Irish Canadian Famine Research

Irish Canadian Famine Research

Category: Montreal Fever Sheds

Great Famine Voices Roadshow coming to the United States and Canada

FIRST GREAT IRISH FAMINE VOICES ROADSHOW TOURING THE USA AND CANADA

Bringing together Irish emigrants and descendants during the Great Famine of Ireland

http://www.strokestownpark.ie/great-famine-voices-roadshow/

The Great Famine Voices Roadshow will be launched in New York on 9th April at the American Irish Historical Society. The Great Famine Voices Roadshow is a series of open house events in the United States and Canada that bring together Irish emigrants, their descendants, and members of their communities to share family memories and stories of coming from Ireland to North America, especially during the period of the Great Hunger and afterwards.

“We are excited about meeting people during the Great Famine Voices Roadshow and hearing their family stories about how their ancestors came from Ireland to start new lives in the United States,” declared Christine Kinealy, Director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University, Connecticut. “We hope that people of Irish heritage in Canada will come to the Roadshow to share their family memories,” added Professor Mark McGowan from the University of Toronto.

“This Roadshow will provide a unique opportunity for Irish-Americans and Irish-Canadians to share their stories, strengthen their sense of ancestry, and historical and current Irish connections. All are welcome to these events”, said Caroilin Callery, a Director of the National Famine Museum in Strokestown Park, Ireland. “Over the past few years, we have been in search of stories from ‘the next Parish’ in North America, where so many of those who survived the Great Hunger – the biggest catastrophe of 19th century Europe – made new lives. We need to hear these stories,” she continued.

A selection of these family memories and stories will be made freely available on the Great Famine Voices online archive.  www.greatfaminevoices.ie 

The Great Famine Voices Roadshow in the USA and Canada will be hosted by the National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park, Ireland, and the Irish Heritage Trust, an independent charity. The Roadshow will be held in partnership with Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University, the American Irish Historical Society, and the University of Toronto. It is funded by the Government of Ireland Emigrant Support Programme.

 

DETAILS OF ROADSHOW VENUES – All Welcome to these Free Open House Events. 

April 9th: American Irish Historical Society, 991 Fifth Avenue, New York (launch)

April 11th 4pm-8.30pm: Burns Library, Boston College, 140 Commonwealth Avenue, Chestnut Hill

April 13th, 11am-4pm: Glucksman Ireland House, 1 Washington Mews, New York University

April 15th, 1pm-4:30pm: Parkway Central Library, 1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia.

April 17th, 11am-3pm: Knights of Columbus Museum, 1 State Street, New Haven, Connecticut.

May 22nd, 5-9pm:  Madden Hall, St. Michael’s College, 81 St. Mary Street, University of Toronto.

May 27th, 10am-5pm: St. Gabriel’s Church, 2157 Centre Street (and Walk to the Stone), Montreal.

 

 

For media inquiries in the USA, contact: Turlough McConnell at tm@turloughmcconnell.com or Elizabeth Martin (917) 873-6613 ekm@turloughmconnell.com

For queries, or if you would like to contribute a family memory or story online, contact Dr Jason King at the Irish Heritage Trust: faminestudies@irishheritagetrust.ie

http://www.strokestownpark.ie/great-famine-voices-roadshow/

 

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“Saving the Famine Irish: The Grey Nuns and the Great Hunger” Exhibit Launched at Maynooth University

Russell Library Grey Nuns Exhibition Launch. Photos by Alan Monahan (1).JPG

 

Image: Letter introducing the Bishop of Montreal from the collections of the Russell Library 
When: Wednesday, November 8, 2017 – 16:00 to Thursday, January 25, 2018 – 17:00
Where: Russell Library

Saving the Famine Irish: The Grey Nuns and the Great Hunger
Exhibition at the Russell Library

An exhibition exploring the little known story of the Grey Nuns and other religious orders in Montreal, who provided care and shelter to Irish immigrants in Canada during the Great Hunger, will launch in the Russell Library on Wednesday, 8 November at 16.00. Saving the Famine Irish: The Grey Nuns and the Great Hunger was curated by Professor Christine Kinealy, Director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University, and Dr. Jason King.

Russell Library Grey Nuns Exhibition Launch. Photos by Alan Monahan (40)

Russell Library Grey Nuns Exhibition Launch. Photos by Alan Monahan (84)

Russell Library Grey Nuns Exhibition Launch. Photos by Alan Monahan (12)

One of the first priests to enter the fever sheds with the Grey Nuns was Father Patrick Morgan, who was ordained at Maynooth College in May 1842. Morgan was also one of the first clergy to perish from the typhus epidemic, dying on the 8 July, 1847.

Russell Library Grey Nuns Exhibition Launch. Photos by Alan Monahan (7)

Saving the Famine Irish: The Grey Nuns and the Great Hunger exhibition features original material from the historical collections of Maynooth University and St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth including the matriculation entry for Father Patrick Morgan and a letter of introduction for Montreal’s Bishop, Ignace Bourget (1799-1885), who visited Maynooth in 1847 to recruit Irish missionary priests.

Russell Library Grey Nuns Exhibition Launch. Photos by Alan Monahan (16)

The exhibition will run in the Russell Library until 25 January, 2018 and is free to view during the Library opening times of Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, 10:00 to 13:00 and 14:00 to 17:00.
https://www.maynoothuniversity.ie/news-events/saving-famine-irish-grey-nuns-and-great-hunger

Photos by Alan Monaghan

Russell Library Grey Nuns Exhibition Launch. Photos by Alan Monahan (97)

Russell Library Grey Nuns Exhibition Launch. Photos by Alan Monahan (43)

Russell Library Grey Nuns Exhibition Launch. Photos by Alan Monahan (52)

Russell Library Grey Nuns Exhibition Launch. Photos by Alan Monahan (15)

Russell Library Grey Nuns Exhibition Launch. Photos by Alan Monahan (18)Russell Library Grey Nuns Exhibition Launch. Photos by Alan Monahan (34)

Maynooth launch aRussell Library Grey Nuns Exhibition Launch. Photos by Alan Monahan (5).JPG

Russell Library Grey Nuns Exhibition Launch. Photos by Alan Monahan (11)

Russell Library Grey Nuns Exhibition Launch. Photos by Alan Monahan (6)

Russell Library Grey Nuns Exhibition Launch. Photos by Alan Monahan (10).JPG

 

Montreal, refugees, and the Irish Famine of 1847

   Montreal Gazette (August 12, 2017)

http://montrealgazette.com/feature/montreal-refugees-and-the-irish-famine-of-1847

Beyond Black Rock: Plans for a memorial park to honour as many as 6,000 typhus victims from the Summer of Sorrow appear to be in jeopardy.

What if thousands of people lay dying on Montreal’s waterfront?

What if some of the city’s best doctors, nurses, members of the clergy and the mayor were caring for the sick newcomers at the risk of their own lives?

What if the dead were being buried in hastily dug trenches next to the makeshift hospital, piled three coffins deep?

What if the death toll rose to the equivalent of 12 per cent of the city’s population?

You’d think a city couldn’t forget a thing like that.

The events of Black 47 are very real to Montreal-born, Dublin-based historian Jason King. On visits to his hometown, King, academic coordinator for the Irish Heritage Trust, which operates the Irish National Famine Museum, always makes a point of visiting the site in Pointe-St-Charles where as many as 6,000 people died of typhus in 1847.

Historian Jason King stands under Le Typhus by Theophile Hamel on the ceiling of Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel in Old Montreal. The painting depicts the typhus epidemic of 1847 in which Montreal nuns cared for the sick in fever sheds in Pointe-St-Charles. Credit: Peter McCabe / Montreal Gazette

You pass under a railway bridge, past a Costco store, derelict warehouses and empty parking lots bordered by concrete blocks. It’s easy to miss the monument to the typhus victims — a rough boulder in the median between traffic lanes on Bridge St., near the Victoria Bridge. On it are inscribed the words:

“To Preserve from Desecration the Remains of 6000 Immigrants Who died of Ship Fever A.D. 1847-48

This Stone is erected by the Workmen of Messrs. Peto, Brassey and Betts Employed in the Construction of the Victoria Bridge A.D. 1859.”

King contemplates the stone in silence, broken only by passing vehicles, the sighing wind and screeching of seagulls.

“You do feel a real sense of connectedness when you come to the actual place,” he says.

“Usually, when I come I’m by myself. There’s really nobody here. There’s passing traffic, but that kind of becomes white noise after a minute or two. The rock and the strange, empty parking lot. It’s a very moving site, a very strange site,” King says.

Dozens of cities, including Toronto, New York, Boston and Philadelphia, have sites commemorating the one million Irish who fled their homeland during the Great Famine of 1846-51 — of whom an estimated one in five died en route of disease and starvation.

Each year, some 20,000 tourists journey to Grosse-Île, the former quarantine station near Quebec City where more than 5,000 famine migrants died in 1847.

But Montreal, whose Black Rock is the world’s oldest famine memorial, has no appropriate place of remembrance — just this dangerous spot in the middle of a busy commuter route.

Google Earth image shows location of the Black Rock. The proposed memorial park would be built on land now occupied by the parking lot above it, and cement site to the left.

Yet it was in Montreal that the tragedy struck hardest, and that the community most heroically rose to the challenge of helping the sick and dying, King says.

“Montreal was in a sense the epicentre of the 1847 famine migration,” he says.

“It was the largest city in British North America. It was the only major city to have famine refugees in massive numbers come into the city itself.”

For the past five years, members of the local Irish community have been working to create a memorial park honouring those who fled the famine, only to die on Montreal’s waterfront.

Their plan calls for moving the Black Rock to the future park on the east side of Bridge St. at rue des Irlandais, an area now occupied by a parking lot and Lafarge cement site.

But in May, organizers of the Montreal Irish Monument Park Foundation learned the land earmarked for the park had been sold to Hydro-Québec, to build an electrical substation to supply the future Réseau électrique métropolitain (REM) train. Mayor Denis Coderre, who had initially pledged support for the park, now insists the substation must go ahead but has promised to find a compromise.

Coderre and other city officials refused to be interviewed for this article.

