Irish Canadian Famine Research

Irish Canadian Famine Research

Tag: Ciaran Reilly

CFP: Children and the Great Hunger in Ireland Conference


Call for Papers: Children and the Great Hunger in Ireland

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

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

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

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

Professor Christine Kinealy: And Dr Jason King:

Deadline for receipt of abstracts 31 January 2017

Grey Nuns at “Women and the Great Hunger in Ireland” Conference, Quinnpiac University, June 5, 2015

Grey Nuns at Quinnipiac

From Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute, Quinnipiac University:

Among our more than 50 guests at our “Women and the Great Hunger in Ireland” conference are Sister Marlene Butler GNSH, left, of Yardley, Penn., and Sister Anne Marie Beirne GNSH, of Queens, N.Y. The Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart visited our year-long “Saving the Famine Irish: The Grey Nuns and the Great Hunger” exhibit in the Arnold Bernhard Library. “It’s absolutely wonderful,” Sister Butler said. “We try to create a more compassionate world — and it’s really inspiring to see what the Grey Nuns accomplished in Montreal.” Sister Beirne said the exhibit demonstrates how much we can all help each other. “Just hearing the stories is so emotional.” She is continuing the work of her predecessors by volunteering her time at Marguerite’s Pantry in New York. “It’s living a life of compassion,” she said. “That’s what they called us to do.” Read more:

Grey Nuns exhibit setup 2


During their visit Dr. Jason King delivered a keynote address entitled “Sacred and Sacrilegious Women’s Testimonials: The Grey Nuns and Maria Monk, Famine Irish Migrants, and the Montreal Fever Sheds in 1847-1848″.

He suggested that the sacred images and religious iconography of French-Canadian and Irish female religious caring for Montreal’s Famine emigrants in the “Saving the Famine Irish” exhibit were directly influenced and shaped by the sinister impressions of Maria Monk a decade earlier, which they sought to repudiate and replace.  In the decade before the Irish Famine influx into Montreal in 1847, the very same orders of priests and nuns who cared for Irish emigrants and rescued Famine orphans had become figures of infamy following the publication of The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk, or, the Hidden Secrets of a Nun’s Life in a Convent Exposed (1836).  Her purported autobiographical account of her experiences within and escape from the Hôtel Dieu convent was a staple of American nativism and a best-seller, with over three hundred thousand copies purchased by 1860 – second only to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin in the antebellum United States.  In her Awful Disclosures, Maria Monk claimed to have been incarcerated in Montreal’s Hôtel Dieu convent in which she alleged that acts of sexual abuse and infanticide routinely occurred, although her allegations were comprehensively discredited in the years that followed.

Grey Nuns launch 3

Hotel Dieu convent

It is profoundly ironic that the very same priests and nuns who were vilified by Maria Monk in 1836 for plotting to murder helpless Irish infants became iconic figures and venerated in popular memory a decade later for their salvation of Famine orphans. In fact, this tension between sacred and sacrilegious, or iconic and idolatrous images of women and children was embodied in the figures of the uncloistered nun with the Irish infant, which provided a focal point for the popular memory of Maria Monk as well as the fever sheds. Ultimately, it was only by forgetting the sacrilegious figure of Maria Monk that the sacred memory of the clergy and female religious who cared for Irish emigrants in Montreal’s fever sheds could be preserved and transmitted.

Maria Monk with child

Nuns rescuing orphans in fever sheds of Montreal

Famine walk from Roscommon reaches Dublin

From Irish Times (April 22, 2015)

Walk, in period costume, commemorated 1847 walk when 1,490 starving tenants from Strokestown walked to Dublin and boarded a ship for Canada

Famine walkers reach Dublin

Famine walkers on the final few steps of their 155km Famine re-enactment walk from Roscommon to the Jeanie Johnston in Dublin. Photograph: Alan Betson

Patsy McGarry

As they began the 155 km Famine commemorative walk from Strokestown, Co Roscommon to Dublin last weekend, participants’ thoughts turned to migrants drowning in the Mediterranean. “While exploring our past we are always conscious that the experience is someone else’s present,” Caroilin Callery, one of the walkers, said when they finished the walk in Dublin.

The walk, in period costume, commemorated one in 1847 when 1,490 starving tenants from the Mahon estate in Strokestown walked to Dublin and boarded the ship Naomi for Canada.

“Seven hundred of them died at sea,” Ms Callery said. On Monday she got a text to say 700 migrants had drowned off the coast of Libya. It was “gut-wrenching”, she said.

Ms Callery, along with Patricia Rogers, Mick Blanch, Gerard Glennon, Bernie Kelly and broadcaster Cathal Póirtéir, finished up at the Jeanie Johnston tall ship on Custom House Quay in Dublin.

Summer school

They were met by Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys, who launched the programme for the inaugural Irish Famine Summer School in Strokestown in June. Described by co-ordinator Dr Ciarán Reilly of NUI Maynooth as “the biggest conference on the Irish Famine ever held to date”, it takes place from June 17th to 21st.

The Minister told the walkers: “You’ve brought life to history and history to life.”

She said the National Famine Commemoration Day on September 26th would be marked in Northern Ireland for the first time at Newry, Co Down.

“The Famine was an event felt by all religions and all cultures on this island. It was one of the most important events in our shared history, a bit like World War one,” she said.

Tim O’Connor, chairman of The Gathering in 2013, described the Irish diaspora as “a great global parish joined by geography and time”, much of it rooted in migration as a result of the Famine.

Schoolgirl Maeve Tighe read her poem The Journey.

Roscommon county council acting chief executive Tommy Ryan described Strokestown House as “a great asset” in an “unknown” county. The house was bought 35 years ago by Jim Callery who has overseen its preservation and the setting up of a Famine Museum there.

He attended the launch of the summer school programme with his wife Adeline. Their daughter Caroilin spoke of his huge personal and financial commitment to Strokestown House. “We’re extremely proud of him.”

After the Famine Walk, Caroilin Callery travelled straight to the inaugural meeting of the International Network of Irish Famine Studies at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands:

Caroilin at IINS o

IINS group photo

INIFS Group Photo

Jason at IINS 2

Programme Expert Meeting International Network of Famine Studies

‘Famine Migration and Diaspora’

Radboud University Nijmegen

23-24 April 2015

23 april

9:30   Opening, Gymnasion (GN) 3

9.45-10:45:   William Smyth (University College Cork), “Famine, emigration and the

transformation of southern Irish society 1845-1916”. GN 3

10.45-11.15:  Coffee/tea

11.15-12:15:   Mark McGowan (University of Toronto), “Finding the People of the

Famine Diaspora: A Preliminary Report on the Strokestown  ‘1490’ in 1847”. GN 3

12.15-13:15:  Lunch, Foyer GN

13.15-14:15:  Jason King (NUI Galway), “Performing Famine Memory: Irish Theatre and

the Great Hunger during the Rise and Fall of the Celtic Tiger”. GN 3.

14.15-15:45:  Panel session 1, GN2.

Aaron Roberts (University of California Riverside), “Fleeing and Starving: Settler Colonial Biopolitics in Ireland and Palestine”;

and response by David Nally (University of Cambridge).

Pawel Hamera (University of Cracow), “ ‘A Good Riddance’: the 1851 Irish

Census, the Mass Emigration and the British Press”.

15.45-16.15:   Tea/coffee

16.15-17.00: Plenary discussion, GN 3. Contributions by Peter Gray (Queen’s University Belfast) and Emily Mark FitzGerald (University College Dublin).

18:30 – :  Dinner at Vlaams Arsenaal

24 april

9.45-10:45:  Laura Izarra (University of Sao Paolo), “Memories of Leaving and the

Language of Return”. GN3.

10.45-11.15:   Coffee/tea

11.15-12:15:    Piaras MacÉinri (University College Cork), GN 3

12.15-13:15:  Lunch, Foyer GN

13.15-14:15: Marguérite Corporaal (Radboud University Nijmegen), “From Restoration to Reinscription: Remembering the Famine in Irish North-American Fiction”. GN3.

14.15-15:45:   Panel session 2: GN2.

Frank Rynne (Université Paris 2 Panthéon-Assas), “The Returned American: Irish Americans, the American Diaspora and The Land War 1879-82”.

Caroilin Callery (Strokestown Park), “Memories of Leaving and the Language of Return”.

