Pilgrimage Riots 1875

The so-called “Pilgrimage Riots” took place in Toronto during 1875. The Roman Catholics made pilgrimages on three consecutive Sundays visiting four different churches on each occasion. This seems reasonable enough, as the Orangemen had their “walk” on 12 July. However, the Orangemen claimed that the Roman Catholics interfered with the Orange parades and so, in retaliation, they were going to break up the pilgrimages.

The first pilgrimage took place on 19 September and was  without incident. The second, held on 26 September, was marked by rioting. Almost all the police in Toronto suffered injuries in quelling this disturbance. Major F. C. Draper, Chief of Police, and a one-time serving officer with The Queen’s Own, was fearful as to the ability of the police to cope with possible rioting on the final pilgrimage, 3 October. As a result, The Queen’s Own, The 10th Royals and the Governor-General’s Body Guard were called out.

The QOR reported 400 strong at the Old Fort at 8.00 a.m. on Sunday, 3 OctOber. The morning was spent in practising charging crowds and breaking up fights. After lunch the troops marched to where the procession was forming and marched parallel to it during its progression. Sporadic rioting took place practically throughout. The police, however, bore the brunt and although many of them were severely injured did not once call on the Militia. The pilgrimage was made as intended. At 5.00 p.m. the regiment, scatheless, was dismissed.

Excerpted from “THE QUEEN’S OWN ,RIFLES OF CANADA 1860-1960; ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF CANADA By Lieutenant Colonel W. T. Barnard E.D. C.D.

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