The Black Rock memorial marking the graves of typhus victims is lowered into place in 1859. Credit: William Notman / McCord Museum

The city is also keeping mum on its plans for the rest of the area between Bridge St., the Bonaventure Expressway and Mill St. — formerly the working-class neighbourhood of Goose Village, which the city demolished in 1964. The Coderre administration is reportedly eyeing the site for a future baseball stadium, to bring back Major League Baseball to Montreal.

“The Goose Village sector is targeted in the Stratégie Centre-Ville (a downtown development plan) which will be unveiled in the near future,” is all city spokesperson Jules Chamberland would say in an email exchange.

The REM project calls for a light-rail station underneath the Lachine Canal’s Peel Basin, with a north entrance in Griffintown and a south entrance about a 10-minute walk from the Goose Village site.

But to King, any project that brushes aside the site’s tragic history would be a violation of the last resting place of the thousands who died.

“You can’t imagine this happening anywhere else, that you’d have a mass grave in complete abandonment,” he says.

Sylvain Gaudet, a researcher with the Société d’histoire de Pointe-Saint-Charles, has pored over newspapers, maps and property records to document the burial grounds where the typhus victims were laid to rest. Initially, the sick were housed in sheds near the Peel Basin; later, sheds were built for them on the Goose Village site. Archaeological research is needed to determine what traces remain of the thousands buried at the two sites, Gaudet said.

Historian Jason King at the Irish Commemorative Stone, the Black Rock, situated in the median between traffic lanes on Bridge St. Proponents want a memorial park to be built on an adjacent site, and the rock moved there. Credit: Peter McCabe / Montreal Gazette

Anne-Marie Balac, an archaeologist who worked for Quebec’s Ministry of Culture for 27 years and is now a consultant, said “it’s unthinkable” to allow any project to be built without a thorough investigation of what lies under the ground.

“We know it has a very high archaeological potential because it’s a cemetery,” she said.

Several bodies have been unearthed over the years, including during roadwork and building of the Costco, leaving no doubt that the site is a former cemetery, Balac said.

In 1942, excavations near the entrance to the Victoria Bridge turned up the coffins of 12 typhus victims in a trench-like grave. They were reinterred near the Black Rock.

“It’s urgent to act before going too far,” Balac said.

* * *

In the spring of 1847, Montrealers braced for an influx from famine-stricken Ireland, where the potato crop had failed in both of the previous two years.

“We learn from British papers and private letters published in those of the United States, that the preparations for emigration from Britain, and especially from Ireland, are unprecedentedly great,” the Montreal Witness newspaper reported on March 8.

Fever sheds along the near shore, to the right, are seen from Mount Royal in 1852 in this lithograph by Endicott & Co. Credit: McGill University Rare Books and Special Collections

Fearing a deluge of undesirables, the United States tightened regulations for passenger ships, pushing up travel costs.

This meant the poorest immigrants would be forced to travel via Quebec City and Montreal, the Witness correctly predicted.

Soon “our shores are likely to be thronged with emigrants, chiefly of a class who will have little or nothing left when they arrive,” the paper warned, urging that “no time ought to be lost” in making preparations.

But nothing could have prepared Montrealers for what they saw when sick and starving immigrants began stepping off steamboats from Quebec City.

“Good God! What a spectacle. Hundreds of people, most of them lying naked on planks haphazardly, men, women and children, sick, moribund and cadavers; all of this confusion hit the eyes at once,” the Annals of the Sisters of Charity (Grey Nuns) reported on June 7.

The overcrowded “coffin ships” that brought the migrants to the New World — often Canadian timber vessels making the return trip with a human cargo — were the perfect breeding ground for typhus, spread by body lice infected with the Rickettsia prowazekii bacterium. (The cause would not be discovered until 1916.)

Lithograph shows, in the background, fever sheds for the typhus victims of 1847 during the 1850s, when they were used to house the workers who built the Victoria Bridge from 1854-1859. Credit: McCord Museum

Voices from Montreal’s Summer of Sorrow

Numerous sources, including records kept by religious communities and newspaper reports, paint a vivid account of the famine migration to Montreal.

Immigrants who arrived in the city were required to report to the immigration office, which looked like this one from Illustrated London News in 1850. Credit: McCord Museum

After going out to investigate, she returned to the Mother House to describe the horrific condition of the immigrants and ask for volunteers.

She did not need to do so more than once, since our dear Sisters came in large numbers.

(Annals of the Grey Nuns)

June 13: As thousands pour into the city, the typhus sheds near the Lachine Canal are quickly overwhelmed. Patients are crowded three to a bed, with corpses lying alongside the living. Bodies pile up outside, awaiting burial.

The Grey Nuns record heartrending scenes, like a man who arrives from Grosse-Île searching for his wife, who had been sent on to Montreal before him. He finally spots her corpse on a pile of bodies and takes it in his arms, calling her name and kissing her, unable to believe that she is really dead.

Once he is convinced that she no longer exists, he abandons himself to his pain; the air is filled with his cries and sobs. … Scenes of this nature occur several times a day.

(Annals of the Grey Nuns)

National Famine Walk: ‘Remember your soul and your liberty’

 

From Irish Times (25 May 2017):

http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/national-famine-walk-remember-your-soul-and-your-liberty-1.3096498

National Famine Walk: ‘Remember your soul and your liberty’

Famine scholars are about to follow in the footsteps of the 1,490 tenants forcibly exiled to Canada from Denis Mahon’s Strokestown estate

One of Rowan Gillespie’s Famine statues in Dublin. Photograph: Kate Geraghty

One of Rowan Gillespie’s Famine statues in Dublin. Photograph: Kate Geraghty

 

Michael Collins and Jason King
 

The National Famine Walk will take place over six days from May 27th to June 1st as an international group of Famine scholars follow in the footsteps of the 1,490 tenants from Denis Mahon’s Strokestown Park House estate, who were escorted by a bailiff to Dublin to ensure they boarded ship and left Ireland in 1847.

(Shared here with kind permission of RTÉ News)

 

The tenants’ fate after they left Dublin is a harrowing one. They travelled on open deck packet steamers to Liverpool, where they waited in the cellars of quayside buildings at Liverpool docks to board ships to Canada. The four ships they boarded – Erin’s Queen, Naomi, The Virginius and The John Munn – were badly fitted out and poorly provisioned. Almost half of those who embarked died aboard ship or in the “fever sheds” at the Grosse Île quarantine station when they arrived in Quebec. Of course, this was not known to them as they walked along the Royal Canal to Dublin, away from hunger and hoping for a better life.

http://nationalfamineway.ie/about-the-1490/crossing-on-the-coffin-ships/

The National Famine Walk begins at one of the numerous points of origin for what has been an ongoing research initiative to document the passage of more than 100,000 tenants forcibly exiled to Canada in 1847. The transatlantic voyage and passage along the Saint Lawrence river from Quebec to Toronto resulted in the second greatest loss of life in the Victorian era, second only to the Crimean War. Of those who left, more than 20,000 perished at sea or along the Saint Lawrence River, marking Canada with the infamous distinction of having the largest Irish mass graves outside of Ireland.

 

The 1847 evictions, transfer and passage to Canada encapsulate a twice-told tale.

First, it’s a story of British government and Irish landlord neglect. Mahon evicted 3,006 tenants and paid just under £4,000 for the passage of almost 1,000 of those he assisted to emigrate. For his unfailing cruelty, on November 2nd, 1847, Mahon was shot to death as he travelled home to Strokestown House from a Board of Guardians meeting. Murder was not a deterrent for the landlords. Evictions continued until some 11,000 persons of the 12,000 tenants were removed from Mahon’s estate.

Denis Mahon

In exporting evicted tenants, passage to Canada proved the cheaper alternative to America, given that the American authorities, anticipating the influx of a starving flotsam of Irish, amended their maritime Passenger Acts. Imposing stricter regulations, the acts barred disease-ridden ships from arriving into American ports. In 1847, the most destitute Irish emigrants were sent to the British North American colonies in New Brunswick and Canada East and West (Quebec and Ontario) on retrofitted lumber vessels as human ballast. These coffin ships averaged over 300 persons per vessel, three times that allowed under the American Passenger Acts. Mortality rates approached 40 per cent.

The story of emigration to Canada is, secondly, a contrasting one of succour and sacrifice, as a predominantly Catholic, French Canadian province of Quebec braced for and ministered to a dispossessed, disease-ravaged people in one of the greatest unrecognised human refugee crises of the 19th century.

The immigrant numbers are extraordinary. Most of them arrived at Grosse Île in Quebec, which is now a National Historic Site with a glass wall memorial for the 5,000 Irish interred in mass graves on the island. Grosse Île is twinned with the Irish National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park House, where Taoiseach Enda Kenny unveiled a similar glass wall memorial to its missing 1,490 emigrants in 2014.

Enda Kenny StrokestownKevin Vickers at Strokestown 1490 memorial

Many of those 1,490 emigrants died on Grosse Île. It was there that James Quinn, a 45-year-old Irish emigrant from Lissonuffy, on the Strokestown Park estate, whispered his dying words to his two young sons, Patrick (12) and Thomas (6): “Remember your soul and your liberty”.

The orphaned Quinn brothers were adopted by a French-Canadian family who gave them a good education. They both entered the seminary and became priests with joint French and Irish congregations. In 1877, Patrick Quinn founded the still flourishing St. Patrick Society in Richmond, Quebec, where there is a theatre named after him. His younger brother, Thomas Quinn, became a champion for his French-Canadian parishioners.

image-thomas-quinnPatrick Quinn

At the First Congress of the French Language in Quebec City, on June 25th, 1912, Thomas Quinn thanked the French-Canadian people for their generosity. In a speech entitled “Une Voix d’Irlande” (A Voice of Ireland), he declared in French:

“It was in 1847. A famine, even worse than the one which had preceded it, threatened the Irish people with total extinction. The most astonishing part of the awful spectacle was, not to see the people die, but to see them live through such great distress. Like walking skeletons they went, in tears, seeking hospitality from more favoured lands. Stirred with compassion, French-Canadian priests, braving the epidemic, contended for the glory of rushing to their relief. I still remember one of these admirable clergymen who led us to the bedside of my dying father. As he saw us, my father with his failing voice repeated the old Irish adage, ‘Remember your soul and your liberty’.”

http://nationalfamineway.ie/about-the-1490/the-story-of-the-1490/

Like the Quinn brothers, Daniel and Catherine Tighe also sailed to Grosse Île where they were orphaned, adopted by a French-Canadian family, and allowed to keep their Irish surname. In 2000, Jim Callery, founder of the Irish National Famine Museum, visited Daniel’s son Léo Tye in rural Quebec and heard the story that inspired the search for the missing 1,490 Strokestown emigrants. He also unveiled a Celtic Cross Famine memorial in Quebec City that he had donated on behalf of the Famine Museum. In July 2013, Léo’s son Richard Tye made a return visit from Quebec to Strokestown, and was reunited with the Irish branch of the family. His Irish cousin Philip Tighe will be on the National Famine Walk.

Strokestown park house 1

The suffering of Famine emigrants was not confined to Grosse Île. With the arrival of 75,000 typhus-afflicted refugees, the city of Montreal, then a city of 50,000, hastily erected fever sheds to contain disease. The Annals of the Grey Nuns, a recently translated cache of diaries, details the convergence of municipal and religious groups involved in saving Irish lives, often at great personal cost. Notable casualties included the Protestant mayor of Montreal and myriad priests and nuns who worked the fever sheds of Pointe Sainte Charles.

John Easton Mills

In the wake of the emigrant passing through Montreal, over 3,000 Irish orphan children left in the care of religious orders were eventually adopted, like the Quinn and Tighe siblings, into French-Canadian families.

The journey onward into Ontario has its own history. Less a story of commonality and religious succour, the death toll is lower, given how most afflicted died at Grosse Île and Montreal. Also, a subtle sectionalism led to journalistic self-censorship in accurately chronicling the passage and burial of those who died along riverside towns throughout Ontario.

Such was the forgotten history of Canadian involvement with the fated year of 1847, simply because the crisis and sacrifice had happened so far away, within a single season. For the most part, accounts of the worst suffering were recorded in French, so the episode closed in the forgotten reaches of Quebec. That is, until recently.

In 2016, Irish author and ultra-runner Michael Collins ran a marathon-a-day for a month from Grosse Île to Toronto; he was inspired by his reading of the Grey Nuns’ annals. En route, along the Saint Lawrence, he met historical societies researching their town’s archives and recorded anecdotal stories passed down by descendants, which he documented on his Irish Diaspora Run 2016 Facebook page. More than 100,000 people visited the page during the run, and he has reactivated it for the National Famine Walk.

digital-irish-famine-archive-home-page

http://faminearchive.nuigalway.ie/

The project continues. At Grosse Île quarantine station, a memorial serves as a cautionary reminder of what can befall a dispossessed people, and at the terminus of the route in Toronto, Ireland Park has become a place of pilgrimage, memorialising the passage of 1847. Situated along Toronto’s docklands, a series of Rowan Gillespie Famine sculptures reach back across the ocean to Gillespie’s Famine sculptures on Dublin’s Custom House Quay Docklands. Without descriptive plaques detailing the history of 1847, the sculptures simultaneously encompass and transcend Irish history, evoking the universality of the immigrant experience, both past and present. In the furtherance of peace, Ireland Park Foundation has reconfigured a national tragedy, not as a source of differentiation, but of shared experience. In 2017, the foundation will unveil Dr George Robert Grasett Park, celebrating the efforts of the Canadian medical profession which so tirelessly worked to save both those who arrived and Toronto’s own citizens from disease.

Michael Collins Toronto 13

What remains yet to be memorialised is Montreal’s response to 1847. Specifically, The Black Rock memorial, a stone hastily erected by workmen who uncovered over 6,000 bodies during the 1859 construction of the Victoria Bridge, lies in the median of a major arterial in downtown Montreal and is in jeopardy of being summarily removed as the city plans a major overhaul of the area. The Montreal Irish Monument Park Foundation is locked in a tenuous battle with city, provincial and federal authorities to preserve and allocate what is currently an abandoned parking lot as the future site of a memorial grounds honoring both the 1847 emigrants and those who came to their aid.

Montreal Famine Walk 7

Michael Collins Black Stone 1

The National Famine Walk complements these projects to ensure that Famine emigrants like Strokestown’s missing 1,490 are commemorated on both sides of the Atlantic. In following in their footsteps, the walkers are not only honouring their legacy. They are embarking on a journey to trace the descendants of the 1,490 emigrants in Canada and the United States, especially from Irish Famine orphans adopted in Quebec. They are also laying the foundation for a permanent walking trail along the Royal Canal between Strokestown and Dublin, the National Famine Way. With its advent, hitherto inaccessible paths are providing opportunities to walk in the footsteps of the dispossessed.

Prof. Christine Kinealy (and founding director of the Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University) talks to ADAPT about the cultural impact of the great famine and how it influenced Ireland in years to come.

 

Author Cathal Poirteir tells about the particular character from the 1,490 who left Strokestown, one John O’Connor. His story is a tragic one as he died during the famine, but not from hunger!

 

The Famine walkers’ journey from May 27th to June 1st can be followed in real time at http://www.nationalfamineway.ie.

Famine Way Walkers Re-enact the arrival of the 1,490 at Spencer Dock, Dublin.

Having waked from Strokestown, Co Roscommon, Famine Way Walkers 2018 re-enact the final steps journey of 1490 migrant tenants from Strokestown as they made their way towards the replica famine ship, the Jeanie Johnston. This is a playlist of three short but separate videos.

The National Famine Way is being developed by Strokestown Park House, the Irish National Famine Museum, and the Irish Heritage Trust in partnership with Waterways Ireland, the ADAPT Centre for Digital Content Technology, Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University, Ireland Park Foundation, the University of Toronto, Royal Canal Amenity Group, Roscommon and Longford County Councils, and Strokestown Community Town Team.

 National Famine Walk.png

Michael Collins and the Irish Famine Novel

From Irish Times (March 31, 2017)
http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/below-the-rust-belt-trilogy-a-famine-undercurrent-1.3032081

Below the Rust Belt trilogy, a Famine undercurrent

Historian Jason King finds Michael Collins has spawned new forms of creative energy in finding his own way back to the story of the Famine

Irish Author and Ultra Runner Michael Collins on National Famine Walk

From Irish Times (March 31, 2017)

http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/i-feel-an-obligation-to-re-engage-and-better-understand-what-it-is-to-be-irish-1.3032147

‘I feel an obligation to re-engage and better understand what it is to be Irish’

Author Michael Collins explains why as an emigrant, a father and a writer he feels drawn to explore his own sense of Irishness

The Story of 1490 orphan James Flood

Enda Kenny Strokestown

On May 11, 2014, Taoiseach Enda Kenny unveiled a glass wall memorial to the 1490 emigrants during the National Famine Commemoration at Strokestown.

James Flood Irish Famine Memorial Wall Strokestown.png

https://www.rte.ie/news/player/2014/0511/20576539-national-famine-commemoration-held-at-strokestown/

Colin McMahon has traced the 1490 orphan James Flood’s movements between Strokestown, Liverpool, Grosse Île and Montreal in an article entitled “Recrimination and Reconciliation: Great Famine Memory in Liverpool and Montreal at the Turn of the Twentieth Century,” Atlantic Studies: Global Currents 11.3 (2014): 344-64.

Colin McMahon.pngColin McMahon

In McMahon’s own words (347-348):

The Famine influx has long been an emotionally charged and politically potent memory for Irish groups in Liverpool and Montreal, not only because of the devastation wrought in their port cities in 1847, but also for its evocation of the calamitous condition of Ireland that led to the harried exit of the Famine Irish from their homeland. We can catch a glimpse of the horrors of this phase of Famine migration by tracing the route of one Roscommon family, the Floods, who, having lost their land and livelihood, fled Ireland in the spring of 1847. Mary and James Flood Sr. and their nine children were among the first contingent of 465 tenants that were evicted from the Strokestown estate and participated in a landlord-assisted emigration scheme that took them on a harrowing three-month journey through the Irish midlands, over the Irish Sea to Liverpool, and across the north Atlantic to Montreal. Their landlord, Major Denis Mahon, calculated that the expense of overseeing the large-scale clearance and transatlantic shipment of his smallholders who had neither food to eat nor money to pay rent would amount to less than half the cost of maintaining them in the workhouse for a single year.

The first stage of their journey out of Ireland began with a 150-kilometre trek from Strokestown to Dublin. After four days of trudging cross-country and sleeping rough, the Floods and their neighbours arrived on the outskirts of the Irish capital. From there, they were escorted by the estate’s bailiff to Eden Quay on the River Liffey, where Major Mahon’s land agent awaited to oversee their passage to Liverpool. The inexpensive cross-channel voyage took less than a day, but the rough currents of the Irish Sea would have made it a distressing experience for this already malnourished group of migrants who were packed together on deck and in the holds of a steam-driven ferry.

Disembarkation at Liverpool’s Clarence Dock offered little respite. The Flood family and the other Strokestown migrants represented a mere trickle in the deluge of over one million Irish into Liverpool during the Famine years, most of them in search of a cheap berth on a vessel bound for North America. Entering Europe’s busiest port, with “thousands of hungry and half naked wretches…wandering about, not knowing how to obtain a sufficiency of the commonest food nor shelter,” the destitute Irish were easy prey for sharpers and harpies, “the most unscrupulous set of scoundrels” notorious for bilking hapless newcomers to the city of the little they possessed. Even a brief stopover in this “City of Plague” exposed many Famine Irish to typhus, a disease that had reached epidemic proportions in the city by May 1847. Despite quarantine facilities at the Brownlow workhouse, on the waterfront, and aboard three government supplied quarantine ships docked on the River Mersey, the louse-borne bacterial infection stalked Irish migrants upon boarding vessels that had been hastily converted for the emigrant trade between Liverpool and British North America.

The Floods survived their week long stay in a north-end lodging house in Liverpool awaiting embarkation, but would suffer terribly on their voyage to Quebec, arranged for them by their landlord. Opting for the cheapest fare his land agent could find, Major Mahon sent his former tenants across the Atlantic on a vessel that would soon gain infamy as a ‘coffin ship’. During the two month passage the Flood family and their former neighbours struggled to survive on paltry provisions while lodged in the bowels of the Virginius—a dank, insanitary, suffocating space below the foredeck that was a breeding ground for dysentery and typhus. In conditions likened by The Times to “The Black Hole of Calcutta,” typhus spread rapidly among the Strokestown emigrants. Daily, corpses were hauled up from the holds, covered in old sails or meal-sacks stitched together, weighted down, and then “buried in the deep without the rites of the Church.” Three of the Flood children (Bridget, Edward, and Mary Jr.) who succumbed to typhus en route were dropped overboard. By the time the Virginius laid anchor in the St. Lawrence River next to the Grosse-Île quarantine station on July 28th, one third of its passengers had met the same fate.

Those who survived the voyage faced further adversity on disembarkation in Quebec. Dr. George Douglas, medical superintendent of Grosse-Île, described the Strokestown emigrants as “ghastly yellow looking spectres, unshaven and hollow cheeked, and, without exception, the worst looking passengers I have ever seen; not more than six or eight were really healthy and able to exert themselves.” Five-year-old James Flood Jr. was among the few who emerged from the hold of the Virginius in relatively good health, but the fate of the remaining members of his family is unclear. At some point between their inspection at Grosse-Île and James’ arrival at Montreal’s waterfront several days later, the boy was separated from his family, possibly during the chaotic sorting process at the quarantine station or at some stage in the 50 kilometre voyage upriver aboard one of the crowded steamers, which carried 70,000 Irish migrants along with a typhus epidemic to Montreal, turning the city “into a virtual Quarantine Station.” It is equally plausible that members of the Flood family were afflicted with typhus upon their arrival in Montreal and were among the 13,189 Irish emigrants who were hospitalized in the twenty-two fever sheds of Pointe Saint-Charles in the southwest of the city, and possibly among the roughly 6,000 who died there and were “buried like dogs in the Hospital pit.” Whatever the circumstances that led to him losing his family, we know that James found himself alone in Montreal, a city under siege by disease. Like many of Montreal’s Famine orphans, James found refuge in the Catholic Church, in his case with the Grey Nuns in the Hôpital Général des Soeurs-Grises. He remained in Montreal’s waterfront neighbourhood very near the dock on which he was deposited in 1847, working as a labourer until 1875, at which point his name disappears from the public record.

To read Colin McMahon’s full article, follow the link (pay wall):

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14788810.2014.921097

Colin McMahon’s article has also been reproduced in full in Marguérite Corporaal and Jason King, Irish Global Migration and Memory: Transatlantic Perspectives of Ireland’s Famine Exodus (Routledge, 2016).

Irish Global Migration and Memory Cover

https://www.routledge.com/Irish-Global-Migration-and-Memory-Transatlantic-Perspectives-of-Irelands/Corporaal-King/p/book/9781138693388

 

 

The 1490, the Grey Nuns, and the Fever Sheds of Montreal

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Minister Heather Humphries, President Higgins, Famine walkers and exhibit curators Christine Kinealy and Jason King.

On this first day of the Famine walk, Ireland’s President Michael D. Higgins greeted the walkers and joined them as they set off from Clondra and the commemorative ceremony for the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Canal.

A few months earlier, in September 2016, he launched the “Saving the Famine Irish: The Grey Nuns and the Great Hunger” exhibit along with Arts and Heritage Minister Heather Humphreys at the Glasnevin Museum during the National Famine Commemoration in Dublin. The exhibit is curated by Christine Kinealy and Jason King, both of whom are on the National Famine Walk.

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The eyewitness accounts of the Grey Nuns, who cared for Irish emigrant typhus victims in Montreal’s fever sheds during the summer of 1847, can be found in a digital archive curated by Jason King:

http://faminearchive.nuigalway.ie/

Irish Famine Archive Home Page

http://faminearchive.nuigalway.ie/eyewitness-accounts/grey-nuns

One of the 1490 Strokestown Famine orphans who was cared for by the Grey Nuns was five year old James Flood, whose story will be told in another post.

Famine walker Michael Collins, the Booker-prized nominated acclaimed novelist, is walking in the footsteps of James Flood.

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Outstanding new documentary by Viveka Melki, Carricks, dans le sillage des Irlandais, featuring Charles Kavanagh, descendant of Famine Irish Survivors of the Wreck

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Carricks, dans le sillage des Irlandais (in French, with English subtitles)

Le 17 mai 1847, le navire irlandais Carricks fait naufrage à Cap-des-Rosiers, à quelques centaines de mètres au large des plages gaspésiennes, avec à son bord 187 passagers irlandais et un violon signé Stradivarius.

http://ici.radio-canada.ca/audio-video/media-7693449/carricks-dans-le-sillage-des-irlandais

La quête de Charles Kavanagh est aussi celle de bien d’autres descendants d’immigrants irlandais; à travers l’histoire du naufrage du bateau Carricks en 1847, il ne lève pas seulement le voile sur l’histoire de sa famille, mais aussi l’héritage des Irlandais au Québec.

On May 17, 1847, the Irish ship Carricks was wrecked at Cap-des-Rosiers, a few hundred meters off beach in Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula, carrying 187 Irish passengers and a Stradivarius violin.

