Robert Corrigan

(1816(17) - 1855)

            A farmer born 1816 or 1817 in County Tyrone (Northern Ireland), fourth of eight children of Patrick Corrigan and Grace McNult, all born in Ireland; married Catherine Mortin (Moreton), and they had two sons and a daughter; died 19 October 1855 in Saint-Sylvestre, Lower Canada, and was buried 27 October in Leeds, Lower Canada.

            Patrick Corrigan immigrated to Canada in 1831 and was later joined by his family.  They were Catholic, but Robert Corrigan converted to Anglicanism at an unknown date.  He acquired a lot and in 1852 or 1853 set up as a farmer on the Sainte-Marguerite concession in the eastern sector of Saint-Sylvestre, an area largely populated by Irish Catholics.  In 1851 Saint-Sylvestre’s population of 3,733 included 2,872 Catholics; the majority of these were Irish, but there were 1,061 French Canadians, some English and Scots, and about 10 Germans.

            Despite dissimilar ethnic and religious origins, the people lived in comparative harmony.  The Irish, however, were conspicuous for unruliness.  Being more numerous, they presumed to make demands in respect to the parish buildings (the chapel, church, and presbytery), which the French Canadians were quick to find outrageous.  Earlier, in the years 1846-50, the Irish of Saint-Sylvestre, like those of several other places in Lower Canada, had proved “the worst agitators” during a famous but inglorious episode in the annals of education known as the guerre des éteignoirs (war of extinguishers).  To these local conflicts were added far more serious ones originating in the native countries of the immigrants, Great Britain and Ireland.  For example, there was strife between Catholics and Protestants, and between the Ribbonmen, a secret society of Irish Catholics at Saint-Sylvestre, and the Orangemen of nearby Leeds.

            Shortly after his arrival at Saint-Syvestre, Robert Corrigan made enemies within the Irish Catholic clan.  Quarrelsome and exceptionally strong, he challenged his adversaries to tests of strength, thereby fanning a dislike that was fuelled by sectarian prejudice.  He was accused of being a “convert who had abandoned the Catholic church.”  Corrigan attended the Anglican church in Saint-Sylvestre, and had at least two of his children baptised there by the minister, William King.  He was also reproached for having presumed to ridicule the religious observances of those whose beliefs he had once shared; in the opinion of John Caulfield O’Grady, parish priest of Saint-Sylvestre, this scorn ‘roused their exasperation with him to an extreme point.”

            His neighbours, therefore, were waiting for the chance to pick a fight with him, and opportunity came at an agricultural fair on 17 October 1855.  Corrigan was acting a judge for a class of animals and a decision he made aroused protest in the Irish clan.  Seven or eight people armed with sticks suddenly broke away from the group and rushed Corrigan, who was savagely beaten and knocked to the ground.  He was unable to get up and two days later he died.

            He had evidently been murdered, but who were the guilty parties?  The Quebec police were unable to track them down.  The Catholic element of the population totally refused to co-operate; worse, it made preparations to thwart the inquest to be conducted by the district of Quebec’s coroner, Jean-Antoine Panet, one group even proposing to intercept him and make off with the corpse in order to destroy all trace of the murder.  When Panet finally reached Saint-Sylvestre, he was told that he had to go to Leeds, where Corrigan’s body had been transported on 22 October, escorted along the Craig road by some 300 Protestants with rifles at the slope for all to see.  The inquest was held at Leeds from 23 to 27 October.  The 4 Catholic 16 Protestant jurors, recruited at Leeds and Saint-Sylvestre, unanimously agree that 11 Irish Catholic suspects of Saint-Sylvestre should be indicted for murder.

            William Harrison, the bailiff of Leeds, was given the responsibility for executing the coroner’s warrant of arrest.  He carried out repeated searches in Saint-Sylvestre and the adjoining parishes in an effort to apprehend the accused, but because the inhabitants hid them he was unable to make any arrests.  On 20 November the government of Lower Canada offered a reward of $800 for their arrest, but nobody succumbed to the temptation, even when the government raised the amount to $400 for the arrest of each of the accused.  By December the police did not have even one arrest to their credit.  Determined to succeed where the police had failed, the government then sent military detachments totalling 130 men from Montreal and Quebec, but all to no avail.  Finally, several of the accused, notably Richard Kelly, gave themselves up around 10 January 1856, no doubt feeling sure that they would escape punishment since it would be impossible to identify clearly the person or persons who had struck the fatal blow.  They were taken to Quebec under escort, and their trial took place before the Court of Queen’s Bench, presided over by Judge Jean-François-Joseph Duval.  In the face of contradictory evidence from the English-speaking witnesses, the jury acquitted the seven Irish Catholic defendants on 18 February.

            The “Corrigan Incident” had political repercussions.  The verdict roused a wave of indignation among a great many Protestants in Upper Canada.  John Hillyard Cameron, a conservative member for Toronto, made himself the spokesman of the protesters in the Legislative Assembly.  On 7 March 1856 he presented a resolution demanding the publication of the ‘irregular’ charge Duval had made to the jury.  The resolution was passed and it put the coalition government of Sir Allan Napier MacNab and Etienne-Paschal Taché in a difficult position.  Having been forced to obtain a vote of confidence, the government refused to resign or to furnish the text of Duval’s charge.  Nevertheless, divided and under attack from Cameron as well as from George Brown, the Grits, and the Rouges, MacNab’s government was breaking up.  He was obliged to resign as premier in May and John A. Macdonald, the leader of the conservatives in Upper Canada, formed a new coalition ministry with Taché.

            The “Corrigan Incident”, like the riots marking the visits of Italian revolutionary Alessandro Gavazzi to Quebec and Montreal in June 1853, which had also not resulted in the instigators being punished, let many Protestants in Upper Canada to think that their co-religionists would never obtain justice where there was a predominance of Catholics.  Subsequent incidents brought to fever pitch the prejudices, and indeed the hatred, that the Orange Order did its best to arouse, especially when two of its members were directly involved:  Thomas Scott, who was executed at Fort Garry (Winnipeg) on 4 March 1870, and Thomas Hackett, who was killed during a riot in Montreal on 12 July 1877.  Eight years later, with the execution of Louis Riel in Regina, Orange sectarianism had its long-awaited revenge.         (src:  Dictionary of Canadian Biographies (1851-1860)


The Order of Canada recognizes people who have made a difference to Canada.  From local citizens to national and international personalities, all Canadians are eligible for the Order of Canada — Canada’s highest honour for lifetime achievement.

Three different levels of membership honour people whose accomplishments vary in degree and scope: Companion of the Order of Canada (C.C.), Officer of the Order of Canada (O.C.), and Member of the Order of Canada (C.M.). Since 1967, more than 4,000 people have received the Order of Canada.

New appointments to the Order are made twice each year and lists are announced around New Year’s Day and Canada Day. The ceremony is held at Rideau Hall, the official residence of the Governor General of Canada in Ottawa.

M. Dorothy Corrigan, C.M., LL.D., R.N.

Full Name Honour Received City and Province or Territory
Corrigan, M. Dorothy C.M. Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Honour Appointment Investiture
C.M. (Member) July 4, 1978 October 18, 1978
Alderman of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. After a long career in nursing she served in a number of municipal posts including that of mayor. Her contributions to community life in Charlottetown are legion.

Dorothy Corrigan (nee Hennessey) was born in Charlottetown, in the province of Prince Edward Island.  She attended the Prince of Wales College and finished her nursing education in 1937 at the Charlottetown hospital.  She enjoyed a long and prosperous career, including a year in Montreal in the late 1940’s.  Dorothy was nursing in rehab in the lat 195’s when she was approached about entering politics.  Having never considered the possibility of a political career, Dorothy, of course, had to think over her decision.  In 1960, with the full support of her husband Ernie and her two children, Ernie and Catherine, she entered the race for Councillor in Ward 2 of Charlottetown.  Upon her victory she resigned from her nursing position, convinced she could only dedicate her time properly to one or the other.  After eight successful years on City Council she decided to attempt the move up and in the fall of 1968 she was elected as Charlottetown’s first woman Mayor.  The first Mayor to dedicate full time attention to the position she opened up the doors of City Hall for citizens of Charlottetown.  Dorothy enjoyed a three year term as Mayor before she finished her political career.  In 1972 she joined the staff of the Prince Edward Hotel and in 1973 she, along with other staff members, met Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip during their stay at the hotel on the Royal visit.  Dorothy retired at the age of 65 in the 1970’s and turned her attention to committee’s in the Charlottetown area such as the Gold Cup and Saucer Parade Committee.  She enjoyed her final retirement with playing tennis at Victoria Park, courses at the University of PEI, and a variety of hobbies and like activities.


