Irish Canadian Famine Research

Irish Canadian Famine Research

Category: Irish Famine Drama

In the Footsteps of the Canadian Famine Irish

From Irish Times:

http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/generation-emigration/michael-collins-my-marathon-a-day-for-a-month-to-honour-irish-emigrants-1.2663269

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

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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.

 

Irish Montrealers push for memorial to 6,000 immigrants who died of typhus

From Montreal Gazette

Irish Montrealers want memorial to immigrants who died of typhus

Published on: May 30, 2016 | Last Updated: May 30, 2016 2:11 PM EDT

Francis Braddeley of the Erin Sports Association sings the Irish national anthem during the annual walk to the Black Rock at the foot of the Victoria Bridge in Montreal, on Sunday.
Francis Braddeley of the Erin Sports Association sings the Irish national anthem during the annual walk to the Black Rock at the foot of the Victoria Bridge in Montreal, on Sunday. Peter McCabe / Montreal Gazette

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

http://www.irishcentral.com/roots/history/Bravery-of-the-Grey-Nuns-of-Montreal-during-Great-Famine-honored.html

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.

 

black-stone-18

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

 

Montreal Famine Irish Walk Featured in Irish Times

http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/montreal-s-irish-story-gets-a-new-chapter-1.2616295

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

Montreal Famine Walk 6

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.

Montreal Walking Tour 5

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.

Montreal Famine Walk 4

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Behind the Scenes: Montreal Launch of the “Saving the Famine Irish” Exhibit

From Donovan King:

I had a great day setting up this exhibition, curated by Dr. Jason King and Dr. Christine Kinealy, with my fellow directors at the Irish Monument Park Foundation. Exhibit Launch Montreal 14Exhibit Launch Montreal 2

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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.”

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.