Irish Canadian Famine Research

Irish Canadian Famine Research

Tag: Canada

Michael Collins named Irish Times Book Club Author in March 2017. He reflects on 20,000 Irish Famine Refugees who died in 1847.

Michael Collins and Jason King

Irish Times Book Club Author March 2017 Michael Collins with Jason King at Rowan Gillespie Famine sculptures in Dublin, Custom House Quay.

http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/michael-collins-is-this-month-s-irish-times-book-club-author-1.2995112

Michael Collins has been named as the Irish Times Book Club Author in March 2017. His novel The Keepers of the Truth was shortlisted for the 2000 Man Booker Prize and the Impac Award and won Irish Novel of the Year. He is the author of 10 works of fiction including most recently The Death of All Things Seen (2016).

In the summer of 2016 Michael Collins also completed his epic 550-mile run from Grosse Ile quarantine station in Quebec to Ireland Park Famine Memorial in Toronto to raise funds to commemorate the route Famine refugees took across Canada and the locals who helped them.

Kevin Vickers and Jason King 1

Dr Jason King presents a copy of Michael Collins’s novel The Death of All Things Seen to Canadian Ambassador to Ireland Kevin Vickers.

After the completion of Michael Collins’s Irish Diaspora Run and the publication of The Death of All Things Seen in July 2016, Canadian Ambassador to Ireland Kevin Vickers made the following statement:

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.

In a recent Irish Times article (November 26, 2016) entitled “Remembering 20,000 Famine refugees who died in 1847,” Michael Collins recalled his epic Irish Diaspora Run and how was inspired by his visit to the “Saving the Famine Irish” exhibit:

http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/people/remembering-20-000-famine-refugees-who-died-in-1847-1.2870773

Michael Collins at Grosse Ile

Michael Collins at the beginning of Irish Diaspora Run at Grosse Ile National Historic Site.

Michael Collins Diaspora Run 1

Michael Collins on Irish Diaspora Run in Quebec.

Michael Collins:

Within the Famine memorial fundraising community, there’s a phenomenon quietly referred to as “famine fatigue”, which tacitly acknowledges that, in the receding century and a half since the events of those terrible famine years, there’s a limit to the emotional empathy that can be wrought from a people, no matter the numbers – one million starved and another two million were forced to emigrate.

Time moves on and yet, when I first heard the term, it rattled me that my month-long Irish Diaspora Run – a marathon-a-day for 30 days, motivated to bring awareness and raise funds to memorialise 20,000 Irish who died during the 1847 passage of 100,000 famine-stricken emigrants to Canada – might be viewed as just another far-cast mournful act of an emigrant dwelling on ancient history.

Michael Collins Diaspora Run 6

Michael Collins on Irish Diaspora Run in Quebec.

Michael Collins Ontario 1

Michael Collins on Irish Diaspora Run in Ontario.

The term “famine fatigue” was the first reality check I would experience in what has become an evolving and contentious coming to terms with the actual cause, circumstance and culpability regarding the Famine years of 1845-49.

My first point of contact was with the highly regarded Irish Famine historian Dr Christine Kinealy, at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut who has gathered a stirring collection of Famine-inspired sculptures housed in the university’s library.

grey-nuns-exhibit-glasneving-opening-4

Minister Heather Humphreys, President Michael D. Higgins, Professor Christine Kinealy, and Dr. Jason King at launch of “Saving the Famine Irish: The Grey Nuns and the Great Hunger” exhibit, Glasnevin Museum, September 11, 2016.

Typhus-stricken

She was then curating a Famine-related exhibit on the Montreal order of Grey Nuns, who had not only ministered to the typhus-stricken Irish in 1847, but also undertook the care and eventual adoption of over 6,000 Irish orphans into a French-speaking Quebecois community…

In my own youth, the Famine was not discussed, partly out of a reflexive sense of shame that we had been so subjugated under British rule, but also in our pragmatic rush throughout the early 1980s toward a new Ireland of so-called young Europeans.

In the instinct to outrun history, there was an underlying economic indeterminacy tied to the protracted Troubles and with it, a spike in emigration.

So, too, a nationalist movement, in calculatedly drawing upon the famine, had stoked an impassioned Irish-American community further complicated our self-determinism. We were at once a people united and divided by our own history – by those who remained and the descendants of those who had left.

Upon emigrating to America, I wrote my first collection of short stories, The Meat Eaters, an ode to country inspired by loss and displacement.

Soon after, swayed by legions of emigrant descendants who configured their history around the historical displacement of the Famine, I began a Famine novel.

I would spend a year researching the historical record and in the end wither from the burden of inhabiting the psyche of either the Irish peasantry or the landed aristocracy.

It lives as a singular literary failure that has dogged me, given I would eventually transfer a sociological acuity to all things American, specifically the collapse of American industrialism, as captured in my Booker shortlisted novel, The Keepers of Truth.

Keepers of the Truth

The question plagued me – how could I stand as outsider, impartial witness, and documentarian to another history whilst my own eluded me?

Deconstruction of the American Dream

In the intervening years, as an ultrarunner, I would captain the Irish 100K Senior Team. In so doing, I vicariously drew upon the Famine, inhabiting the underlying perseverance of a repressed and starved people in the sublimation of distances covered.

Michael Collins Diaspora Run 2

Michael Collins on Irish Diaspora Run in Quebec.

Michael Collins Ontario 2

Michael Collins on Irish Diaspora Run in Ontario.

In so admitting it, in drawing on this historical past, I feel, even now, a reflexive cringe at this ignoble servicing of so many dead for the concentrated efforts of trying to win a race.

Years would pass. My writing life turned solely to the deconstruction of the American Dream. Even the tenuous connection to a Famine-inspired endurance receded as I retired from competitive ultra-running.

In the interval of years, there was, too, the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, and of course 9/11, and, with it, the end of funds funnelled home given how terrorism was forever re-defined and prosecuted under The Patriot Act.

By the latter part of the first decade of the 21st century, I was furthest from my Irishness and deep into a new novel examining the effects of the financial collapse of 2008 on an American family.

Death of All Things Seen

Likewise, a post-financial crash Ireland, caught in the entanglement of what it meant to be European and in the midst of its austerity measures, was turned from nationalist preoccupations that had figured so centrally just decades earlier.

It was not until the fall of 2015, while taking a month-long French language course in Quebec City, that I came across the fated 1847 ocean passage to Canada of 100,000 famine-stricken Irish who had been evicted from some of the most remote estates in a great evacuation of the last enclaves of Gaelic culture.

Much of what I read was in French, or parlayed through a halting bilingual exchange with local historians. It was a story twice told: first a story of the Irish, but also a story of the French-speaking Québécois who became unwitting participants in the greatest loss of life in the Victorian period, surpassed only by the Great Famine itself and the Crimean War.

Michael Collins Diaspora Run 8

Michael Collins Diaspora Run 3

Michael Collins on Irish Diaspora Run in Quebec.

In the narrative arc of that singular season of death, there was the providential coincidence that those who had survived the ocean crossing eventually continued along the Saint Lawrence river for some 600 miles, to Toronto – a tally of miles I registered as a distance I could run in a single month, amounting to a marathon a day.

I made a promise to return to Canada to complete a solitary pilgrimage along a forgotten route…

Michael Collins Ontario 12

Michael Collins on Irish Diaspora Run in Ontario.

Irish mass graves

The fault lines of the complex academic, political and sectarian divide, which appear everywhere in the historical record of the famine, did not surface as I arrived at Grosse Île quarantine island along the Saint Lawrence river.

In the great oddment of the contained history of 1847, in approaching the island, nothing suggests the province holds the ignominious distinction of containing the largest number of Irish mass graves in the world.

Grosse Île is a site of Irish pilgrimage – though, to Canadians, it is a heritage site dedicated to preserving the island’s historical significance as a quarantine processing facility from 1832 to 1932.

Michael Collins in Lazareeto

Michael Collins at Grosse Ile National Historic Site

The Irish Famine is but one story within Grosse Île’s long history, and yet the facts are stark. From June to November of 1847, of the 100,000 who emigrated, 7,000 died during the 40 to 50-day Atlantic crossing while, on Grosse Île, a further 5,000 succumbed to typhus and were buried in trenched graves.

As early as May 1847, Dr Douglas, chief medical officer at Grosse Île, wrote letters imploring assistance to offset impending disaster. The British government wilfully disregarded such requests. The coffin ships kept sailing.

By mid-June, due to the throng of the infirm in the fever sheds and a lack of medical staff, passengers languished for upwards of two weeks aboard an armada of 40 ships backed up two miles along the Saint Lawrence.

Without adequate water and food, infection spread.

The diarist and coffin ship passenger Robert Whyte recorded seeing “hundreds . . . literally flung on the beach, left amid the mud and stones to crawl on the dry land as they could”.

Of the 427 passengers who arrived aboard The Agnes, only 150 survived Grosse Île.

In my journey to the island, amidst a riot of children on a school excursion, there would be little regard for solemnity. On the cusp of beginning my month-long run, I felt the reflexive need to rationalise why I was compelled to make this pilgrimage in the name of so many nameless dead. There was no immediate answer.

In a quiet disengagement from the school children, I walked first to a Celtic cross that had been erected atop the island in 1909, some 60 years after the fateful events of 1847, then eventually wound my way to a commemorative glass memorial inaugurated in 1998.

Grosse Ile monument

Grosse Île glass memorial

Fronting a series of unmarked trenched graves amounting to 5,000 souls, an etched glass sail bears a roll call of the dead. In finding the name Collins, the historical context of why this happened and who was to blame was suddenly less important than simply bearing witness to the place where so many had died.

Trauma

Early on, I’d understood that this run would be the salvage of a near lost history in the far-flung, French-speaking province of Quebec. What passed represented a single season of death.

Of those 6,000 emigrant orphans sent into the countryside, there has never been a great appeal among them to reconnect with their Irish roots. Perhaps the trauma was too great, or the succour of those who came to their aid did not bear compromise. There was the language barrier, too, and a spirited Francophile resistance to English rule.

The most striking fact that emerged in reading the transcribed documents from the time was how the municipal authorities, in tandem with the religious orders of Montreal, had marshalled their collective resources to care and minister to the sick and dying Irish.

Simply put, the question early on was: What affinity did the native Québécois have toward this advance of typhus-stricken Irish?

In a slow advance toward Montreal, much asked in that question became apparent.

Michael Collins Diaspora Run 5

Michael Collins on Irish Diaspora Run in Quebec.

I chose Route 132, given its languid course along the Saint Lawrence. In running this less-travelled road, I came upon religious shrines that harkened to a penitent spectre of a more ancient, religious life, shrines eerily reminiscent of those that still exist along the coastal crag of the West of Ireland; weathered figures of Christ’s passion on a cross facing the eternal scour of the Atlantic gales.

This is expected of Ireland, but to come upon these roadside shrines in the rainy cold of Canada was a revelation.

1847 figured as a proxy war between Catholics and proselytizing ministers for the salvation of souls.

Through the recent work of historian Jason King, the historical record of the Grey Nuns has been recovered and translated. The diary entries capture the miasma of catastrophic sickness.

Michael Collins Dublin 4

Michael Collins and Jason King in Dublin.

Apocalyptic

In a Dante-esque apocalyptic vision, 75,000 emigrants descended on Montreal, which then had a population of 50,000. There are descriptions of sickness and effluence in the fever sheds that sickened veteran doctors, and yet the so-called Martyrs of Charity actively sought out the most distressing cases of disease.

digital-irish-famine-archive-home-page

Digital Irish Famine Archive with Grey Nuns annals:

http://faminearchive.nuigalway.ie/

What is transmitted is a faith eclipsed by an Enlightenment age of reason and science and, eventually, a jaded modernist cynicism.

In the breadth of some 600 miles, my run would eventually follow the ragged migration of survivors through a divided country: first the Francophile province of Quebec, then the Neo-English province of Ontario.

Their journey reveals a history of how the disparate Canadian populations dealt with the refugee crisis, and yet my initial sweep into the remote, uninhabited lands of Quebec proved the most physically and spiritually challenging. Here lay a lost history and the greatest loss of life.

Collective amnesia

Early in planning the run, there was a singular destination I’d settled on that I felt defined our unsatisfactory collective response to the tragic events of 1847 – Montreal’s Black Rock.

Michael Collins Black Stone 1

Michael Collins at Montreal Black Rock Famine memorial.

Set in a road median in downtown Montreal, the rock commemorates 6,000 Irish interred in a mass grave. The burial site had been all but forgotten until it was uncovered during construction in 1859 of the Victoria Bridge. Such was the collective amnesia of a traumatized city. The workers who unearthed the entombed erected, at their own expense, the stone that now commemorates those almost forgotten dead.

In so reading about the Black Rock, I discovered that, at some point, it will most probably be removed given the sprawl of the city. I contacted the Montreal Irish Monument Park Foundation, a non-profit preemptively seeking to avert the eventual unceremonious mass exhumation of corpses with a proposed famine memorial park across from a derelict parking lot in an industrial wasteland under federal management.

Michael Collins Black Stone 2

Victor Boyle, Marc Miller MP, Fergus Keyes, Michael Collins, and Ronan Corbett.

The director, Fergus Keyes, was frank in his general assessment of the dim prospects of negotiating the provincial and federal bureaucratic red tape to acquire the land.

Michael Collins Black Stone 4

Fergus Keyes welcomes Michael Collins to Black Rock.

Michael Collins Black Stone 3

Michael Collins and Fergus Keyes at Black Rock.

Yet, his organization has persisted with an annual commemorative gathering that includes the absurd spectacle of having to dart across a major thoroughfare to an island median memorial to honour 6,000 famine victims.

Michael Collins Montreal 8

Donovan King and Michael Collins at Black Rock.

In viewing an online video, in witnessing the ragged assembly of the faithful, I took it as a smouldering indictment of our slowness in demanding recognition of the undisputable horrors which befell our ancestors.

Michael Collins Montreal 5

Media scrum greets Michael Collins at Black Rock.

On a Facebook page Irish Diaspora Run 2016, set up to provide historical information regarding the famine and to chart my progress, a sub-group quickly spawned around the Irish housing crash. Members likened the modern spate of foreclosure evictions to what happened during the famine.

There was the sense that the famine was relevant and yet distantly remote from the pressures facing people in the collapse of the housing market.

I sympathised with the understated indictment in dwelling on a remote past, and yet there are times when it takes the voice of the pining diaspora to reckon with history.

If we are to be charged with an arrested sense of history, then so be it.

I was cognizant that Canada was the end for so many Irish, but also the beginning of the Canadian Irish diaspora experience.

Psychological reckoning

In the first week I ran over 300km and arrived, shivering, into the Montreal suburbs late at night. Faltering during the afternoon run, I had all but collapsed. This was the beginning of the summer scorch and drenching humidity. In ultra-running, the body succumbs and recovers in a realignment of metabolic adjustment.

It was partly that, but perhaps more so a psychological reckoning in anticipating my arrival at the Black Rock the following day.

My hotel room that night was 90 miles behind. Eschewing backtracking, myself, my daughter and driver waited out the coming dawn sequestered in an industrial parking lot, the grotto of the car light intermittently lit in our exit and return. This was our small vigil in the greater throng of Montreal. We were penitents and refugees for a night.

The next day, I resumed the run toward the Black Rock with a keener sense of purpose. On hand were local and national media. Also present was Canadian parliamentarian Marc Miller who added his support to creating a famine memorial park.

Michael Collins Black Stone 5

Michael Collins and Marc Miller MP at Black Rock.

I heard, too, that President Michael D Higgins had agreed to open the Saving the Famine Irish: The Grey Nuns and the Great Hunger exhibit at Glasnevin Cemetery, thus bringing to light the untold story of Montreal’s valorous efforts that averted even greater loss of life in that fateful year of 1847.

grey-nuns-glasnevin-opening-2

grey-nuns-exhibit-glasnevin-opening-3

President Michael D. Higgins launches “Saving the Famine Irish” exhibit at Glasnevin Museum.

The Montreal memorial park is too long in the waiting. This is not solely a French-Canadian burden, nor should it be. Our descendants died under the most appalling circumstances. There are the cynics who will say, “Let the dead lie where they will.”

Such sentiments encapsulate the spectre of “famine fatigue”. It is, of course, the easier choice. Yet, at the Black Rock, and then onward into Cornwall, Ontario, where I met a lone school teacher, who erected a Celtic cross in the honour of over 52 famine victims, to my talk on the Syrian refugee crisis at Skeleton Park’s famine cemetery in Kingston, Ontario, I came across a cadre of historically minded citizens who believe remembrance is not connected with advancing animosities, but simply preserving the historical reality of a year so many would prefer to forget.

Michael Collins Cornwall 1

Michael Collins at Cornwall Famine memorial.

This article was supported by the Global Irish Media Fund

 

Advertisements

New Publication: Women and the Great Hunger (Christine Kinealy, Jason King, Ciaran Reilly)

 

women-and-the-great-hunger-cover

http://www.corkuniversitypress.com/Women-and-the-Great-Hunger-p/9780990945420.htm

Even considering recent advances in the development of women’s studies as a discipline, women remain underrepresented in the history and historiography of the Great Hunger. The various roles played by women, including as landowners, relief-givers, philanthropists, proselytizers and providers for the family, have received little attention.

This publication examines the diverse and still largely unexplored role of women during the Great Hunger, shedding light on how women experienced and shaped the tragedy that unfolded in Ireland between 1845 and 1852. In addition to more traditional sources, the contributors also draw on folklore and popular culture.

Women and the Great Hunger brings together the work of some of the leading researchers in Irish studies, with new scholarship, methodologies and perspectives. This book takes a major step toward advancing our understanding of the Great Hunger.

Christine Kinealy is Director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University. Jason King is Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Research Fellow, National University of Ireland, Galway and Ciarn Reilly is a Research Fellow, Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses & Estates, Maynooth University

Contents

Introduction. ‘This expertise is hard won’. Women and the Great Hunger in Ireland

Steadfast Women

‘Never call me a novelist’: Cecil Woodham-Smith and the making of the Great Hunger – Christine Kinealy (Quinnipiac University)

Asenath Nicholson and school children in Ireland – Maureen Murphy (Quinnipiac University)

Agency and Action

‘Nearly starved to death’: The female petition during the Great Hunger – Ciaran Reilly (Maynooth University)

The women of county Leitrim respond to the hunger – Gerard McAtasney (Independent Scholar)

‘Meddlers amongst us: women, priests, and authority in Famine-era Ireland’ – Cara Delay (College of Charleston)

‘Nearly naked’: clothing and the Great Hunger in Ireland – Daphne Wolf (Drew University)

Hidden Histories

The Famine Irish, the Grey Nuns, and the fever sheds of Montreal: prostitution and female religious institution building – Jason King (National University of Ireland, Galway)

‘Permanent deadweight’: female pauper emigration from Mountbellew Workhouse to Canada – Gerard Moran (Maynooth University)

The Lore of women: Irish expressive culture in New England after the Great Hunger – Eileen Moore Quinn (College of Charleston)

Publicizing Pain

Keeping hope alive: Jane Elgee and the Great Famine Matthew Skwiat – (Rochester University)

‘Skeletons at the feast’: Lady Wilde’s poetry and 19th century Irish critiques of famine and empire – Amy Martin (Mount Holyoke College)

‘Revolting scenes of famine’: Frances Power Cobbe and the Great Hunger – Maureen O’Connor (University College Cork)

 

New Directions

Nature and nurture: The Great Famine and epigenetic change in Ireland – Oonagh Walsh (Glasgow Caledonian University)

Amongst strangers: The Sisters of Charity and the New York Famine Irish -Turlough McConnell (Turlough McConnell Communications)

Lady Sligo and her letters: mounting an inaugural exhibition – Sandy Letourneau O’Hare and Robert A. Young, Jr. (Arnold Bernhard Library, Quinnipiac University)

The Earl Grey Irish orphan scheme, 1848 -1850 and the Irish diaspora in Australia – Rebecca Abbott (Quinnipiac University)

Postscript and A woman’s place is on the curriculum – Ruth Riddick (Open Door Counselling)

The Orphan Who Saw the Light: A six-year old Thomas Quinn found a warm welcome waiting in Quebec (Irish Independent Feb. 17 2017)

thomas-quinn-famine-orphan-irish-independent-feb-17-2017-cropped

thomas-quinn-irish-indepedenent-feb-17-2017

thomas-quinn-irish-indepedent-feb-17-2

http://faminearchive.nuigalway.ie/eyewitness-accounts/famine-orphans/quinn-tighe

 

 

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

childen-and-the-great-hunger-in-ireland-conference-extended-deadline-2cfp-children-and-the-great-hunger-in-ireland-extended-deadline

 

CFP: Children and the Great Hunger in Ireland Conference

cfp-children-and-the-great-hunger-in-ireland-2017

Call for Papers: Children and the Great Hunger in Ireland

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

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

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

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

Professor Christine Kinealy: christine.kinealy@quinnipiac.edu And Dr Jason King: faminestudies@irishheritagetrust.ie

Deadline for receipt of abstracts 31 January 2017

Ireland pays tribute to Maritimes’ help during Great Famine

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/nb-famine-commemoration-1.3285452

Ireland’s Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht touring New Brunswick for Famine Commemoration

Ireland’s Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is visiting New Brunswick this week as part of this year’s International Famine Commemoration.

Heather Humphreys is making stops in Saint John, Miramichi and Moncton to pay tribute to the people of Canada who helped Irish immigrants flee the great potato famine of the 1840s.

Approximately one million people died between 1845-1852, and a million more left Ireland forever.

“It’s very important that we remember and look back, because there’s so much famine across the world and I think by having these commemorations, it raises the awareness of famine issues in the modern world,” Humphreys said Friday on Information Morning Saint John.

“One of the legacies left behind by the famine in Ireland is the deep compassion which is felt by Irish people to those who suffer from hunger today.”

Of the more than 100,000 Irish who sailed to Canada in 1847, an estimated one out of five died from disease and malnutrition.

In Saint John, up to 2,500 people were quarantined on Partridge Island with small pox and typhus fever during the peak of the Irish immigration.

The island was an entry point for newcomers to Canada.

nb-partridge-island

Up to 2,500 people were quarantined on Partridge Island with small pox and typhus fever during the peak of the Irish immigration. (CBC)

Approximately 600 of them are buried in a mass grave on the island. Other Irish immigrants eventually settled in New Brunswick, Upper Canada and the United States.

“I’m here to say thank you to the Canadian people for the compassion their predecessors showed … because the devastating legacy of the famine is evident across the eastern region of Canada, where up to 20,000 Irish famine victims lie buried,” Humphreys said.

“But thankfully, many more thousands survived the journey and went on to build lives here … Almost a quarter of the population in this region are of Irish ancestry. So it’s important we link in with the Irish Canadians, and we meet them and those are strong links we want to maintain.”

Humphreys will lay a wreath at noon at St. Patrick’s Square in uptown Saint John on Friday.

She will then travel to Miramichi on Saturday, where she will visit Middle Island at 10 a.m., and meet with Bill Fraser, Minister of Tourism, Heritage and Culture.

Middle Island Historical Park Miramichi

middle_island_memorial (1)

Middle Island, Miramichi, Famine Memorial

Humphreys will also visit the Irish Families Monument at 2 p.m. in Moncton and then move on to Prince Edward Island on Sunday.

She previously made a stop in Halifax.

“It’s a solemn occasion to remember, and when you think of the journeys they went on, it’s quite harrowing … it’s important that we remember what they went through,” Humphreys said.

“It’s in remembering these things that it reminds us of the compassion felt by the Irish people, but it also creates an awareness as to the obvious difficulties that result in famine and the terrible things that happen.”

The first National Famine Commemoration Committee was established in July 2008, following a government decision to commemorate the Great Famine with an annual memorial day.

Since 2009, the program included an annual International Famine Commemoration at a location abroad.

Kevin Vickers Miramichi Irishfest

On July 18th, Canada’s Ambassador to Ireland, Kevin Vickers, also spoke about the Famine Irish in New Brunswick when he opened the 32nd Miramichi Canada’s Irish Festival in his home town.

The full text of Minister Heather Humphey’s address can be found here:

http://www.merrionstreet.ie/en/News-Room/Releases/Minister_Humphreys_attends_International_Famine_Commemoration_in_New_Brunswick_Canada.html

Annual Famine Commemoration: Newry, September 26th, 2015.

Commemoration hears of famine’s heavy toll on Ulster

Cavan lost 43% of its population through death or emigration between 1845 and 1851

Irish Times, Saturday, September 26, 2015.

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/commemoration-hears-of-famine-s-heavy-toll-on-ulster-1.2368184

Newry Famine Commemoration 1

Stormont culture minister Caral Ni Chuilin, Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and Minister for Heritage Heather Humphreys in Newry, Co Down at the National Famine Commemoration ceremony. Photograph: Paul Faith.

Ronan McGreevy

The tragedy of a coffin ship which hit an iceberg and sank was recalled at the first National Famine Commemoration event to be held in Northern Ireland.

Hannah left Warrenpoint in April 1849 with approximately 170 passengers and crew on board.

She sank in the Gulf of St Lawrence on April 29th, 1849 with at least 49 deaths though the ship’s list was lost and nobody knows exactly how many people were on board.

The annual commemoration was held at Albert Basin, Newry. Nearby Warrenpoint was a major port of emigration during the famine years. Hannah sailed from there on April 4th.

Most of those on board Hannah were from south Armagh. Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys referenced the Murphy family from Mullaghbane who lost two of their children in the sinking and whose descendants still live in North Crosby, Ontario.