Name Year Medal Institution
Corrigan, Robin 1995 Bronze Madawaska Valley District High School,Barry’s Bay, Ontario
Corrigan, Mark 1992 Bronze River Glen School, Red Deer, Alberta
Corrigan, Keith 1999 Collegiate Bronze Selkirk College, Castlegar, British Columbia
Corrigan, John 1995 Gold University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario

The Governor General’s Academic Medal

Pierre Trudeau got it. So did Tommy Douglas, Kim Campbell, Robert Bourassa and Robert Stanfield. And it’s not only politicians — Gabrielle Roy also won it. They are just some of the more than 50,000 people, including Canada’s current Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, who have received the Governor General’s Academic Medal as the start of many great accomplishments.

For more than 125 years, the Academic Medals have recognized the outstanding scholastic achievements of students in Canada. They are awarded to the student graduating with the highest average from high school, as well as from approved college or university programs.

Lord Dufferin, Canada’s third Governor General after Confederation, created the Academic Medals in 1873 to encourage academic excellence across the nation. Over the years, they have become the most prestigious award students in Canadian schools can receive.

Today, the Governor General’s Academic Medals are awarded at four distinct levels: Bronze at the secondary school level; Collegiate Bronze at the post-secondary, diploma level; Silver at the undergraduate level, and Gold at the graduate level.

Medals are presented on behalf of the Governor General by participating educational institutions, along with a personalized certificate signed by the Governor General. There is no monetary award associated with the medal.

One side of the medal shows the portraits of Her Excellency The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson and His Excellency John Ralston Saul. The curved lines in the background are calligraphic flourishes, symbolizing Their Excellencies’s involvement with the spoken and written word. It was designed by Ottawa artist Karen Bailey.

The other side of the medal honours life according to aboriginal tradition, integrating, air, fire, water, and earth and echoing the knowledge and wisdom passed on by elders to new generations. The design is inspired by the circle of life and the four sacred directions. At the Governor General’s installation ceremony, a prayer was said to thank the God of the universe for giving us the light from the East, the warmth from the South, the wind from the West and the purifying cold from the North.

On the medal, the North circle, designed by Inuit artist Andrew Qappik, shows a snowy owl, symbol of wisdom.

Mohawk artist Leigh Smith designed the South circle, featuring the turtle, who helped create the land in a universe of water and sky.

The East circle, designed by Mi’kmaq artist Eugene Denny, represents the rising sun, symbol of dawn, and the Eagle, the gatekeeper of the East.

Coast Salish artist Susan A. Point designed the West circle as a spindle whorl with a salmon motif, representing the continuing life cycle.

The middle circle features elements from the Governor General Adrienne Clarkson’s personal coat of arms. A blend of eastern and western symbolism refers to the Governor General’s family origins, as well as her life and career in Canada.


John Corrigan
NSERC Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Institut für Anorganische Chemie, Universität Karlsruhe, Germany
PHONE: (0721) 608-2855

You could describe John Corrigan’s research on molecular metal clusters as detailed and complex synthetic chemistry. He calls it fun. “Working in a research laboratory is a very exciting and rewarding occupation,” says Dr. Corrigan. “As a synthetic chemist, one derives an enormous amount of satisfaction when ideas grow into concrete results.”

Dr. Corrigan’s Ph.D. thesis at the University of Waterloo is regarded as a significant contribution to the development of a broader and more uniform understanding of the chemistry of molecular metal clusters. He is continuing this research as a postdoctoral fellow at the Universität Karlsruhe in Germany.

Molecular metal clusters consist of a core of metal atoms linked together in a regular array and surrounded by an outer layer of attached groups. Applications extend beyond chemistry to biology, physics and materials science. For example, large clusters of several hundreds of metal atoms may display new and exciting properties, leading to new materials for semiconductors — Dr. Corrigan’s current research topic.

Dr. Corrigan’s interest in science began at early age and was reinforced in high school and university.

“The important role that elementary and high school teachers play in developing an interest in science cannot be over-emphasized,” he says. “My high school chemistry teacher, Jules Poirier, was an enthusiastic teacher who demonstrated the relationships between theory and experiment. At a later stage, the fascinating aspects of transition metal (inorganic) chemistry were introduced to me by Allan Walker at the University of Toronto.”

“We all know that science covers a range of challenging subjects. What is sometimes missed is that science is also fun, interesting and rewarding.”

Dr. Corrigan’s doctoral discoveries at the University of Waterloo earned him one of four $5,000 prizes for the best doctoral research conducted in Canada last year in the natural sciences and engineering.