity they’ve had to play their treasured national sport here in Canada.

In summer, the Pirates of the St. Lawrence team hosts friendly matches on the South Shore against associations from Boston, New York, Hartford, Toronto, Ottawa, Burlington, and Montreal.

The gritty club is trying to make cricket available to Canadians, and help it flourish in Quebec, particularly Montreal It’s the second most popular sport in the world – one billion Indian fans can’t be wrong!

Anyone interested in learning more about the sport and this Montreal club should contact Angus Bell on contactme@angusjjbell.com, or go to Montreal Social Cricket on Facebook.

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