Stormont minister for culture Carál Ní Chuilín gave an account of the sinking of Hannah. One mother lost her six children, she said.

The ship struck an iceberg in the middle of the night and many of the children were trapped below deck. The ship sank in just 40 minutes and survivors clung to ice floes, but many died from exposure.

One eyewitness reported of the survivors: “No pen can describe the pitiful situation of the poor creatures. They were all but naked, cut and bruised and frostbitten. There were children who lost parents and parents who lost children. Many, in fact, were perfectly insensible.”

HANNAH_0001-copy_Page_01

Dr Eamon Phoenix, a member of the famine memorial committee, stated the catastrophe directed impacted at least 3.5 million in Ireland. The population of the historic province of Ulster dropped by 16 per cent between 1845 and 1851. The worst affected county was Cavan where 43 per cent of the population was lost through either death or emigration.

Dr Phoenix pointed out that the famine affected both Catholic and Protestant communities in the North.

The famine had a “seering impact on the traditionally prosperous parts of east Ulster,” he said, adding that it was particularly notable around Lurgan and Portadown in Armagh.

In Newtownards the potato crop failure coincided with a downturn in the linen industry which devastated the area leaving “emaciated, half-famished souls”, according to a local newspaper account.

The workhouse in Newry saw a rise in numbers from 465 in 1845 to 1,100 in 1847.

The service was hosted by Newry and Mourne District Council. The National Famine Commemoration was first established in 2008 and is held in a different part of the country every year.

Representatives of the diplomatic corps from more than 30 countries attended the event and laid wreathes.

Mrs Humphreys will also unveil a commemorative plaque in Warrenpoint, Co. Down on Sunday in honour of those who emigrated and all of the people who suffered on the island of Ireland as a result of the famine.

 

No More Coffin Ships

No more coffin ships

Maryam Filaih from Dublin at a welcome refugee rally on O’Connell Street Credit: David Conachy

http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/thousands-turn-out-in-dublin-and-across-europe-for-refugee-support-rally-31522118.html

The escalation of the European migration crisis has led to frequent comparisons in media coverage, political opinion, and public debate between the Irish Famine Migration of 1847 and the perils refugees face today.  The Rowan Gillespie Famine monuments in Dublin and in Ireland Park, Toronto, have become focal points for demonstrations of solidarity with refugees through the prism of Famine Irish memory.

Dublin Famine monument refugees

Image of three asylum seekers imposed on a photograph of the famine memorial on Custom House Quay in Dublin.

http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/generation-emigration/comparing-irish-emigration-and-today-s-refugee-crisis-1.2339342

Famine Memorial protest

A section of the crowd gathered at the Famine Memorial on Custom House Quay in solidarity with people seeking refuge in Europe. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/protest-hears-calls-for-government-action-on-refugee-crisis-1.2341712

“Let Then In”, Michael Enright. (CBC The Sunday Edition, September 13, 2015).

ireland-park-toronto-ontario

Ireland Park, Toronto, Ontario (Credit: Kearns Mancini)

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/popup/audio/player.html?autoPlay=true&clipIds=2675304063

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/thesundayedition/let-them-in-where-s-the-poetry-in-politics-what-is-the-middle-class-trump-and-the-know-nothings-1.3223214/let-them-in-michael-s-essay-1.3223975

On a sun-blasted morning last week, I biked down to the lake’s edge and sat for a long time in a small, almost hidden parkette called Ireland Park. Out on Lake Ontario, small boats, kayaks, yachts, ferries competed for space on the broad calm waters. No dinghies over-jammed with children and mothers and old men. At the Toronto Island Airport, planes took off and landed, their passengers not stateless, not homeless, no doubt all suitably credentialed.

Five bronze sculptures of figures in rags stand in a corner of the park. Their eyes are raised to the great spires and comforting money towers of the downtown. One of the figures lies dead or dying on the ground. The female figure clutches her pregnant belly. The figures are beyond gaunt; they are skeletal. The park was designed by Toronto Architect Jonathan Kearns, himself an Irish immigrant. It memorializes the coming to Toronto in 1847 of Irish refugees escaping from the horrific devastation caused country-wide by the potato famine.

At the time, Toronto had a population of around 20,000. In one year, some 38,000 Irish refugees landed in the city. Hundreds died of typhus in the so-called coffin sheds not far from this building. And still more came, over the next decades. At the other end of the park are 14 very tall towers made of black Kilkenny limestone. On this morning the limestone was warm to the touch. Carved into the interstices between the towers, are the names of some of those who came: Rose Cassady, Luke McCue, James Murphy, Mary O’Brien, Martin Carlow, Biddy Clary, Mary Ryan.

Canada has a long and storied history of taking in those Frantz Fanon called “the wretched of the earth.” Irish, Vietnamese, Hungarians, Tamils, Bengalis Guatemalans, Turks, even thousands of political refugees from the United States. It’s what we do. It’s not a bad record but not without some failures, some historical blemishes. We failed huge numbers of Jewish refugees in the days prior to World War Two, by shutting our doors to them. Our policy was none is too many. We turned away a boatload of Sikhs in the early 1900s and we excluded Chinese except as stoop labourers. Nevertheless, in number and behaviour, the refugees we have admitted have never been anything other than assets to this country.

The vision of thousands of refugees coming to Canada may upset many people, but that’s all right. Change and the challenge of change take awhile to reach a comfort level. There will be that small minority of xenophobes who can’t abide the notion of strangers in their midst. That’s all right  too. Yes there are haters in this country as there are in any other place, in any other time.  Does it do any good  assigning blame for what we haven’t done? Perhaps. Perhaps the election next month will be a punishment yard.

The important thing is to do something generous and effective, and to do it now. Why not a pledge to bring in 50,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees by Christmas, as retired general Rick Hillier has suggested? And another 50,000 by next Canada Day? Not impossible.

A few hours after I left the park, I watched a family in midtown laughing and shouting and taking pictures of each other. They were Chinese, grandmother, grandfather, young couple, two young children a boy and a girl, maybe the age of Aylan Kurdi. They were chattering away to each other in Chinese, having a grand time. They were probably not refugees, perhaps immigrants. Or maybe they were even born here. It didn’t matter. Written on the left arm of the grandfather’s sweat shirt was one word: “Canada.”

History tells us we could be doing more for refugees: Keenan

(Edward Keenan, Toronto Star, September 3, 2015)

In 1847, during the Great Famine in Ireland, Toronto was a city of 20,000, and in a period of six months, more than 38,000 refugees fleeing the famine arrived and Toronto mobilized to house them and to treat the sick.

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2015/09/03/history-tells-us-we-could-be-doing-more-for-refugees-keenan.html

ireland-park.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterbox

BERNARD WEIL / TORONTO STAR

Woman On Ground, one of several sculptures at Ireland Park in Toronto, is dedicated to remind people of the devastation of hunger. In 1847, more than 38,000 Irish Famine refugees landed on the shores of Toronto, causing a major strain of resources.

Pilgrimage to Grosse Ile with the Ancient Order of Hibernians August 2015.

From Donovan King:

A visit to Grosse-Ile, a quarantine station in the Saint Lawrence River that witnessed tragedy in 1847 when thousands of Irish fleeing the Famine perished on its shores. According to the guides fireflies are often spotted above the Famine Cemetery, but never the other two burial grounds on the island.

AOH Grosse Ile 18

AOH Grosse Ile 2

AOH Grosse Ile 1

Montreal AOH President Victor Boyle and Donovan King

AOH Grosse Ile 4

AOH Grosse Ile 5

AOH Grosse Ile 7

AOH Grosse Ile 8

AOH Grosse Ile 11

AOH Grosse Ile 10

AOH Grosse Ile 9

AOH Grosse Ile 13 AOH Grosse Ile 17

AOH Grosse Ile 15

AOH Grosse Ile 14

AOH Grosse Ile 16

Donovan King Translation: “Children of the Gael died in the thousands on this island having fled from the laws of the foreign tyrants and an artificial famine in the years 1847-48. God’s loyal blessing upon them. Let this monument be a token to their name and honour from the Gaels of America. God Save Ireland.”

Note that the version in Irish is different; it says: “Children of the Gael died in the thousands on this island having fled from the laws of the foreign tyrants and an artificial famine in the years 1847-48. God’s loyal blessing upon them. Let this monument be a token to their name and honour from the Gaels of America. God Save Ireland.”

D

2015 Newry Famine Commemoration Programme of Event

The Programme of Events for the 2015 National Famine Commemoration in Newry (September) can be found here:

http://www.newry.ie/attachments/article/3513/annual_famine_commemoration_booklet.pdf

Newry Famine Commemoration Programme Booklet cover