Irish Canadian Famine Research

Irish Canadian Famine Research

Tag: Irish

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

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

EPIC will be hosting a temporary exhibition charting the experiences Irish Famine refugees in Canada. “Saving the Famine Irish: The Grey Nuns and the Great Hunger” tells the story of the religious orders in Montreal whose members gave selflessly to Irish immigrants during the summer of 1847 – their time of greatest need. The exhibition runs in Unit 5-6 of CHQ from 30/03/2017 until 22/04/2017.

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

Many thousands of people fled from Ireland during the Great Hunger and immigrated to Canada. Famine immigrants to Montreal were not only among the poorest of the poor, but many of them arrived already sick with typhus fever. Despite this, a number of people in the English and French Canadian communities provided the ailing and the dying with shelter and support. In the forefront of this compassionate movement were the Sisters of Charity, also known as the Grey Nuns. The exhibition is co-presented by EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum and Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University. It is currently on display to mark the 170th anniversary of ‘Black 47’, the high point of the Great Irish Famine.

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







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



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


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)

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



Saving the Famine Irish: The Grey Nuns and the Great Hunger (new exhibit: opens April 1st)

Saving the Famine Irish: The Grey Nuns and the Great Hunger

New exhibition to open April 1

This spring, Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute will open the exhibition “Saving the Famine Irish: The Grey Nuns and the Great Hunger,” which tells the story of the religious orders in Montreal whose members gave selflessly to Irish immigrants during their time of greatest need.

Christine Kinealy, PhD, founding director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute, is presenting this exhibition in collaboration with Jason King, PhD, Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow at Moore Institute at Galway University, and the Arnold Bernhard Library.

Many fled from Ireland during the Great Hunger and immigrated to Canada. Famine immigrants to Montreal were not only among the poorest of the poor, but also many of them arrived sick with typhus fever. Despite this, a number of people in the English and French Canadian communities provided the ailing and the dying with shelter and support. In the forefront of this compassionate movement were the Sisters of Charity, also known as the Grey Nuns.

The exhibition will be housed in the Lender Special Collection Room in Quinnipiac University’s Arnold Bernhard Library and will be open to the public starting April 1, 2015. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Please call 203-582-2634 for hours during the academic intercessions.


Atlantic Studies — Global Currents Special Issue: “Irish global migration and memory: transnational perspectives of Ireland’s Famine exodus”

cover Atlantic Studies

content atlantic studies


Global Legacies of the Great Irish Famine


Global Legacies of the Great Irish Famine: Transnational and Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Ed. Marguérite Corporaal, Christopher Cusack, Lindsay Janssen and Ruud van den Beuken. Reimagining Ireland 60. Oxford: Peter Lang, forthcoming 2014. xii+345pp. ISBN: 978-3034309035.



SECTION I Rewriting History

The ‘Affective Gap’ and Recent Histories of Ireland’s Great Famine

The Great Famine in Irish and British Historiographies, c.1860–1914

‘Rather Peculiar Claims Upon Our Sympathies’:
Britain and Famine in Finland, 1856–1868

Cataclysm as a Catalyst for Language Shift

SECTION II Rereading the Classics

Anthony Trollope’s Famine Economics

‘Where All Ladders Start’:
Famine Memories in Yeats’s Countess Cathleen

SECTION III Commemorating the Dead

Reconstructing Realities:
Exploring the Human Experience of the Great Famine through Archaeology

Waking the Bones:
The Return of the Famine Dead in Contemporary Irish Literature

SECTION IV Spacing the Famine

Geographic Scale and the Great Famine

No Spatial Watershed:
Religious Geographies of Ireland Pre- and Post-Famine

SECTION V Atlantic Connections

Philanthropy, Diplomacy and Nationalism:
The United States and the Great Famine

The Remembrance of Irish Famine Migrants in the Fever Sheds of Montreal

Contemporary Links between Canadian and Irish Famine Commemoration


The Afterlife of the Untimely Dead


Heroes of the Black Rock Play Performed by Point Saint Charles Community Theatre

From Donovan King:

A most excellent performance about the historic significance of Montreal’s Black Rock, performed at the Joe Beef Market by the Point Saint Charles Community Theatre!

The play is based on the experiences of the Famine Irish and the priests and nuns who cared for them in the fever sheds of Montreal, and the adoption of Irish children into French-Canadian families.  These experiences are also recorded in the annals of the Grey Nuns:

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“The Grandfather Canoe”: National University of Ireland Galway returns First Nations Cultural Artefact bequeathed to it by Famine era Landlord.

The Grandfather Canoe

First Nation Canadians offer traditional canoe in thanks

Funding to be raised for replica to mark repatriation of world’s oldest birchbark canoe

When Canada’s oldest birch-bark canoe was discovered hanging from the rafters of a building in Galway none were more surprised than the craft’s original owners, the Maliseet First Nation community of Fredericton, New Brunswick. Two hundred years previously the revered and sacred canoe disappeared from the banks of the St John River. The Maliseet believed it had been stolen and had vanished from their possession for good.

The canoe’s history is complex and extraordinary. The Maliseet call it ‘Akwiten’ or Grandfather Canoe. They understand it to represent the spirits of their grandfathers and great-grandfathers. They are recognised as the finest canoe-builders in North America and Canada and can trace their presence along this river for over 12,000 years.

In this documentary, Joe Kearney charts the canoe’s 200 year journey from the banks of the St John River to famine ravaged Headford, Co. Galway and back again to Canada. It is a story of the fight for lost identity and heritage in a tug-of-war battle for ownership of the ‘Grandfather’ Canoe.

