Letter: Support from Ireland for a memorial park at the Black Rock
Dignitaries pay their respects to the Irish typhus victims who fled the potato famine in 1847 at the Black Rock in Montreal, Sunday, May 31, 2009.
Photograph by: Graham Hughes , THE GAZETTE file photo
Re: “An Irish Memorial Park” (Opinion, June 27)
I am writing to express my support for the Montreal Irish Monument Foundation’s campaign to create a memorial park at the Black Rock in Point-St-Charles.
I have recently led a project, under the patronage of Ireland’s President Michael D. Higgins, to digitize and translate the annals of the Grey Nuns who cared for Irish famine emigrants in the fever sheds of Montreal in 1847. These eyewitness accounts are now publicly accessible in a virtual archive hosted by the University of Limerick (http://www.history.ul.ie/historyoffamily/faminearchive/).
In his preface for this virtual archive, President Higgins officially paid tribute to the Grey Nuns on behalf of the Irish nation. He wrote: “During that bleak and terrible period of our history, an estimated one hundred thousand Irish people fled to Canada. It is impossible to imagine the pain, fear, despair and suffering of these emigrants, many of whom lost beloved family members on their journey. As a country we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the Grey Nuns, who cared for so many Irish widows and orphans who were left destitute, impoverished and alone in a strange country.”
At the launch of the virtual archive, Jimmy Deenihan TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Chair of the National Famine Commemoration Committee, the Canadian Embassy in Ireland, and the Quebec Delegation in London also paid tribute to the Grey Nuns and the famine Irish emigrants in Montreal.
It is my heartfelt belief that the City of Montreal should now follow the lead of Ireland’s president and create a fitting and respectful memorial park to commemorate the famine Irish and those who perished in caring for them on the site of the fever sheds. It is now past time that their legacy should be honoured in the land of their adoption as it has been in the place of their birth.