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.