The Grandfather canoe’ was funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland with the Television Licence Fee. It was produced by Joe Kearney. Production Supervision by Ciaran Cassidy. Sound Supervision by Mark McGrath.

First Broadcast 23rd August 2014

Irish Times (August 23 2014)

First Nation Canadians offer traditional canoe in thanks

Replica Grandfather Akwiten canoe which the Maliseet community has offered to Galway as a mark of thanks for returning their original.

Funding to be raised for replica to mark repatriation of world’s oldest birchbark canoe

Lorna Siggins

It can take four days to find a suitable tree for the type of birchbark canoe a native American community once built to transport moose and fish.

It might take longer to source one in the moose-free west of Ireland, but members of the Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) St Mary’s First Nation are determined to do so, if funding can be raised.

The community of just 1,000 people who take their name from the Wolastoq or St John river in New Brunswick, Canada, plan to build a replica to present to Ireland as a mark of thanks for repatriating the world’s oldest surviving birchbark canoe of its type.

“We would like to bring our skills and our music as a type of cultural exchange,” their leader, Chief Candice Paul, said.

It has been over five years since President Michael D Higgins, then Labour’s GalwayWest TD, intervened to back an appeal by Chief Paul for the canoe to be sent home. He recognised its importance as a “spiritual and cultural artefact”.

A mid 19th century account describes how this river “horse” was made of bark, garnished with cedar, coated with fir-tree gum and willow twigs, and how it carried “wives, children, dogs, kettles, hatchets, matachias (trinkets), bows, arrows, quivers, skins and the coverings of their houses”.

‘Home for pigeons’

In an open letter, Chief Paul had explained how the spirits of her community elders were vested in the craft which had then become a “home for pigeons”, hanging from a ceiling of NUIG’s James Mitchell museum.

So how did this particular craft come to be suspended from rafters on the other side of the Atlantic?

The Grandfather Akwiten canoe, as it is known, was one of three built by the Wolastoqiyik – nicknamed “Maliseet” or “slow speakers” – for British lieutenant-governor Sir Howard Douglas, who arrived in New Brunswick in 1824.

It passed into the hands of Lieut Stepney St George, an ancestor of former Fianna Fáilminister Martin Mansergh.

The lieutenant was then serving with the British imperial forces in Canada, and took the craft back home to Headford Castle, Co Galway.

Lieut Stepney St George was an enlightened landlord, and chair of the Headford Relief Commissioners during the Great Famine. He contracted fever and died, and in 1852 the canoe was donated by Edward Lombard Hunt to what was then known as Queen’s University in Galway.

It hung from the roof of the geology museum in the Quadrangle through decades of political turmoil and change, until it was rescued latterly by Dr Kathryn Moore of the university’s earth and ocean sciences department, and sent to Canada for restoration.

Members of the Wolastoqiyik spotted it on CBC News and contacted the Canadian Museum of Civilisation, where it was put on temporary display before return to Ireland. Irish academic Gerry McAlister of the Irish Studies Programme, St Thomas University, and Dr Susan O’Donnell, University of New Brunswick Fredericton supported Chief Paul’s campaign, which was a success.

“In a world ruled by ownership and personal interest, the Irish people have demonstrated their goodwill and respect for our people in the most meaningful and most honourable way possible,” community representatives said in a message relayed through Mr Higgins.

Such knowledge could help to “rebuild the cultural foundations of indigenous people worldwide”, it said, adding that it would focus in the months ahead on the need to establish a permanent home for the craft.

‘Not a nail’ used

That hasn’t happened yet, and the canoe is carefully conserved in a crate until it can be displayed. Before it was packed away by conservation specialists, however, the community measured it and scrutinised its construction, noting that “not a nail” was used.

The Wolastoqiyik also held a ceremony for it on the St John river, which was “very emotional”, according to Joe Kearney who compiled an RTÉ Radio 1 documentary which records some of their music.

“This canoe had been talked about for generations. They believed they had lost it forever, and it was like a lost child coming home,” he says.

The community, including Wayne Brooks and his sons, have begun building replicas to paddle on the river, and a delegation hopes to work with teenagers here on construction of one for the Corrib. “We would like to visit Galway and anywhere else in Ireland that would have us,” Chief Paul says.

An RTÉ Radio 1 documentary, The Grandfather Canoe, will be broadcast this evening as part of the Documentary on One series.

Grey Nuns Famine Annal laments disappearance of 1847 Irish grave site

From Donovan King:

This powerful passage comes at the end of “The Typhus of 1847” digital archive: (pp. 112-113).

It describes those buried as “martyrs” while elaborating on the disappearance of the Famine grave site:

“Truly it is costly to distance oneself in the vast field which we have run through. This place of Point SAINT-CHARLES which we have stridden is a blessed place, it is home to six thousand (6000) martyrs. The railroad that crosses in all directions before us today in Pointe SAINT-CHARLES and the one thousand and one (1001) dwellings that stand in all directions before us, let us barely see the place that in other times was a valley of epidemic.

An enormous stone erected as the first monument to the workers who built VICTORIA BRIDGE, is our only indicator of this venerable place, by its humble inscription.

But if the cooled ashes of our Irish brothers have neither marble nor cypress to shade their graves, Heaven will immortalize their glory, and our Canadian annals will register, with respect, this place of their misfortune and the admirable devotion it produced.

Happy is the age that made saints and martyrs under acts of oppression. Happy were the years 1847 and 1848, which gave us heroes and heroines not combating with the sword, but dying for the relief of strangers.

Oh holy religion, yours is the glory of this heroic devotion! . . . Horrific episode, but so glorious, how will we forget you? . . .”