15.45-16.15:   Tea/coffee

16:15-17:00: Plenary discussion, GN 3. Contributions by Jason King (NUI Galway) and Andrew Newby (University of Helsinki).

17.00-18:00:  Goodbye and drinks, Foyer GN

Quinnipiac – the Grey Nuns of Montreal, and Irish Famine Research

Quinnipiac – and Irish Famine Research

A FEATURE by Christine Kinealy


Nestled under the beautiful Sleeping Giant Mountain, and adjoining the more famous town of New Haven, the town of Hamden in Connecticut, home to Quinnipiac University, might seem like an unlikely location to become a centre of Irish Studies within the United States.   However, Quinnipiac University is fast gaining a reputation as a hub for the study and appreciation of one of the greatest humanitarian disasters in modern European history – the Irish Famine of 1845 to 1852.

The Irish Famine – more usually referred to in North America as the Great Hunger (or An Gorta Mór) – was triggered by repeated failures of the potato crop in Ireland. Potatoes, although not native to Ireland, were by the mid-nineteenth century providing a subsistence diet to approximately 40 per cent of the population. Since 1801, Ireland had been governed from London and the British parliament was responsible for introducing legislation to deal with the crisis. Most of the relief measures, however, proved to be inappropriate and inadequate to meet the needs of the Irish poor. Moreover, insufficient regulation in regard to evictions and emigration further exacerbated the sufferings of the people.

Within the space of only six years, Ireland lost one-quarter of her population. Uniquely though, the country did not recover from this demographic shock, and by 1901 (a census year) the population had dropped to just over four million people. Mass emigration, both during the Famine and in the decades that followed, created large Irish communities overseas, from Sydney to San Francisco. For the descendants of these emigrants, the tragedy of the Famine, and the exile that resulted from it, became part of their founding narrative.

Regardless of the significance of the Famine both for those who remained in Ireland and for those who became part of the diaspora, until recently there were few memorials to commemorate this tragedy and only a small number of scholarly books had been written on this topic. The sesquicentenary commemorations in 1995 awakened both academic and popular interest in the Great Famine.   In the subsequent 20 years, there has been an outpouring of publications and a desire to create permanent memorials in many parts of the world. Furthermore, the interest has not been confined to Irish communities. In 2014, France introduced the Irish Famine as a topic to be studied for the prestigious agrégation exam.

Quinnipiac’s interest in the Famine originated with their President, John Lahey. In 1997, he was Grand Marshal of the New York St Patrick’s Day Parade. To honour the memory of those who had died in Ireland 150 years earlier, he made Great Hunger the theme of that year’s parade and called for one minute’s silence. The late Murray Lender, a Quinnipiac University alumnus and vice chairman of its Board of Trustees, was moved by what he observed and heard from President Lahey, and wanted to give his support in educating people about the causes and consequences of the Famine.   Murray and his brother, Marvin, provided the financial support that led to the creation of the Lender Family Special Collection Room in the Arnold Bernhard Library on the Mount Carmel campus. This small, beautiful room, which is shaped like a ship’s hold, was officially opened in 2000. Remarkably, the Lender brothers had no direct connection with Ireland.

Today, the Lender Family Special Collection is probably the largest collection in the world of published material relating to the Irish Famine. It consists of both primary and secondary sources, even including a set of nineteenth century British Parliamentary Papers. The collection is available for scholarly research, but the resources may be used only on the Library premises.

The collection also initially included artwork and sculptures relating to the Great Famine, but, as more art was acquired, it was decided to create a dedicated museum for this unique resource. Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum was opened in September 2012, in a specially-dedicated building situated about one mile from the Mount Carmel campus. It is now home to the world’s largest collection of visual art relating to the Famine. Works by noted contemporary Irish artists are featured, as well as a number of important 19th and 20th-century paintings.

In September 2013, Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute was established, to provide a scholarly underpinning to the work already taking place at Quinnipiac University. Additionally, part of its mission is to promote further research on the Great Famine, and to place the tragedy in its wider historical context.

In its relatively brief existence, the Great Hunger Institute has introduced an Irish Studies Minor to the undergraduate programme at Quinnipiac University. It has also established a rich schedule of cultural and historical events that are open both the university community and to the public. In April 2014, the Lady Sligo Exhibition was opened in the Lender Room of the Arnold Bernhard Library. It was based on the University’s collection of over 200 letters, written between the 1820s and 1870s, that were written by the Sligo family. Many were penned by Hester Catherine Browne – Lady Sligo – who had been born in County Galway in 1800, but at the age of 16 married the second Marquis of Sligo, owner of Westport House in County Mayo.   Some of the letters were written just as the Famine was appearing in Ireland. The letters demonstrate her concern and compassion for the welfare of the local poor. They also reveal the agency of a woman in nineteenth century Ireland. Without the survival of these letters, Lady Sligo would have been invisible from the historical record. The Exhibition closed on 22 March 2015, but the good news is that it is moving to Ireland – to Westport House, where it will form a permanent exhibition. So, fittingly, Lady Sligo is going home.

Lady Sligo's touching letter to a prospective migrant

A new exhibition, which tells the remarkable story of the religious orders in Montreal who selflessly came to the assistance of immigrants fleeing from the Famine who were sick with fever, opened at Quinnipiac University on 1 April 2015. It is entitled ‘Saving the Famine Irish: The Grey Nuns and the Great Hunger’ (Sauver les Irlandais de la famine: les Sœurs Grises et la Grande Famine). A centre-piece of the new exhibition is a beautiful painting by Theophile Hamel, entitled Le Typhus, which was commissioned by the Bishop of Montreal in 1848, to give thanks for all of the lives that were saved. It is possibly the first painting in the world dedicated to commemorating the Famine. The records kept by the Grey Nuns throughout these years, which were written in French, have been loaned to the exhibition by the Grey Nun Archive, and will be on display.

An unusual feature of both exhibitions, and one that has particularly intrigued the students, is a replica of a bonnet that would have been worn by a young woman who was part of the Earl Grey Orphan Emigration Scheme, introduced in 1848.   This unusual project sought to both correct the gender imbalance in Australia (where there were approximately eight men to every one woman) while relieving Irish workhouses of the burden of long-term inmates. Approximately 4,000 Irish girls arrived in Australia as a consequence of this scheme. Their presence changed the course of Australian history.

In early June 2015, the Institute will be hosting an international conference on the theme of ‘Women and the Great Hunger. A comparative approach’. It will be held at the York Hill campus, and will feature three keynote speakers: Dr Ciarán Reilly of Maynooth University, Dr Jason King of Galway University, and Professor Oonagh Walsh of Glasgow Caledonian University. The conference is open to the public (although there is a registration fee) and will include a visit to the Grey Nuns’ Exhibition, the Great Hunger Museum, and to New Haven. A conference proceedings will also be published.

One of the most exciting projects that the Institute is involved in is the production of a Graphic Novel (and if you are not sure what this is, ask anybody under the age of 25). Graphic novels are increasing used in teaching young adults and even undergraduates, the most famous example being Maus, which tells the story of the Holocaust through images and words. The forthcoming graphic novel is called ‘The Bad Times’ (An Droch –Shaol) and is based on the lives of three teenagers from County Clare. It is set between 1846 and 1849 and will be available in autumn 2015. The text has been written by Christine Kinealy and the artwork by Boston-based artist, John Walsh. It is hope that ‘The Bad Times’ will bring the story of the Great Hunger to a younger audience.

Quinnipiac is a relative newcomer in the world of Irish Studies, but the unique combination of Great Hunger Institute, the Great Hunger Museum, and the Great Hunger Collection, has created a wonderful resource for scholars and for anybody who has an interest in Irish history and culture. Visitors are always very welcome and the Institute would be delighted to hear of ideas for collaborations and partnerships.

More information about the work of the Great Hunger Institute…

Professor Christine Kinealy, Director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute, is author of Charity and the Great Hunger. The Kindness of Strangers (Bloomsbury, 2013)

INAUGURAL IRISH FAMINE SUMMER SCHOOL: Call for Papers (Deadline February 15)

Strokestown Park House Glass Memorial Wall


 CALL FOR PAPERS – Feb 15 Deadline

International Speakers:   17– 19  June

Papers :   20 & 21 June

‘The Local and Regional impact of the Great Irish Famine.’

We are calling for applications for 15 – 20 minute Papers on how the Great Famine impacted on your area or region – be it a local, national or international location.

Enquiries and proposals of no more than 250 words, accompanied by a short biography should be sent to Dr Ciaran Reilly – Decisions on proposals as decided by the organizing Committee will be communicated by the end of February.

Full exciting Programme can be viewed on

Irish Famine Summer School Programme

Irish Famine Summer School 2015 at Strokestown Park House and Irish National Famine Museum (June 17-21)

Irish Famine Summer School at Strokestown Park House

Irish Famine Summer School at Strokestown Park House Programme


Wednesday 17th June

9:30am – 1:00pm

The Great Irish Famine: New Perspectives

Prof Christine Kinealy- Quinnipiac University, Connecticut, USA
Dr Ciaran Reilly – Maynooth University, Ireland
Dr Jonny Geber – University College Cork, Ireland


Tour of Cruchain Ai- Royal Celtic Site, Tulsk & the 18th Century Windmill, Elphin.

Bus departs – Event Tent – Bawn Street
Booking and tour fee Required

2:00pm – 3:30pm

Local Craft Display – Percy French Hotel



Blas na Gaelige

learn a few phrases of Irish, Town Libary


Secret Areas of Strokestown Park House Tour

Booking and tour fee Required


Thursday 18th June

9:30am – 1:00pm

The Great Irish Famine Abroad

Prof Mark McGowan – University of Toronto, Canada
Dr Patrick Fitzgerald – Mellon Centre for Migration, Omagh NI
Dr Perry McIntyre – Global Irish Studies Centre, University of New South Wales


Tour of Rindoon Deserted Medieval Village

Bus departs – Event Tent – Bawn Street
Booking and tour fee Required


Genealogy Centre Workshop



History Walk of the Town

(Meet at the Event Tent) Free


Drama – The Murder of Major Mahon, 1847

Strokestown Park House, Library
Booking and tour fee Required

Friday 19th June

9:30am – 1:00pm

The Great Irish Famine Remembered

Dr Emily Mark-Fitzgerald – University College Dublin, Ireland
Dr Marguerite Corporaal – Radbound University, Nijmegen, Holland
Dr Jason King – NUI, Galway, Ireland

2:30pm – 5:30pm

Tour of Roscommon Workhouse & Quaker Meeting House

Bus departs – Event Tent – Bawn Street
Booking and tour fee Required

1:00 – 3:00pm

Secret Tour of Strokestown…

ending with “Taste of Famine Times’ Soyer soup and Maize Bread
Woodland Walk Restaurant
Booking and tour fee Required


Sliabh Ban Walk through the Ages

(Meet at the Event Tent)


History Hedge School – The Great Irish Famine: Past, Present and Future

Prof Christine Kinealy- Quinnipiac University, Connecticut, USA
Prof Mark McGowan – University of Toronto, Canada
Dr Ciaran Reilly – Maynooth University, Ireland

Percy French Ballroom – Small Entry Fee €

Saturday 20th June

9:00am – 5:00pm

The Local and Regional Impact of the Great Irish Famine

Keynote Speaker: Prof Peter Gray, Queens University Belfast, NI


Conference & Summer School Dinner

Strokestown Park House
Pre Dinner Drinks in the Library
Booking Required – € 50

Sunday 21st June

9:00am – 12:30pm

The Local and Regional Impact of the Great Irish Famine

Closing remarks and discussion


History Walk of the Town

(Meet at the Event Tent) Free

1:00pm – 5:00pm

Olde World Fayre

Bawn Street

Children’s Events – Workshops on Sat / Sun

Facepainting / Fancy Dress / Ice Cream

“Women and the Great Hunger in Ireland” conference to take place June 3-6, 2015

“Women and the Great Hunger in Ireland” conference to take place June 3-6, 2015


We are pleased to welcome you to Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute’s conference to be held at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut in June.

The conference will examine the role of women during a period of sustained hunger or famine. We are delighted to have three prominent and distinguished keynote speakers:  Jason King, PhD, of Galway University; Ciarán Reilly, PhD, of Maynooth University; and Margaret Ward, PhD, of Queen’s University, Belfast. We look forward to hearing about their research on this largely disregarded topic.

Details of the conference can be found below. Please check back regularly for updates to the program.

Papers are welcome from both established and starting scholars – we hope that you will join us for this exciting and ground-breaking conference.

Professor Christine Kinealy
Founding Director
Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute