St Pat’s Grand Marshal Barbara Miller-Roy

St Pat’s Grand Marshal Barbara Miller-Roy

LIQ_Mag_Mar2014_Cover_FinalThis article first appeared in the March 2014 issue of Life in Québec Magazine.

Life in Quebec Magazine is a lifestyle publication covering the Quebec region and is published at least 3 times per year.

Subscribers have their copies mailed directly to them.

You can subscribe here to guarantee your copy

Swimming pioneer, star hockey mom, fighter

An interview with Barbara Miller-Roy by Peter Black

There may be a certain irony to the fact the mother of a Quebec City-bred hockey legend often dubbed St. Patrick should be the grand marshal of the city’s St. Patrick’s parade on March 22.

“Sometimes I say why did I call him Patrick?” says Barbara Miller-Roy. “I guess I must have been influenced by my high school years and my Irish ancestry.”

LiQ_Mag_Abonnez-vousWhatever compelled her to bestow such an Irish name on the Hockey Hall of Fame goalie, Miller-Roy does come by her Irish heritage honestly. Her mother, Anna Peacock, was of mixed Irish and Scottish descent, while dad Ed Miller’s family came to New Brunswick from Ireland.

She attended St. Leonard’s Elementary School for English-Catholic girls, then went on to St. Patrick’s High School, where taught Marianne O’Gallagher, the revered curator of Quebec’s Irish history. O’Gallagher was grand marshal of the first edition of the revived St. Patrick’s parade in 2010.

At age six Miller-Roy started swimming at the YWCA on rue Ste. Anne in the old city. That led to a passion for an emerging aquatic sport, an adventure of a lifetime, and the possibility that Patrick Roy might have been a champion swimmer rather than goalie.

Miller-Roy became involved in competitive synchronized swimming and in 1959 her team, comprising three other Barbaras, performed in seven European countries.

After she graduated high school the city hired Miller-Roy as a swimming coach and among her students were sons Patrick and Stephane (she also has a daughter, Alexandra). Miller-Roy recalls how Patrick “was always very competitive, even young.” Both sons, though, swapped the pool for the rink, and both were drafted by NHL teams.

Patrick’s hockey career has certainly been a major part of Miller-Roy’s life, but for most of those years she was a successful real estate agent. Eight years ago an innocuous injury on the tennis court led to a near fatal attack of flesh-eating disease and the amputation of her left arm. She credits her survival to being physically fit and “the fact that I had competed and I knew what it was to win and lose and I had a great will to keep on living.” She says there are few activities she has not been able to do since the episode, including golf.

When Miller-Roy waves to the crowds lining the streets for the St. Pat’s parade, she will do so with perhaps a sigh of reminiscence. At 19 she was crowned la reine of the 1961 edition of le Carnaval – an early highlight of a well-lived life.

“I’ve been lucky to have had a kind of a character that I don’t fall too easily.” Something that could also be said of the Irish of Quebec.

Categories: News

About Author

Peter Black

For years Peter Black was the producer of Breakaway, on CBC Radio One in Quebec City. Before arriving in Quebec City in the 1990s, he lived and worked in Ottawa and Montreal. Peter is married and has two sons.

Write a Comment

Only registered users can comment.