Irish Canadian Famine Research

Irish Canadian Famine Research

Month: June, 2014

Montreal Irish Monument Foundation

Montreal Irish Monument Foundation

Welcome to the Montreal Irish Monument Park Foundation Website. We invite you to peruse those sections that may interest you in this extraordinary story!

and to acquaint yourself with our plans…

The Black Rock was placed here 155 years ago to mark the actual site of a tragedy.. and to preserve  from desecration the remains of 6000 Irish who died of ships fever here in escaping death by starvation in their homeland.

Hundreds of their orphaned children were adopted into Quebecois families. Of some 100,000 who came through Montreal in 1847,  tens of thousands fell ill but recovered from their ordeal to move on to live all over Québec, New York, Boston,  and the rest of Canada and the US. Those that survived intermarried.  Their music, humour and some say disposition have become an integral part of the Quebecois character. Today more than 40% of Quebecois have Irish ancestry. Some do not even know it!


Much of the events of “Black 47” in Montreal have been buried. This site has seen its share of hostile takeover attempts and has been loyally defended by generations of eloquent Irish descendants. The site is a testament to courage and a reminder to value life and freedom.


Now the time has come to create the commemorative park and pavilion that these events merit. The Montreal Irish Monument Park will reintegrate this site into the life of Montreal, while adding an important missing link to the history of Montreal, Québec and Canada.

We can’t sit in the middle of the road forever!



An Irish Memorial at the Black Rock

An Irish Memorial at the Black Rock


The Black Rock, at the northern end of the Victoria Bridge, is a memorial to Irish immigrants who died of “ship fever” in 1847-48.

Photograph by: ANDRE PICHETTE

In Montreal’s Calcutta-like hot summer of 1847, large numbers of Irish immigrants were arriving in the city. Many had ship fever (typhus) and as result, approximately 6,000 men, women and children died and were buried in the area around the Montreal side of the Victoria Bridge.

In effect, everyone crossing the bridge is driving over a cemetery. Currently, the only monument to this tragic event is a rock known as Black Rock, which sits by itself while cars zoom by on both sides.

During the annual Walk to the Rock last month, an announcement was made that a new group called the Montreal Irish Memorial Park Foundation had been formed, with the objective of having all levels of government support the building of a large cultural green space in the immediate area.

At the moment, the area is rather desolate, and most of the property appears to be owned by the city of Montreal and/or the federal government. As such, the property is logically a good choice for a new green-space development, under the city’s plan to expand green spaces. There has been a lot of political interest in green-space issues in recent months.

The concept of this memorial-park proposal would be to honour these 6,000 immigrants who died; to honour the many French-speaking Quebec families who adopted, and gave homes to, the almost 1,000 children who were orphaned by this tragedy; and to honour the many Montrealers who went out and gave aid to these poor immigrants and caught the fever and died themselves, including John Mills, who was mayor of Montreal at the time.

This general area also appears to have been an important meeting place for aboriginal groups prior to the arrival of Europeans.

On a practical level, a properly designed cultural park, with sports facilities, would provide green space in the rapidly developing Griffintown area. It would make for a much nicer entry to the city of Montreal over the Victoria span. It could perhaps as well be a tourist attraction for the millions of Irish in North America whose ancestors arrived in that 1847 summer and survived.

It would seem that the city and federal government would like to designate this whole area for light industry and/or housing.

Since the area is currently wide open, with a great deal of space taken up by a seldom-used city parking lot, it would not be difficult to design and build a cultural green space. There would be no demolition required; the city of Montreal has a budget for green-space development; and extra funding is available as a result of developers in Griffintown having been obligated to set aside some funding for green space in the district. What’s more, some individuals, as well as groups in the local Irish community, have indicated they would be willing to donate to a memorial-park initiative.

This could certainly be a big, beautiful and positive project for Montreal. And if planning were to start soon, the basic green space could likely be ready for 2017 — the 375th anniversary of Montreal and 150th anniversary of Canada.

It is never easy to get green-space development included in urban planning. Can I suggest that any and all Montrealers interested in a Montreal Irish Memorial Park send an email to our mayor, Denis Coderre, asking him not to approve any plan for light industry around the north side of the Victoria Bridge until this green-space possibility is studied properly?

I would also like to invite Gazette readers to look at the Montreal Irish Memorial Park Foundation’s web page (, and leave their comments and suggestions.

Montreal Black Stone Irish Famine Memorial Proposed Park

The Montreal Irish Monument Foundation provided this photo of what they’d like a future park to look like. (Handout)

Group seeks to create park near Black Rock memorial to Irish

A local group is pushing for a plan that would reroute Bridge St. south of Wellington in order to create a park on a site where many Irish immigrants died long ago.
The group detailed their plans in an interview with CTV Montreal Sunday at a memorial for the 6,000 Irish immigrants that died in fevers sheds on after coming to the island in 1847.
The Black Rock memorial on Bridge, seen as a sacred site for local Irish, has since seen its surroundings encroached upon by parking lots, a busy street and industrial facilities.

irish park proposed
The group provided this photo of what they’d like a future park to look like. (Handout)

Group representative Dian English said that reclaiming some of that space would create much-needed green space for the area as well as the fast-growing adjacent Griffintown district.
The park would even attract tourists, she believes.

“We think it’s a major cultural destination which is tourism, a great industry and revitalize the whole sector and keeping the respectful commemorative site that is it,” said English.
The park they propose would require a rerouting of Bridge St. and would contain sporting facilities, a cultural centre and a pond with a sculpture of a coffin ship in the middle to symbolize the tragedy that led the immigrants to contract the fatal illness.

A lively community known as Goose Village sat near the site until its demolition mid-60s but the area is currently inhabited mostly by industry. Bridge is at times heavily travelled by the many cars seeking to access the Victoria Bridge.

It’s not currently known whether municipal authorities are considering the plan.

Battle to mark grave of 6,000 Great Hunger victims of Black ’47 in Canada

Battle to mark grave of 6,000 Great Hunger victims of Black ’47 in Canada


The Irish community in Montreal plans to build a park and monument to commemorate the 6,000 Irish victims of ‘Black ’47,’ the worst year of Ireland’s Great Hunger, buried in the area.

An annual tradition among the Irish community in Montreal took place on Sunday, May 25. The community gathers at Saint-Gabriel’s Church in Pointe-Saint-Charles to walk to the black stone near the Victoria Bridge. The stone marks the graves of the 6,000 Great Hunger victims.

Known as the “Irish Commemorative Stone,” “The Black Rock,” “The Ship Fever Monument,” and “The Boulder Stone” it was erected in the mid-19th century by construction workers building the Victoria Bridge. Many of these workers were of Irish descent and wanted to mark the spot.

The inscription on the simply rock reads, “To Preserve from Desecration the Remains of 6,000Immigrants Who died of Ship Fever A.D. 1847-48

“This Stone is erected by the Workmen of Messrs. Peto, Brassey and Betts Employed in the Construction of the Victoria Bridge A.D. 1859″

The discovery and planned official memorial of these Great Famine remains mirrors that of the recent events in Staten Island, where two coffins filled with the remains of Famine victims were buried on the ground of the newly built St. George Courthouse. It is believed that the new courthouse rests upon thousands of Great Hunger dead.

Thousands of Irish traveled to Canada during the Great Hunger (1845 to 1852), but many died from disease. During the worst year, Black ’47, it’s estimated that 100,000 Irish immigrants passed through Montreal. Six-thousand of these souls are buried at the site of the black stone.

Dian English of the Montreal Irish Monument Foundation told the Global News, “They deserve a more fitting end than this.”

English continued, “We want to see a major park done here that has a cultural center, that has four season sports, a real Canadian park.”

The proposed park could have planning issues as it would reroute traffic going to the bridge. The stone is not only in the middle of a major roadway, but it is in an area primed for development.

Sterling Downey, a Montreal City Councillor said the proposed park would enable Montrealers “know the history of the space, the people who built it, the people who played a role in populating it and make sure that history isn’t forgotten and try to give it back.

“It doesn’t mean that you can’t develop. But there are intelligent ways of developing.”

The community’s aim is to make this area a destination to learn and remember Irish history, a history which sadly left few written records. Although an estimated 6,000 people are buried in the area, there are no records of who these people may have been.

Ray Bassett, the Irish Ambassador to Canada, noted, “The famine for us was like our holocaust.”

He pointed out that when he arrived in Montreal he found it difficult to locate the black rock.

He said, “It’s important these people are remembered.

“They’re human beings; their individuals.”