Charles Kavanagh’s quest is also that of many other descendants of Irish Famine immigrants to learn more about their origins. He seeks to trace the story of the sinking of the Carricks Famine ship from which his ancestors Patrick and Sarah Kaveney survived in May 1847, and unveils the history not only of his family, but also the legacy of the Irish in Quebec.

The film is directed by Viveka Melki and narrated by Charles Kavanagh, in collaboration with the archaeologist Martin Perron and the historians Simon Jolivet and Jo-Anick Proulx.

 

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Margaret Grant MacWhirter, Treasure trove in Gaspé and the Baie des chaleurs (1919), p. 13.

Cap de Rosier has a tragic interest on account of the tales of marine disaster with which it is associated. The story is still told in Gaspe village of the good ship “Carricks” which sailed from Sligo, Ireland, in May, 1847.

And old lady, perhaps the sole survivor, remembered the occurrence when interviewed by the writer. She, a child of twelve years, was one of seven children, and like all the passengers, her family were emigrants. After a rough and uncomfortable passage of twenty-three days, the captain missed his reckoning in a blinding snow-storm, and in the darkness of the night, struck the cruel cape.  One stroke of the angry wave swept her clean. Comparatively few were saved, after hours of cold, hunger and fear such as may be imagined. The inhabitants came to the rescue, and treated the pitiable survivors with kindness. Truly the beach presented a gruesome spectacle the following day, strewn for a mile and a half with dead bodies.  For a whole day two ox-carts carried the dead to deep trenches near the scene of the disaster. In the autumn the heavy storms sweep within sound of the spot.  Thus peacefully, with the requiem of the waves and winds they rest. In recent years a monument has been erected to their memory by the parishioners of St. Patrick’s Montreal. Alas! this is only one of the many sorrowful tales which are related of Cap de Rosier.Carricks Downpatrick Recorder cropCarrick Downpatrick Recorder 2 crop

Petition for Reimbursement for Expenses in Caring for Carricks’ Survivors:

Carricks Petition 1

Carricks Petition 2

From Sligo Champion (April 22 2017)

http://www.independent.ie/regionals/sligochampion/news/canadians-walk-in-famine-ship-ancestors-footsteps-35622856.html

Canadians walk in Famine ship ancestors’ footsteps

Canadian descendants of a family who fled Sligo during the Famine returned last weekend to retrace their last journey on Irish soil.

Rose Marie and Terry Stanley walked the Famine Trail from the Caves of Keash to Sligo Quay on Saturday to mark the 170th anniversary since their forefathers, Patrick and Sarah Kaveney and their six children left Cross on the 5th of April 1847.

They were joined by eight Canadian family members, their Ward cousins from Keash and the Keaveneys from Dublin. On their arrival at the Quay the group were honoured at a civic reception at City Hall hosted by Mayor of Sligo Municipal District Cllr Marie Casserly.

Rose Marie expressed her appreciation to the Mayor and spoke of the impact of the walk together with the unexpected gift of finding the family’s Sligo roots and connecting with cousins here in Ireland. She committed to returning in 2021 to walk the Famine Trail again.

While here Rose Marie will present a play called ‘EMIGRANT’ based of the epic journey of her ancestors, Patrick Kaveney and Sarah McDonagh. It will be presented in Cliffoney Hall on Thursday, 20th April at 8.30 pm, and in White Hall Keash on Saturday 22nd April again at 8.30pm. In Cliffoney Anne Hoey and Frank Kielty will assist the presentation.

Patrick and Sarah,their six children and 172 other emigrants from Lord Palmerston’s estates sailed on board the Carricks of Whitehaven to Quebec.

The ship ran into a late winter storm and was shipwrecked on 28th April 1847, in the Gulf of St Lawrence, just off the coast of Cap des Rosiers, Canada. Only 48 survived, including Patrick and Sarah together with their son  Martin, but their five daughters perished.

“Saving the Famine Irish” Grey Nuns Exhibit Opens at EPIC Irish Emigration Museum in Dublin

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Dr Jason King (Irish Heritage Trust) and Professor Christine Kinealy (Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute, Quinnipiac University), curators of the “Saving the Famine Irish” exhibition at EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum.

EPIC will be hosting a temporary exhibition charting the experiences Irish Famine refugees in Canada. “Saving the Famine Irish: The Grey Nuns and the Great Hunger” 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. The exhibition runs in Unit 5-6 of CHQ from 30/03/2017 until 22/04/2017.

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From left: Caroilin Callery (Irish National Famine Museum), Christine Kinealy (Quinnipiac University), Jason King (Irish Heritage Trust), Fiona Ross (Epic), Robert Kearns (Ireland Park Foundation).

Many thousands of people fled from Ireland during the Great Hunger and immigrated to Canada. 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. In the forefront of this compassionate movement were the Sisters of Charity, also known as the Grey Nuns. The exhibition is co-presented by EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum and Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University. It is currently on display to mark the 170th anniversary of ‘Black 47’, the high point of the Great Irish Famine.

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Jason King, Christine Kinealy, Michael Blanch, Fiona Ross.

http://epicchq.com/event/saving-famine-irish-grey-nuns-great-hunger/