Irish Canadian Famine Research

Irish Canadian Famine Research

Category: Famine Walk

New Deadline for Abstracts March 17: Children and the Great Hunger in Ireland Conference, Quinnipiac University June 14-17 2017



CFP: Children and the Great Hunger in Ireland Conference


Call for Papers: Children and the Great Hunger in Ireland

Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University, in partnership with the Irish Heritage Trust at StrokestownPark, is hosting an international conference,

“Children and the Great Hunger in Ireland.” In any sustained period of food hunger and famine, children are one of the most vulnerable groups in terms of disease and mortality. The Great Hunger that occurred in Ireland between 1845 and 1852 is no exception. This conference will explore the impact of famine on children and young adults. While the focus will be on Ireland’s Great Hunger, a comparative approach is encouraged. It is anticipated that a selection of papers will be published.

  • Children and poor relief •Children and philanthropy •Abandonment and societal shame •Children’s literature and children in literature •Visual representations of children and young adults •Childhood diseases •Vagrancy and prostitution •Children and crime •Averted births and demography •Proselytizing the young •Children in print and material culture •Teaching the Great Hunger •The Earl Grey Scheme •The churches and children •Children in folklore •Sport and leisure •Famine and the family •Children of the Big House •Children and emigration •Memory and survivors’ accounts •Witness accounts •Memorializing the young

Papers are welcomed from all disciplines and from both established scholars and new researchers. Abstracts of 250-300 words for 20-minute papers or proposals for roundtable sessions on specific themes, together with 100-word biographical statements, should be directed to:

Professor Christine Kinealy: And Dr Jason King:

Deadline for receipt of abstracts 31 January 2017

“Saving the Famine Irish” Exhibit Launch in Montreal Grey Nuns Museum


Photo Credit : Archives des Soeurs Grises de Montréal


Fergus Keyes and Victor Boyle (Directors of Montreal Irish Monument Park Foundation) with exhibit curator Dr. Jason King









Montréal – Montréal


Soeurs de la Charité de Montréal « Soeurs Grises » (Website)


Quinnipiac University, Hamden, Connecticut

Target market




For more information

514 842-9411 (Ext 309)


Exhibition about the role of the Grey Nuns during the typhus epidemic in 1847 in Montreal.

Detailed description

Cette exposition temporaire relate l’histoire des Sœurs grises et des autres congrégations religieuses montréalaises qui ont porté secours aux immigrants irlandais lors de l’épidémie de typhus de 1847.

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This temporary exhibition tells the story of the Grey Nuns, and of the other religious orders in Montreal, who helped the Irish Famine Immigrants during the typhus epidemic of 1847.

The exhibit can also be visited in Dublin at the Glasnevin Museum:


Minister Heather Humphreys, President Michael D. Higgins, Professor Christine Kinealy, Dr. Jason King.

“Saving the Famine Irish” Grey Nuns Exhibit now open in Dublin and Montreal


Photo L-R: John Green, Minister Heather Humphreys, President Michael D. Higgins, Professor Christine Kinealy, and Dr Jason King.



Saving the Famine Irish: The Grey Nuns and the Great Hunger


President Michael D. Higgins and Minister for Arts, Heritage, and Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Heather Humphreys opened the “Saving the Famine Irish: The Grey Nuns and the Great Hunger” Exhibit at Glasnevin Museum for the National Famine Commemoration on September 11th 2016. The exhibit is curated by Professor Christine Kinealy, Founding Director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University, and Dr Jason King. It tells the story of the Grey Nuns who cared for typhus-stricken and dying Irish Famine emigrants in the fever sheds of Montreal during the summer of 1847.

In paying tribute to the Grey Nuns, President Higgins declared:

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.

This exhibit is a very important project, which allows us to finally acknowledge the generosity and enormous humanity of those wonderful sisters whose kindness and compassion, during one of the worst moments in our Country’s history, must never be forgotten.

In her address at the National Famine Commemoration, Minister Humphreys stated:

Today we will also remember those such as the Grey Nuns of Montreal who are depicted in a new exhibition here in Glasnevin, and who chose to put themselves in harm’s way to treat and aid Famine vicitms. Such people remain the light of the human spirit confronting the darkness, and should not be forgotten.

The “Saving the Famine Irish: The Grey Nuns and the Great Hunger” exhibit is open to the public FREE of charge from September 11, 2016.


Photo L-R: Minister Heather Humphreys, Dr Jason King, President Michael D. Higgins, and Professor Christine Kinealy.

Mseum Opening Times:

Monday to Sunday & Bank Holidays

Meanwhile, Fergus Keyes of the Montreal Irish Memorial Park Foundation has announced:


We are very pleased to note that the Grey Nuns exhibition called “Saving the Famine Irish: The Grey Nuns and the Great Hunger” is now open for viewing at the Grey Nun’s Motherhouse at 138 rue Saint Pierre in Old Montreal.

Currently the exhibition can be visited any day between about 10am and 5pm – but an effort is being made to extend, or offer a few evening hours.

Even if you saw this exhibit during the few weeks that we had it at the Centaur Theatre, you might want to visit it again. Just the building itself dating back from the 1600”s is beautiful, and our exhibit is only a very small part of their permanent Grey Nuns museum – which, on its own, is fascinating.

The “Saving the Famine Irish: The Grey Nuns and the Great Hunger” will be on display until about the end of November – and is running at the same time as one that is on display in Dublin, Ireland – “Grey Nuns Famine Exhibit at Glasnevin Museum in Dublin”. It involves very similar items as will be found at the Dublin one, with the exception that here in Montreal, the display is bilingual; and also includes some terrific paintings about the event by a local artist, Karen Bridgenaw – which were not available when we had it at the Centaur.

If you plan to attend with a small group, you might want to contact the Grey Nuns at (514) 842-9411 – and they may be able to arrange for a guide to give you a proper tour on their museum.

So if you happen to be in Old Montreal, do take this opportunity to visit this beautiful building and great exhibition.

We will update you with any additional information concerning extended hours etc., as it becomes available.



Michael Collins Pays Tribute to Grey Nuns and Famine Irish in Montreal on Celtic Trail of Tears

From the Irish Times:

Why are 6,000 Irish buried under a Montreal traffic island?

Michael Collins finds an unusual Famine memorial during his 900km run

Michael Collins Reaches Black Rock Famine Memorial in Montreal

Michael Collins interviewed  on CBC news: (8:50 — 11:00)

Michael Collins Montreal 2

Michael Collins Montreal 12

Michael Collins interviewed on CJAD radio about Famine Run:

Michael Collins Montreal 9.jpg

Michael Collins Montreal 1

Michael Collins Montreal 5.jpg

Michael Collins Montreal 10Michael Collins Montreal 8.jpg

In the Footsteps of the Canadian Famine Irish

From Irish Times:

Michael Collins: my marathon a day, for a month, to honour Irish emigrants

The Irish author, emigrant and ultrarunner is running in memory of the 100,000 Irish immigrants who fled to Canada in the Great Famine

Montreal Gazette Endorses Montreal Irish Memorial Park Foundation’s Campaign

Editorial: Forget granite stumps. What about the Black Rock?

Editorial: Forget granite stumps. What about the Black Rock?

Montreal Gazette Editorial Board

Published on: June 1, 2016 | Last Updated: June 1, 2016 5:19 PM EDT

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.
The Black Rock commemorates immigrants who died of typhus in Montreal after fleeing famine in Ireland in 1847-48. Graham Hughes / Montreal Gazette

On the subject of stones, there is a more obvious initiative that deserves the attention of 375th anniversary organizers, and that is the Black Rock memorial on the Montreal side of the Victoria Bridge.

Last Sunday, members of the Irish community took part in an annual walk to honour the 6,000 immigrants who died of typhus in 1847-48 after fleeing famine in Ireland, and to press for improvements to the site.

A proper memorial is long overdue. The 10-foot engraved stone, blackened by exhaust fumes on a median between traffic lanes, is difficult for pedestrians to reach and easily overlooked by motorists who may be oblivious to the mass graves that lie beneath.

A group calling itself the Montreal Irish Memorial Park Foundation has been pushing for the site and adjacent parking lot to be transformed into a green space that would honour not only the Irish victims, but local residents who got sick and died trying to help them.

Coderre has expressed support for the proposal, but it will take effort and co-ordination to turn the vision into reality given that the site sits on federal land. There’s no time to waste. It would be wonderful if the park were ready in time for the city’s 2017 birthday celebrations — a city the Irish helped build.


Montreal Famine Irish annual walk to the Black Stone Memorial

Montreal Irish honour the past with annual ‘Walk to the Stone’

Montreal Irish honour the past with annual ‘Walk to the Stone’

WATCH ABOVE: Irish Montrealers made their annual pilgrimage to the Black Rock Sunday. The stone is a tribute to the immigrants who died of typhus when they landed on the shores of Montreal starting in 1847.

MONTREAL – Montrealers gathered in Pointe-Saint-Charles Sunday for a mass followed by a two-kilometre walk to the Irish Commemorative Stone.

Victor Boyle, president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, said the walk  is a tradition that dates back more than 150 years.

The stone, known as the Black Rock, is a tribute to the immigrants who landed on the shores of Montreal starting in 1847.

Most were Irish immigrants who fled hunger and poverty in Ireland only to die of typhus contracted on their overseas voyage.

An estimated 6,000 dead are believed to be buried under the stone and include not only Irish immigrants but also those who cared for the sick.

”Remembering how much they suffered to get here pays homage to our own heritage,” Boyle said.

The annual event isn’t only about honouring the dead, it’s also about recognizing the contributions of the Irish to Quebec society.

“The Irish came here in 1847 under the worst possible conditions,” Boyle said. “But they were still able to survive and influence the city of Montreal, the people of Montreal, the people of Quebec in general. We’re part of the fabric of this society.”

The monument stands near the Victoria Bridge between two stretches of  Highway 112.

Members of Montreal’s Irish community have been pushing to have the area surrounding the Black Rock turned into a green space, arguing that a memorial park would be a more fitting tribute.

But that is a fight for another day. Participants in Sunday’s march were heading back to Pointe-Saint-Charles for a reception in the church basement.

“After the ceremony, we come back and have some food and drink,” Boyle said. “Which is a typical Irish tradition.”

Bravery of the Grey Nuns of Montreal during Great Famine honored

IrishCentral Staff Writers April 20,2016.


Montreal’s Grey Nuns are being honored, in a touring exhibition, for their charity in caring for and dying with the sick Great Hunger victims in the fever sheds by the St. Lawrence River.

In the exhibit entitled “Saving the Famine Irish: The Grey Nuns and the Great Hunger,” which was on show at the Centaur Theatre in Montreal last week, examines the nuns’ heroism and that of other locals. At least seven nuns died and many became severely ill as they nursed the Irish and found homes for the 1,500 orphans. At least 6,000 Irish people lost their lives.

When the coffin ships from Ireland began arriving in 1847 there were 50,000 people in Montreal. Over 100,000 Irish, emaciated and often diseased with typhus and other deadly infections, were on their way to Quebec and understandably many Montrealers were afraid. Many wanted the new arrivals pushed into the St. Lawrence River and at one-point Mayor John Mills was forced to deter a mob from doing so.

The immigration depot on Grosse Île near Quebec City was unable to handle the deluge of Irish refugees and as many as 5,000 died there. Another 5,000 – at least – died during the crossing from Ireland. Those Irish who survived were quarantined in the 22 fever sheds, built near where Victoria Bridge now stands.

Bridget O'Donnel, a victim of Ireland's Great Hunger, was interviewed by The Illustrated London News in 1949.

Bridget O’Donnel, a victim of Ireland’s Great Hunger, was interviewed by The Illustrated London News in 1849.

The Grey Nuns, also known as the Sisters of Charity, were the first order to be called to help the Irish. There were just 40 nuns in the group and most of them became infected with typhus. They carried the sick Irish from the ships to the sheds where they cared for them. At least even Grey Nuns died, but those who recovered from the disease came back and continued to care for those who needed it.

There were 1,500 orphans left after the massive number of deaths. The Nuns found them homes either with other Irish families or French Canadians.

Also among those caring for the Irish were Catholic and Anglican clergymen, and several priests also lost their lives. There are also tales of British soldiers on security detail at the sheds giving up their rations to feed the Irish.

The Nuns’ own writings on the disaster are the “most detailed eye-witness accounts of the suffering,” according to the National University of Ireland, Galway, Famine Archives. Their annals have been digitized, transcribed and translated and can now be read online.

The nuns amazing work was also described by John Francis Maguire in “The Irish in America,” in 1868. He wrote:

“First came the Grey Nuns, strong in love and faith; but so malignant was the disease that thirty of their number were stricken down, and thirteen died the death of martyrs. There was no faltering, no holding back; no sooner were the ranks thinned by death than the gaps were quickly filled; and when the Grey Nuns were driven to the last extremity, the Sisters of Providence came to their assistance, and took their place by the side of the dying strangers. But when even their aid did not suffice to meet the emergency, the Sisters of St. Joseph, though cloistered nuns, received the permission of the Bishop to share with their sister religious the hardships and dangers of labor by day and night.”

Jason King, from the National University of Ireland (NUI) Galway, and Christine Kinealy, director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, put together a portrait of these incredible caregivers for the new exhibition. The exhibit has been on show at the Great Hunger Museum in Hamden, CT for a year will and now tour for a short time, beginning with Montreal.

“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,” Kinealy 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.”

Fergus Keyes, the Director of the Irish Monument Park Foundation, told the Montreal Gazette, “The exhibit is to concentrate on the people who went to help them, and in many cases gave up their life.

“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.”

It’s hoped that the presence of the exhibition in Montreal will help highlight the campaign to create a park honoring those who lost their lives. Currently the only monument is the “Black Rock” monument, an engraved boulder under Victoria Bridge.



Boulder under Victoria Bridge to commemorate those who died during the Great Hunger and construction of the bridge.