Irish Canadian Famine Research

Irish Canadian Famine Research

Category: Donovan King

Exhibit chronicles nuns’ care of Irish immigrants

http://www.rcinet.ca/en/2016/04/12/exhibit-chronicles-nuns-care-of-irish-immigrants/

Grey Nuns aid poor

Founded in 1737, the Grey Nuns became providers of health care and social services, coming to the aid of the poor and the sick.
Photo Credit: CBC/McCord Museum

By Lynn Desjardins Tuesday 12 April, 2016

Tens of thousands of people fled the disease and misery of the Irish potato famine in the 1800s and came to Canada sick and poor. In Montreal, three orders of nuns led by the Grey Nuns fed and cared for them, some of the sisters succumbing to disease themselves. An exhibition which chronicles the effort is now touring Montreal at the request of the The Montreal Irish Monument Park Foundation.

The painting entitled “Le Typhus” by Theophile Hamel shows Montreal nuns caring for sick Irish immigrants.
The painting entitled “Le Typhus” by Theophile Hamel shows Montreal nuns caring for sick Irish immigrants. © Collection of Priests of Saint-Sulpice of Montreal, Marguerite/Photo Normand Rajotte

Irish immigrants as ballast

Those fleeing Ireland found it was cheapest to come to Canada. The United States had imposed a tax on immigrants and the voyage was very expensive. Canadian shippers offered cheap passage and essentially used Irish travellers as ballast on ships that otherwise would have returned empty from having delivered lumber to England.

The ships were not suitable for passengers and people had to bring their own, often, meagre provisions for the five-to-10 week crossing. Many were malnourished and already incubating disease like typhus and famine fever.

Prof. Christine Kinealy says the exhibit provides a sense of the suffering of the Irish immigrants and of the compassion of the nuns.
Prof. Christine Kinealy says the exhibit provides a sense of the suffering of the Irish immigrants and of the compassion of the nuns. © Countryside Studios

‘What happened is remarkable’

Some 75,000 Irish arrived in Montreal in 1847 alone and over 6,000 of them died. “What happened is remarkable,” says Christine Kinealy, director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, U.S. and co-curator of the exhibit.

“A number of Catholic religious orders led by three groups of nuns asked permission from the bishop if they could establish fever sheds and establish them near the dockside, so away from the main community.

“They were given permission and the nuns, led by the Grey Nuns opened 22 fever sheds to look after the poor immigrants. We don’t know how many lives precisely were saved, but we can only imagine thousands were saved,” says Kinealy.

Listen

Citizens, afraid of catching diseases, rioted but the trouble was quelled by Mayor John Mills, who approved the sheds, nursed the ill himself, caught typhus and died of it.

Meticulous French records translated

The nuns continued to care for survivors, helping them until they got established and finding homes for more than 1,500 orphaned children. They documented everything meticulously in French. Several documents have been translated and are part of the exhibition along with many artefacts.

One relates the story of a woman named Rose who was thought to be dead and whose children were sent for adoption. Rose survived and found two of them, but not the third. One day at mass, a child rolled a marble toward her and she turned out to be the long-lost daughter.

Suffering and compassion

“It’s a very human story,” says Kinealy. “There are also within the archives lists of the orphans who were left. And when you see their youth and their conditions, again it’s very, very moving…

“You get a sense of the history but also of the suffering of the Irish immigrants and of the compassion of the sisters.”

Advertisements

Saving the Famine Irish exhibit comes to Montreal

Saving the Famine Irish exhibit comes to Montreal

Centaur Reception

A special opening reception at the Centaur Theatre for the “Saving the Famine Irish” Exhibition, Monday, April 11, 2016.

MONTREAL – It is a story of survival and compassion.

The exhibit comes from Connecticut’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University, which hosted the exhibition from March 17, 2015 until March 17, 2016.

The exhibit tells the story of the Grey Nuns, who helped sick Irish immigrants landing in Quebec after they fled the famine during the summer of 1847.

“The story of the Grey Nuns and of the other religious orders who helped the dying Irish immigrants is one of kindness, compassion and true charity,” said Christine Kinealy, founding director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac.

Kinealy is also one of the curators of the exhibit.

“Nonetheless, almost 6,000 Irish immigrants perished in the fever sheds of Montreal,” she said.

“They had fled from famine in Ireland only to die of fever in Canada. This is a remarkable story that deserves to be better known.”

The foundation hopes the exhibit will help highlight the Black Rock monument – an engraved boulder that sits under Montreal’s Victoria Bridge in commemoration of the Irish famine victims.

