Irish Canadian Famine Research

Irish Canadian Famine Research

Month: February, 2014

Irish Famine Orphan Thomas Quinn's Jacket

One of the most poignant cultural artifacts from the Irish Famine Migration of 1847 is the jacket worn by six year old Thomas Quinn, who was left orphaned with his brother Patrick (12) on Grosse Ile in September of that year and adopted by the French-Canadian Bourque family in Nicolet. Their parents were James Quinn and Margaret Lyons from Strokestown, County Roscommon. Although the Quinn brothers survived the trans-Atlantic voyage on board the Naomi, one of the most notorious of the “coffin ships”, 196 of their fellow passengers (out of a total of 421) perished at sea or in quarantine on the island. Thomas Quinn’s jacket is now part of the collection at the Archives du Séminaire de Nicolet, and was displayed in the Being Irish O’Quebec exhibit at Montreal’s McCord Museum in 2009. As a material culture artifact, its miniature size provides a palpable reminder of the vulnerability of the Irish children who were left orphaned in a new land in 1847.

Original Tighe Family Headstone in Strokestown, Roscommon

In 2013, as part of the Strokestown Gathering, the descendants of Irish Famine Orphan Daniel Tighe (12) returned to Ireland from Quebec to visit the birth place of their ancestors. They made a pilgrimage to the site of the original Tighe family headstone in Strokestown.

RTE Nationwide: Strokestown Quebec Connection Group Gathering 2 (Return of Descendants of Irish Famine Orphan Daniel Tighe to Strokestown from Quebec for the Gathering (2013)

In 2012 RTE, the Irish National Television Station aired a feature on the Tye / Tighe family story including Laval Liberty High students who have been working for the past two years with a group of Students in Strokestown and hope to visit Strokestown for their event. The broadcast can be found at:

In July of 2013, at the opening ceremony for the Strokestown Gathering, Daniel’s great-grandson Richard was the first member of the Tighe family to set foot in his hometown since the Famine separated them from their homeland in 1847. The event was covered once again by RTE Nationwide.

Mountjoy Theatre Project Celtic Cross

Cast members of Mountjoy Theatre Project’s production of “Flight to Grosse Ile” hand carved a Celtic Cross which is one of the key motifs in the play. It was presented to Marianna O’Gallagher, whose book Grosse Ile: Gateway to Canada, 1832-1937 (1984) was the primary source for Jim Minogue’s play. Marianna O’Gallagher’s grandfather Jeremiah designed the Celtic Cross that was unveiled on Grosse Ile in Quebec in 1909. She attended the Mountjoy Theatre Project production of “Flight to Grosse Ile” in 1999. In 2009, the Celtic Cross that was carved for her by the cast and prison inmates was displayed as part of the “Being Irish O Quebec” exhibit at Montreal’s McCord Museum.

In the Mountjoy Theatre Project production of Jim Minogue’s play “Flight to Grosse Ile” (1999), the character of Father Cazeau, a French-Canadian “priest of the Irish” who cared for Famine orphans in the quarantine station in 1847, was played by Tola Mohmoh, an imprisoned immigrant in Ireland. On stage, he declared: “There is no Irish blood in my veins, but there is pity in [my heart] for Irish suffering”. In the programme booklet for the production, Tola Mohmoh himself wrote about how he could empathize with “the plight of the Irish in those hard times”. In his own words: “Being of ethnic origin, and knowing my roots, I can relate to the ‘plight of the Irish”.

Tola Mohmoh as Father Cazeau in Mountjoy Theatre Project’s Production of “Flight to Grosse Ile” (1999) in programme: