The Famine Irish in Saint John, New Brunswick: A Visit by Kayak to Partridge Island National Historic Site
Above: Irish Catholic Burial Ground
Above: Irish Catholic Burial Ground
Saving the Famine Irish: The Grey Nuns and the Great Hunger
Exhibition at the Russell Library
An exhibition exploring the little known story of the Grey Nuns and other religious orders in Montreal, who provided care and shelter to Irish immigrants in Canada during the Great Hunger, will launch in the Russell Library on Wednesday, 8 November at 16.00. Saving the Famine Irish: The Grey Nuns and the Great Hunger was curated by Professor Christine Kinealy, Director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University, and Dr. Jason King.
One of the first priests to enter the fever sheds with the Grey Nuns was Father Patrick Morgan, who was ordained at Maynooth College in May 1842. Morgan was also one of the first clergy to perish from the typhus epidemic, dying on the 8 July, 1847.
Saving the Famine Irish: The Grey Nuns and the Great Hunger exhibition features original material from the historical collections of Maynooth University and St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth including the matriculation entry for Father Patrick Morgan and a letter of introduction for Montreal’s Bishop, Ignace Bourget (1799-1885), who visited Maynooth in 1847 to recruit Irish missionary priests.
The exhibition will run in the Russell Library until 25 January, 2018 and is free to view during the Library opening times of Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, 10:00 to 13:00 and 14:00 to 17:00.
Photos by Alan Monaghan
Montreal Gazette (August 12, 2017)
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.)
Numerous sources, including records kept by religious communities and newspaper reports, paint a vivid account of the famine migration to Montreal.
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)
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.
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.
Jason King, Christine Kinealy, Michael Blanch, Fiona Ross.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org And Dr Jason King: email@example.com
Deadline for receipt of abstracts 31 January 2017
29th September 2015
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
WHEN: Thursday, September 24, 2015 – 7:30PM Reception
WHERE: Muckross Park Hotel, Killarney, County Kerry
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Montreal AOH President Victor Boyle and Donovan King
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.”
Performing Famine Memory:
Irish Theatre and the Great Hunger Symposium
National University of Ireland, Galway, February 12-13, 2015.
Date: Thursday February 12, 1-7pm. Friday February 13, 10am -12pm.
Venue: Hardiman Research Building, G010.
Conference Convener and Contact: Dr. Jason King (Jason.firstname.lastname@example.org)
This symposium examines Irish Theatre and Famine Memory between the periods of the Irish Revival and the rise and fall of Ireland’s Celtic Tiger. It places special emphasis on the performance of Famine remembrance to register moments of national crisis and forced migration in Ireland, both past and present. The symposium brings together leading Irish theatre and famine scholars and theatre practitioners to explore recent productions about the Great Hunger in the era of the Celtic Tiger, such as DruidMurphy’s revival (2012) of Tom Murphy’s Famine (1968), Sonya Kelly’s How to Keep An Alien (2014), Moonfish Theatre’s bilingual English and Irish language adaptation of Joseph O’Connor’s novel Star of the Sea (2014), Jaki McCarrick’s Belfast Girls (2012), Fiona Quinn’s The Voyage of the Orphans (2012), Caroilin Callery and Maggie Gallagher’s “Strokestown – Quebec Connection Youth Arts Project – ‘The Language of Memory and Return’” (2011-2014), Donal O’Kelly’s The Cambria (2005), and Elizabeth Kuti’s The Sugar Wife (2005). Representations of the Great Famine during the Revival in Maud Gonne’s Dawn and early plays staged at the Gate Theatre will also be discussed. The performance of traumatic remembrance of the Famine and pivotal historical events in W.B. Yeats’s The Dreaming of the Bones (1916) will be explored in a keynote address by Professor Chris Morash. Dr. Marguérite Corporaal will also deliver a keynote address on the development of international Famine studies and research networks and opportunities for collaboration.
Symposium Schedule Thursday Februrary 12:
1-2pm. Irish Famine Memory and Migration in Contemporary Theatre Productions:
Barry Houlihan (NUIG), Overview of Irish Theatre Archival Resources at NUI Galway.
Dr. Jason King (NUIG): “Performing the Green Pacific: Staging Female Youth Migration in Jaki
McCarrick’s Belfast Girls (2012) and Fiona Quinn’s The Voyage of the Orphans (2012)”.
Dr. Charlotte McIvor (NUIG): ‘The Cambria (2005) and How To Keep An Alien (2014): Famine Traces and the Palimpsestic Time of Irish Migration’
2-3pm. Staging Famine Memory: Theatre Practitioner Perspectives
Máiréad Ni Chroinin (NUIG and Moonfish Theatre): “Moonfish Theatre’s production of Star of the Sea, based on the novel by Joseph O’Connor” (2014).
Caroilin Callery (Cultural Connections Theatre Group): Strokestown – Quebec Connection Youth Arts Project – ‘The Language of Memory and Return’.
3:30-5pm. DruidMurphy and Early Twentieth-Century Representations of the Great Famine on Stage:
Professor Patrick Lonergan (NUIG): DruidMurphy (2012) and Abbey Productions of Tom Murphy’s Famine.
Dr. Marguérite Corporaal (Radboud University Nijmegen): “Starvation in the Shadows: (Un)staging the Famine in Maud Gonne’s Dawn (1904)”.
Ruud Van Den Beuken (Radboud University Nijmegen): “’My blessing on the pistol and the powder and the ball!’: Prospective Memories of Landlord Murders in the Earl of Longford’s Ascendancy (1935)”.
6pm. Keynote address: Professor Chris Morash (MRIA, Trinity College, Dublin):
“Re-placing Trauma: Yeats’s The Dreaming of the Bones”.
Plenary Workshop: Dr. Marguérite Corporaal, “Building Irish Famine Research Networks”.
Deputy Thom Kluk from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands will introduce keynote speaker Dr. Marguérite Corporaal (Radboud University Nijmegen). Dr. Corporaal will discuss her European Research Council funded project Relocated Remembrance: The Great Famine in Irish (Diaspora) Fiction, 1847-1921 (http://www.ru.nl/relocatedremembrance/) and her Dutch Research Council funded International Network of Irish Famine Studies (INIFS) (http://www.ru.nl/irishfaminenetwork/). She will consider the challenges of building international research networks and explore the opportunities and themes for research collaboration.
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
Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute