Irish Canadian Famine Research

Irish Canadian Famine Research

Tag: Famine Irish

Great Famine Voices Roadshow coming to the United States and Canada

FIRST GREAT IRISH FAMINE VOICES ROADSHOW TOURING THE USA AND CANADA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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Montreal, refugees, and the Irish Famine of 1847

   Montreal Gazette (August 12, 2017)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voices from Montreal’s Summer of Sorrow

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

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

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

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

(Annals of the Grey Nuns)

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

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

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

(Annals of the Grey Nuns)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits Dublin Famine Monument

Trudea Dublin Monument 1

Justin Trudeau visited Rowan Gillespie’s Famine sculptures on Dublin’s Custom House Quay.  The monument is twinned with Ireland Park in Toronto which also has Gillespie Famine sculptures. Ireland Park Foundation CEO Robert Kearns and Rowan Gillespie accompanied the Prime Minister.

Trudeau Famine Monument 4

 

Trudeau Famine Monument 3

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney and Prime Minister Trudeau

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Sculptor Rowan Gillespie with Prime Minister Trudeau

Gillespie and Trudeau

Trudeau Famine Monument 6

Trudeau Famine monument 9

Ireland Park Foundation CEO Robert Kearns with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

King and Vickers

Ambassador Kevin Vickers and Dr Jason King

The Rowan Gillespie Famine sculptures on Dublin’s Custom House Quay also mark the beginning and end of the National Famine Way:

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

http://nationalfamineway.ie/1249-2/

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

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

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

 

 

New Irish-Canadian Famine Research presented at iNua Partnership Ireland Park Foundation Event.

Pictured at the Ireland Park Foundation Toronto / iNua Hospitality fundraising evening in The Muckross Park Hotel were from left, Jason King, Robert Kearns, Ireland park, Noel Creedon, Inua and Kevin Vickers, Canadian Ambassador. The Ireland Park Foundation in Toronto, is a charitable non-profit organisation set up to commemorate and celebrate the story of the Irish in Canada. Picture by Don MacMonagle

Pictured at the Ireland Park Foundation Toronto / iNua Hospitality fundraising evening in The Muckross Park Hotel were from left, Jason King, Robert Kearns, Ireland park, Noel Creedon, Inua and Kevin Vickers, Canadian Ambassador.
The Ireland Park Foundation in Toronto, is a charitable non-profit organisation set up to commemorate and celebrate the story of the Irish in Canada.
Picture by Don MacMonagle

http://www.corkchamber.ie/news/2015/09/29/MINISTER-COVENEY-CELEBRATES-IRISHCANADIAN-PARTNERSHIP

29th September 2015MINISTER COVENEY CELEBRATES IRISH-CANADIAN PARTNERSHIP

Minister for Agriculture, Food, the Marine & Defence Mr. Simon Coveney TD was the Keynote Speaker at a Gala
Dinner for Ireland Park Foundation hosted by iNua Partnership in Muckross Park Hotel, Killarney

On Thursday, 24th September 2015 iNua Partnership hosted a gala dinner for Ireland Park Foundation, a charitable non-profit organisation set up to commemorate and celebrate the story of the Irish in Canada. As a specialist investment company with deep ties to Canada, iNua Partnership is the Foundation’s first corporate partner in Ireland.

The Dinner’s objective was to raise awareness of the extraordinary work of the Toronto-based charity, as well as assist the Foundation’s important fundraising efforts in Ireland. Gráinne Seoige was the event’s Master of Ceremonies. Minister for Agriculture, Food, the Marine & Defence Mr. Simon Coveney TD: “I am delighted to be involved in this great celebration of the links between Ireland and Canada. My family has close personal ties with Canada, I’ve travelled there a number of times and witnessed firsthand the strength of the cultural and economic links between our two countries. This event is a fantastic means of highlighting the strong trade and socio-economic ties between Ireland and Canada and I wish the Ireland Park Foundation and iNua every success in their ambition to foster those links even further through their joint partnership.”

The partnership was officially announced by his Excellency Kevin Michael Vickers, the Ambassador of Canada to Ireland, at his residence in Dublin on April 2015. The Ambassador attended the Dinner as special guest and was joined by over 200 guests from the spheres of business, the arts and politics at the Muckross Park Hotel, a luxury 5 star hotel in the heart of Killarney National Park bought at the beginning of 2015 by iNua’s investment vehicle, iNua Hospitality. The event celebrated social, cultural and economic interests and generate much-needed funds for Ireland Park Foundation. Ireland Park Foundation was established in Toronto in 1997 by Irish entrepreneur and businessman Robert G. Kearns who emigrated to Canada in 1979. Mr Kearns said “Ireland Park Foundation is delighted to reach out to our Irish community to celebrate the deep historical, economic and cultural ties between Ireland & Canada. This has only been made possible by the generous support, vision and enthusiasm of Noel Creedon and his team at iNua Partnership.

Noel Creedon, MD of iNua Partnership said “The ambition is for this to be an annual dinner as part of our collaboration with Ireland Park Foundation, a partnership which aims to raise awareness and understanding of the Foundation here in Ireland and to strengthen the connection of Irish people living in Canada to business, cultural and political circles back home.” NUI Galway’s Dr Jason King, who has been commissioned to conduct new research to help uncover the personal stories of some of the thousands of Irish men, women and children who left from Cork and Limerick for Canada during the Famine years, presented his finding to the guests at the Dinner.

All proceeds raised from the event were donated to the Foundation.

WHAT: The iNua Ireland Park Foundation Inaugural Gala Dinner
WHO:

  • Minister for Agriculture, Food, the Marine & Defence Mr. Simon Coveney TD
  • Excellency Kevin Michael Vickers, the Ambassador of Canada to Ireland
  • NUI Galway’s Dr Jason King
  • Noel Creedon, MD of iNua Partnership
  • Robert G Kearns, Chairman of Ireland Park Foundation

WHEN: Thursday, September 24, 2015 – 7:30PM Reception

WHERE: Muckross Park Hotel, Killarney, County Kerry

For more information, see www.irelandparkfoundation.com and www.inuapartnership.ie

Pictured: Minister Simon Coveney TD, Ambassador Kevin Vickers & Noel Creedon, MD of iNua Partnership

Excerpt from Dr. Jason King’s Address:

Here, in Killarney, we have one of the most poignant memorials to these unknown children of the Famine.  If you have some time tomorrow, I would urge you to visit St. Mary’s Cathedral – regarded as Pugin’s finest – which served as a hospital, a place of worship, and a burial ground for workhouse children long before it was completed in 1855.  The burial ground is marked by a soaring redwood tree which provides a fitting place to reflect upon the fate of the unknown children of the Famine.

Killarney Children Famine Redwood Memorial

Redwood Memorial for Children’s Famine Grave, St. Mary’s Cathedral, Killarney.

The difficulties in tracing Irish Famine orphans make it appear all the more remarkable when we discover survivors who not only started new lives but new family lines in Canada with many living descendants.  Although the fate of Thomas Tracey remains unknown, his seven year old sister Bridget Ann settled in Whitby, Ontario, and she had children, grand- children, and great grand- children, including Terry Smith who is a board member of Ireland Park Foundation.  Bridget Ann Tracey brought with her to Canada a gold painted cream jug as a keepsake of her Irish homeland as well as stories of her transatlantic crossing passed down through generations which both remain largely undiscovered famine legacies.

http://www.thestar.com/news/2007/03/11/remnants_of_torontos_history.html

As he lay dying on Grosse Ile, Quebec, in the summer of 1847, James Quinn from Strokestown, in county Roscommon, implored his two young sons Patrick (12) and Thomas (6) to “Remember your soul and your liberty”.  Both orphans were adopted by a French-Canadian family and honoured their father’s memory by becoming priests who served mixed French and Irish Catholic congregations. In 1912, Thomas Quinn stood before the First Congress of the French Language in Canada in Quebec City to thank the Canadian people for their “untiring charity”.  This too is an unknown legacy of the Famine and our shared Canadian and Irish heritage.

image-thomas-quinn

Irish Famine Orphan Thomas Quinn

In the town of Richmond Quebec, the descendants of Irish Famine orphan Charles Coote, from Cootehill in County Cavan, treasure a handwritten account of their ancestor’s perilous transatlantic voyage on the Odessa, during which his father Samuel, mother Margaret, and sister Ellen all perished between mid-August and the first week of September in 1847, “their new world adventure ending at their first sight of Canada”.  And finally, let us not forget the story of William Vickers and the Vickers brothers who emigrated from Ireland in 1848 to the Miramichi in New Brunswick, whose descendants include our distinguished Canadian Ambassador, Kevin Vickers,who is here with us tonight.  The story of his ancestry is also too little known as a Famine legacy.

Ireland Park Foundation and iNua Partnership are to be commended for bringing these stories together.  These narrative traces of Irish Famine orphans help remind us that similar stories are being created today.   In marking their legacy, however, much work remains to be done.  In the past six months, Ambassador Vickers has launched the Ireland Park Foundation iNua Partnership, the Irish Famine Summer School at the National Famine Museum in Strokestown, the Digital Irish Famine Archive at NUI Galway, and he opened Canada’s Irish Festival on the Miramichi at the former quarantine station of Middle Island, New Brunswick.  He has helped to define a national vision and field of remembrance of the Canadian Famine Irish.  And yet, for scholars and travellers who wish to follow in their footsteps, the resources and way markers that exist remain all too fragmented.  There are no less than four digital archives that contain the records of the Canadian Famine Irish between New Brunswick and Toronto with no single, integrated, interoperable collection for scholars and the public to consult.  For travellers who wish to follow in the footsteps of the Famine Irish from Middle Island on the Miramichi, to Grosse Ile and the Black Stone in Montreal, to Kingston and the ultimate destination of Ireland Park in Toronto, all easily connected by VIA Rail, there is no single guiding authority to help way mark this national Famine Irish trail.  And here, in Killarney, we dine tonight in one of the main destinations of the magnificent Wild Atlantic Way, which is replete with Famine sites from Donegal to west Cork.  Between the three iNua Partnership hotels in Limerick, Killarney, and Cork, this trail wends its way past Stephen De Vere’s home in Curragh Chase National Forest Park, the ruined famine villages of Dingle and Ballinskelligs on the ring of Kerry, past the poignant redwood memorial here at St. Mary’s Cathedral, and on through west Cork to the blighted and iconic town of Skibbereen, first made famous by future Canadian Governor General Lord Dufferin in his harrowing 1847 book entitled From Oxford to Skibbereen.  Yet there is little to help familiarize travellers on the Wild Atlantic Way with these numerous Famine sites in their midst.   The time has come to consolidate these projects, digital archives, and heritage sites into a single field of vision and research on the Famine migrants that will honour their legacy and trace their crossings between Ireland and Canada and all of their myriad movements between our two countries.

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

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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.”

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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

Walk for Tragic Ship Carricks in Sligo

From Paul, Deering, Sligo Champion: (07/03/2015)

http://www.independent.ie/regionals/sligochampion/news/walk-for-tragic-ship-31034569.html

Carricks bell

Carricks Bell

A family’s 21-mile walk to get to Sligo Port to leave for Canada during famine times on a ship that eventually sank will be commemorated next month.

On 4th April, Rose Marie Stanley with her husband Terry will lead a Famine Trail Commemoration Walk from Cross, Keash to Sligo Port.  Rose Marie is a fifth generation descendent of Patrick and Sarah Kaveney, who with their six children did this same walk on the 4th April 1847, when as famine victims they left Ireland in the hope of a better life in Canada.

Mullaghmore and Cliffoney Historical Society in conjunction with descendents of different branches of the Kaveney family and other walking groups are undertaking this walk in memory of Patrick and Sarah and their six children, and all those who sailed with them to Canada on the ill fated Carricks in April 1847. The walk is 21 miles long and will start at the old Kaveney homestead in Cross at 9am and will proceed through Ballymote, Colloney, Ballysodare, and on to Sligo Port where they will arrive about 4pm. A short ceremony will take place at the pontoon beside the Custom and Ballast Quays, from where the Carricks set sail on its final journey.

Patrick and Sarah Kaveney were tenants of Lord Palmerston and became the first batch of his Assisted Emigrants to leave Sligo in 1847 for Quebec. Patrick and Sarah left on the 5th April 1847. At Sligo Port they were joined by 28 other families, a total of 173 emigrants, all former Palmerston tenants.

Some 17 of the families came from the Ballymote estate, 5 more came from Ennismurray, and 6 came from Ahamlish. Just over three weeks after leaving Sligo these emigrants entered the Gulf of St. Lawrence and were in sight of the Canadian coast when the Carricks was caught in a snow storm and crashed into the notorious Cap des Rosiers. Only 48 passengers survived. Patrick and Sarah with their son Martin survived; their five daughters were drowned.

They set up home in Jersey Cove and had four more children In 1855 Patrick died in a snow storm as he attended St. Patrick Day celebrations.

Rechristened Kavanagh in Canada, Patrick and Sarah set about establishing their new lives and local families helped them out until they could fend for themselves. They set up their new home in Jersey Cove, the Gaspe, had four more children and in 1855 Patrick died in a snow storm as he attended St. Patrick Day celebrations. Now 168 years after arriving in the Gaspe, family branches have spread out across Canada, but they still retain the family base in Jersey Cove. Most family branches are French speakers although some remain English speakers. Down the generations the family retained knowledge of, and came in search of, their Sligo roots. But only in recent years were they able to re-establish those roots and reconnect with long lost relatives who will join Rose Marie and Terry on the upcoming walk.

A monument, erected by the parish of St. Patrick’s Montreal, stands in the Gaspe in memory of those who drowned with the sinking of the Carricks. In May 2011 long lost remains were found in what appears to have been a mass grave near where the tragedy occurred. Investigations are underway to determine if these remains are those of Carricks victims.

gaspe carrick-s monument day it was erected

NUI Galway launches digital Irish famine archive

From UTV Ireland:

NUI Galway launches digital Irish famine archive

http://utv.ie/News/2015/06/22/NUI-Galway-launches-digital-Irish-famine-archive-39570

Eyewitness accounts of the effect of the Irish famine on migration to Canada in 1847-1848 will be available to read online through a curation by NUI Galway.

theophile-hamel-le-typhus 2

Theophile Hamel’s painting Le Typhus (1848) of Irish emigrants in a fever shed, which features prominently in the digital archive.

 Story by Marése O’Sullivan @Marese_UTV, Dublin

The Grey Nuns, who cared for Irish famine emigrants in Montreal’s fever sheds, kept annals and correspondence which have been translated from the original French and digitised.

The Digital Irish Famine Archive, which was launched by the Canadian Ambassador to Ireland, Kevin Vickers, contains three sets of annals from the Grey Nuns: “Ancien Journal (Old Journal), Volume I” and “Le Typhus d’1847, Ancien Journal (The Typhus of 1847, Old Journal), Volume II”, both translated from French to English, and the nuns’ first-hand experiences of the Irish migration in “Récit de l’épidemie” (Tale of the epidemic), which is transcribed in French from the original.

The archive also reveals testimonies from Irish orphans were adopted by French-Canadian families, such as Daniel and Catherine Tighe from Roscommon, and Robert Walsh from Kilkenny.

In ‘The Irish in America’, quoted in the archive, John Francis Maguire wrote of Robert Walsh: “For two weeks the boy never uttered a word, never smiled, never appeared conscious of the presence of those around him, or of the attention lavished on him by his generous protectors, who had almost come to believe that they had adopted a little mute, or that he had momentarily lost the power of speech through fright or starvation.”

The archive is curated by Dr Jason King, a postdoctoral researcher who specialises in interculturalism and migration, in partnership with NUI Galway’s Moore Institute; the University of Limerick; the Irish National Famine Museum; Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University, Connecticut; the Montreal Irish Monument Park Foundation; the Ireland Park Foundation; the iNua Partnership; and the Irish Research Council.

Ambassador Kevin Vickers said: “It gives me great pleasure to launch the Digital Irish Famine Archive. The archive commemorates and pays tribute to the Grey Nuns of Montreal and people of French and English Canada, like Bishop Michael Power in Toronto and Dr John Vondy in Chatham, who gave their lives caring for Irish emigrants during the Famine exodus of 1847.

“It is especially fitting that we launch the digital archive after Montreal’s Irish community has just made its annual pilgrimage to the Black Stone monument, which marks the site of the city’s fever sheds and mass graves for 6,000 Irish dead, and before the Irish Famine Summer School begins at the Irish National Famine Museum in Strokestown, County Roscommon.”

“The stories contained within the digital archive attest to the selfless devotion of the Grey Nuns in tending to typhus-stricken emigrants and providing homes for Irish orphans. In an age of increasingly desperate acts of migration, their compassion provides a lesson for us all.”

Kevin Vickers, Canadian Ambassador to Ireland

President Michael D. Higgins, who is patron of the archive, said: “During that bleak and terrible period of our history, an estimated 100,000 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 virtual archive is a very important project, which allows us to finally acknowledge the generosity and enormous humanity of those wonderful sisters whose great kindness and compassion, during one of the worst tragedies in our country’s history, must never be forgotten.”

President Michael D. Higgins

The archive can be seen at http://faminearchive.nuigalway.ie/