Irish Canadian Famine Research

Irish Canadian Famine Research

Category: NUI Galway

Ireland’s President Michael D. Higgins and Minister Heather Humphreys open Grey Nuns Famine Exhibit at Glasnevin Museum in Dublin

president-higgins-opens-grey-nuns-famine-exhibit-in-glasvnevin-museumFrom left: Minister Heather Humphreys, Dr Jason King, President Michael D. Higgins, and Professor Christine Kinealy.

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. The exhibit is curated by Professor Christine Kinealy, Founding Director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University, and Dr Jason King.

In paying tribute to the Grey Nuns of Montreal, 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 with its] virtual archive 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 until the end of the year in the Glasnevin Museum (Glasnevin Cemetery, Finglas Road, Glasnevin, Dublin 11. Opening hours: Monday to Sunday & Bank Holidays, 10am-5pm).

Tel: +353 (0)1 882 6550+353 (0)1 882 6550 | Email: info@glasnevintrust.ie

The virtual archive can be found at:

http://faminearchive.nuigalway.ie/

Irish Famine Archive Home Page

 

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Ambassador Kevin Vickers announces Montreal Grey Nuns Famine Exhibit is Coming to Dublin and Ireland and Congratulates Michael Collins for Famine Run and new Novel.

Kevin Vickers and Jason King 1

Dr. Jason King presents a signed copy of Michael Collins’s critically acclaimed new novel The Death of All Things Seen to Ambassador Kevin Vickers in Canadian Embassy, Dublin.

Statement by Canadian Ambassador to Ireland Kevin Vickers on Michael Collins’ Irish Famine Diaspora Run 2016, novel The Death of All Things Seen, and “Saving the Famine Irish: The Grey Nuns and the Great Hunger”’ Exhibit curated by Professor Christine Kinealy and Dr. Jason King:

I would like to congratulate the Booker-nominated novelist and ultra-runner Michael Collins on the completion of his Irish Diaspora Run 2016. This past June and July he ran a marathon a day from Grosse Ilê in Quebec to Ireland Park in Toronto following in the footsteps of tens of thousands of Irish emigrants who fled the Great Famine for Canada in 1847. Next year he will continue this run along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way west coast trail.

I would also like to thank Michael Collins for giving me a signed copy of his new novel, The Death of All Things Seen, which has already been acclaimed as a “driven, virtuoso” work and “a formidable, demanding achievement”.  In both his novel and during the Irish Diaspora Run, Collins has sought to discover and retell some of the most powerful stories of the Famine Irish in Canada. He was particularly inspired by the “Saving the Famine Irish: The Grey Nuns and the Great Hunger” exhibit and Digital Irish Famine Archive (http://faminearchive.nuigalway.ie/) which he describes as “nothing short of genius”.

It gives me great pleasure to announce that the “Saving the Famine Irish: The Grey Nuns and the Great Hunger” exhibit, curated by Dr. Jason King and Professor Christine Kinealy of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University, is coming to Dublin for the Irish National Famine Commemoration in September, and then will travel around the country. Next year marks the 170th anniversary of the Irish Famine migration and the 150th anniversary of the founding of Canada. It is only fitting that we pay tribute to these Canadian caregivers of the Famine Irish who express our values and the enduring ties between our two countries.

Kevin Vickers with Michael Collins Novel 1

Ambassador Kevin Vickers with signed copy of Michael Collins’ critically acclaimed new novel The Death of All Things Seen.

Michael Collins and Jason King

Michael Collins and Jason King at Dublin Famine Memorial.  Michael Collins announces a new Famine Run along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way in 2017.

Michael Collins Toronto 13.jpg Michael Collins completes Irish Diaspora Run 2016 at Ireland Park in Toronto.

 

 

 

New Book on Irish Global Migration and Memory with Chapters on the Famine Irish in Canada and Montreal

Irish Global Migration and Memory Cover

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

About the Book

Irish Global Migration and Memory: Transnational Perspectives of Ireland’s Famine Exodus brings together leading scholars in the field who examine the experiences and recollections of Irish emigrants who fled from their famine-stricken homeland in the mid-nineteenth century. The book breaks new ground in its comparative, transnational approach and singular focus on the dynamics of cultural remembrance of one migrant group, the Famine Irish and their descendants, in multiple Atlantic and Pacific settings. Its authors comparatively examine the collective experiences of the Famine Irish in terms of their community and institution building; cultural, ethnic, and racial encounters with members of other groups; and especially their patterns of mass-migration, integration, and remembrance of their traumatic upheaval by their descendants and host societies. The disruptive impact of their mass-arrival had reverberations around the Atlantic world. As an early refugee movement, migrant community, and ethnic minority, Irish Famine emigrants experienced and were recollected to have faced many of the challenges that confronted later immigrant groups in their destinations of settlement. This book is especially topical and will be of interest not only to Irish, migration, and refugee scholars, but also the general public and all who seek to gain insight into one of Europe’s foundational moments of forced migration that prefigures its current refugee crisis.

This book was originally published as a special issue of Atlantic Studies: Global Currents.

Table of Contents

1. Irish global migration and memory: transnational perspectives of Ireland’s Famine exodus 2. Memory and John Mitchel?s appropriation of the slave narrative 3. Recrimination and reconciliation: Great Famine memory in Liverpool and Montreal at the turn of the twentieth century 4. Remembering Canada: the place of Canada in the memorializing of the Great Irish Famine 5. ‘‘Neither do these tenants or their children emigrate’’: famine and transatlantic emigration from Finland in the nineteenth century 6. Famine, home, and transatlantic politics in two late nineteenth-century Irish-American novels 7. Famine memory and the gathering of stones: genealogies of belonging.

Marguérite Corporaal is an Associate Professor of British Literature at Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands, and principal investigator of the research program Relocated Remembrance: The Great Famine in Irish (Diaspora) Fiction, 1847–1921. She is also director of the International Network of Irish Famine Studies that is funded by the Dutch Research Council (2014-2017) and based at Radboud University Nijmegen.

Jason King is an Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Researcher in the Moore Institute at the National University of Ireland, Galway. His publications include numerous articles in the field of Irish Studies, with a special focus on Irish–Canadian and Irish–American history and culture. In addition, he is the coordinator and lead researcher of the Digital Irish Famine Archive.

http://faminearchive.nuigalway.ie/

Irish Famine Archive Home Page

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

From the Irish Times:

http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/generation-emigration/why-are-6-000-irish-buried-under-a-montreal-traffic-island-1.2696681

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

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

New Book on The Famine Irish: Emigration and the Great Hunger with chapters on the Famine Irish in Quebec

Famine Irish Emigration and the Great Hunger

‘Une Voix d’Irlande’: Integration, Migration, and Travelling Nationalism between Famine Ireland and Quebec

Dr. Jason King (Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Research Fellow, National University of Ireland, Galway)

Languages of Memory: Jeremiah Gallagher and the Grosse Île Famine Monument

Michael Quigley (Editor, Canadian Association for Irish Studies Newsletter, former Action Grosse Île Historian)

 

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

Montreal Famine Walk 3

Montreal Famine Walk 2

Montreal Famine Walk 7

 

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

Exhibit Launch Montreal 15

 

Exhibit Launch Montreal 16

Exhibit Launch Montreal 1

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Exhibit Launch Montreal 20Exhibit Launch Montreal 6

Exhibit Launch Montreal 17

 

 

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.”

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.