The foundation would like to  see the monument become a green space and cultural park to honour those who perished, as well as the people who helped them during the trying times.

Irish famine exhibit celebrates courage of Montreal’s Grey Nuns

René Bruemmer, Montreal Gazette

A wreath sits at the base of the black rock in Point Saint Charles, Montreal, Sunday, May 31, 2009, after a ceremony to commemorate the Irish immigrants who died of typhus in Montreal after fleeing the potato famine in 1847. photo  THE GAZETTE/Graham Hughes.
A wreath sits at the base of the black rock in Point Saint Charles, Montreal, Sunday, May 31, 2009, after a ceremony to commemorate the Irish immigrants who died of typhus in Montreal after fleeing the potato famine in 1847. photo THE GAZETTE/Graham Hughes. Graham Hughes / Montreal Gazette

 

When no one wanted the starving Irish, Montreal’s Grey Nuns cared for the new immigrants, many of whom were stricken with typhus. Several of the nuns would die. As would the mayor of Montreal.

A new exhibit titled Saving the Famine Irish: The Grey Nuns and the Great Hunger running this week at the Centaur Theatre chronicles their heroism and that of other religious orders and Montrealers.

When the coffin ships started arriving from Ireland in 1847, unloading passengers into fever sheds in the south of the city, many residents wanted the new arrivals pushed into the St. Lawrence. At one point Montreal’s mayor deterred a mob from doing so.

There were only 50,000 people in Montreal, and many were terrified. More than 100,000 emaciated, often diseased Irish were on their way to Quebec after the potato crop in Ireland failed two years in a row. The British government was unable to care for the starving and America had enacted strict standards for immigration that included costly ship fares out of reach of the impoverished Irish.

 

So they came to Quebec, paying cheap fares to be packed by the hundreds in dank holds, used as ballast in British trade ships that usually shipped lumber. Five thousand died on the crossing, their corpses tossed overboard. Unable to handle the deluge at the immigration depot on Grosse Île near Quebec City, where as many as 5,000 would die, many of the ships were waved on to Montreal by immigration officials.

The ill and the dying were quarantined in the 22 fever sheds built near where the Victoria Bridge now stands.

The Grey Nuns, or Sisters of Charity as they are also known, were the first religious order called in to assist the Irish. Only about 40 in number, most of them would become infected with typhus themselves, carrying the ill from the ships to the sheds and administering to them. Seven of them would die. Those who didn’t convalesced, then came back to continue caring for the Irish. They would nurse them back to health and find homes for more than 1,500 orphans, either with other Irish families or, in most cases, with French Canadians, which is why Quebec’s Irish roots run so deep.

Many members of the Catholic and Anglican clergies, including several priests, gave help, sometimes at the cost of their lives. British soldiers on security detail gave up their rations to feed the starving.

Digging through the annals and archival records of the Grey Nuns, Jason King, a Montrealer now at the National University of Ireland, and Christine Kinealy, director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, have put together a portrait as seen through the eyes of the many caregivers. On display in Connecticut for a year, the modest exhibit of explanatory texts, artifacts and sculptures will tour various locations in Montreal, beginning with the Centaur Theatre.

“The exhibit is to concentrate on the people who went to help them, and in many cases gave up their life,” said Fergus Keyes. “That included John Mills, the mayor of Montreal at the time, who wasn’t Irish, wasn’t Catholic, but he set up the sheds and went and nursed the Irish and it cost him his life. Sometimes he’s called the Martyr Mayor of Montreal.”

Keyes is the director of the Irish Monument Park Foundation, which is working to establish a memorial park to honour the 6,000 Irish who would die in Montreal. At present, the only memorial to the dead is the massive Irish Rock that was unearthed by Irish labourers building the Victoria Bridge and placed over a burial spot on Bridge St. near the span to protect it from desecration in 1959. Keyes’ foundation is working to create park space near the memorial, as has been done in several North American cities.

Saving the Famine Irish: The Grey Nuns and the Great Hunger runs at the Centaur Theatre, 453 St-Francois-Xavier St. in Old Montreal, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily until April 17.

Launch of the “Saving the Famine Irish” Exhibit at Montreal’s Centaur Theatre

http://mtltimes.ca/saving-famine-irish-exhibition-comes-montreal-2/Famine-Exhibition-Map-FT5S

The Montreal Irish Monument Park Foundation is hosting “Saving the Famine Irish: The Grey Nuns and the Great Hunger,” at the Centaur Theatre from April 11th until April 17th. It is arriving from the Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University, Connecticut, which hosted the exhibition, curated by Dr. Jason King and Dr. Christine Kinealy, from March 17th, 2015 until March 17th, 2016.

This moving exhibition tells the story of the religious orders in Montreal whose members gave selflessly to Irish immigrants during the summer of 1847 – their time of greatest need.

Many thousands of people fled from Ireland during the Great Hunger and immigrated to Canada, the only doors never closed to the Irish. Famine immigrants to Montreal were not only among the poorest of the poor, but many of them arrived already sick with typhus fever. Despite this, a number of people in the English and French Canadian communities provided the ailing and the dying with shelter and support. At the forefront of this compassionate movement were the Sisters of Charity, also known as the Grey Nuns.

“The story of the Grey Nuns, and of the other religious orders who helped the dying Irish immigrants, is one of kindness, compassion and true charity,” Christine Kinealy, founding director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac and a professor of history,  said. “Nonetheless, almost 6,000 Irish immigrants perished in the fever sheds of Montreal. They had fled from famine in Ireland only to die of fever in Canada. This is a remarkable story that deserves to be better known.”

This exhibit is being hosted by the Montreal Irish Monument Park Foundation to help underscore the need to create a suitable memorial at the site of the “Black Rock” , which marks Montreal’s Irish Famine cemetery. This new green space would honour the 6000+ Irish immigrants who died and were buried in the area in 1847; as well as the many Montrealers who went to their aid, including John Easton Mills, the Mayor of Montreal at the time. He personally provided care and comfort to these unfortunate immigrants, caught typhus, and died as a hero. It would also honour the many brave French-speaking Quebec families that adopted more than 1000 Irish orphans, resulting in an estimated 40% of Quebecers having Irish ancestry today.

WWL

 

 

“Saving the Famine Irish” Exhibition comes to Montreal

http://mtltimes.ca/saving-famine-irish-exhibition-comes-montreal/Black Rock - 1859 (0)

This moving exhibition tells the story of the religious orders in Montreal whose members gave selflessly to Irish immigrants during the summer of 1847 – their time of greatest need.

Many thousands of people fled from Ireland during the Great Hunger and immigrated to Canada, the only doors never closed to the Irish. Famine immigrants to Montreal were not only among the poorest of the poor, but many of them arrived already sick with typhus fever. Despite this, a number of people in the English and French Canadian communities provided the ailing and the dying with shelter and support. At the forefront of this compassionate movement were the Sisters of Charity, also known as the Grey Nuns.

“The story of the Grey Nuns, and of the other religious orders who helped the dying Irish immigrants, is one of kindness, compassion and true charity,” Christine Kinealy, founding director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac and a professor of history,  said. “Nonetheless, almost 6,000 Irish immigrants perished in the fever sheds of Montreal. They had fled from famine in Ireland only to die of fever in Canada. This is a remarkable story that deserves to be better known.”

This exhibit is being hosted by the Montreal Irish Monument Park Foundation to help underscore the need to create a suitable memorial at the site of the “Black Rock” , which marks Montreal’s Irish Famine cemetery. This new green space would honour the 6000+ Irish immigrants who died and were buried in the area in 1847; as well as the many Montrealers who went to their aid, including John Easton Mills, the Mayor of Montreal at the time. He personally provided care and comfort to these unfortunate immigrants, caught typhus, and died as a hero. It would also honour the many brave French-speaking Quebec families that adopted more than 1000 Irish orphans, resulting in an estimated 40% of Quebecers having Irish ancestry today.

 

Montreal Irish Monument Foundation with Black Rock

Co-curator Dr. Jason King meets with Directors of Montreal Irish Memorial Park Foundation Fergus Keyes, Victor Boyle, and Donovan King to discuss future plans.

Montreal’s Irish Famine Cemetery: Maps and Images

From Donovan King: Commemoration Struggles from 1847 to the Present http://www.montrealirishmonument.com/sites/default/files/MontrealsIrishFamineCemetery.pdf

Black Stone 1.pngBlack Stone 2.pngMap 1.0. Excerpt from 1846 map of MontrealBlack Stone 3.pngMap 2.0. Excerpt from 1853 map of MontrealBlack Stone 4.pngMap 3.0 Excerpt from 1894 map of MontrealBlack Stone 5.pngMap 4.0. Proposed Irish Cultural and Memorial ParkFever Sheds PhotographPhotograph
Construction buildings from top of bridge, Victoria Bridge, Montreal, QC, 1858-59
William Notman (1826-1891)
About 1858-1859, 19th century
Silver salts on paper mounted on card – Albumen process
25 x 30 cm
Gift of Mrs. Henry W. Hill
N-0000.392.2.2
© McCord Museum