Montreal Famine Irish Walk Featured in Irish Times
Montreal’s Irish story gets a new chapter
Irish writers played a prominent role in Blue Metropolis festival, telling new Irish stories in a Francophone city rediscovering its Irish roots dating to the Famine and beyond
Jeff Heinrich, Apr 19, 2016
Donovan King leads walking tour to Black Stone of Famine Irish sites in Montreal.
The Blue Met’s Irish events included a walking tour of Old Montreal, the Lachine Canal and neighbouring Griffintown (now undergoing heavy gentrification) and Pointe-Saint-Charles, both once heavily Irish.
There’s enough local lore there to – fittingly – fill a book.
Participants followed the annual pilgrimage route of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, culminating in the Black Rock by the Victoria Bridge that marks the burial site of 6,000 mostly Irish immigrants who died of ship fever in 1847-’48.
Proceeds of the tour went to the Montreal Irish Monument Park Foundation, which wants the area redeveloped into a commemorative park that does justice to the memory of the dead, some of whom died building the original railroad.
“There’s an expression here that goes: there’s an Irishman under every railway tie,” said tour guide Donovan King, himself of Irish descent. “They were seen as expendable labour.”
That gritty reality is also something that Montreal’s Irish look for when they read Irish writers – harsh modern times that for some reflect their own upbringing in Canada.