Virtual Archive of Famine Stories Launched at UL
Jimmy Deenihan TD Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, recently launched a unique virtual archive of famine stories at the University of Limerick. The archive translates the French language annals and pays tribute to the French-Canadian Sisters of Charity, or Grey Nuns, who cared for the Irish Famine emigrants in the fever sheds of Montreal during the summer of 1847 and provided homes for Irish widows and orphans. These annals contain extensive and highly evocative eyewitness accounts of the suffering of famine migrants in 1847.
Speaking at the event, Minister Deenihan said; “These annals contain extensive and very moving eyewitness accounts of the suffering of famine migrants in 1847. Written in French and unpublished until now they were unknown to both scholars and the general public. As Chair of the Famine Commemoration Committee it is my role to ensure that the commemorations undertaken in Drogheda and Boston this year honour the victims of the Famine and also all those who selflessly assisted them at that time.”
The archive consists of numerous eye witness accounts and first hand testimonials about the suffering of Irish emigrants in the fever sheds of Montreal in 1847, and of the harrowing experiences of the priests and nuns who went to their aid and sought to provide homes for stricken widows and orphans.
Dr Jason King, University of Limerick is the lead researcher on the project. He explains the significance of the archive; “”The Typhus of 1847 / Le Typhus de 1847″ virtual archive makes accessible the stories of individuals and members of religious communities who risked their own lives to care for and provide comfort for Famine Irish emigrants in Montreal in 1847. It provides a record not just of the hardships and suffering experienced by the Famine emigrants, but also a moving tribute to those who sought to help them.”
The Great Irish Famine of 1845-1850 was the greatest social calamity in terms of mortality and suffering that Ireland has ever experienced. During those years, over one million people perished from hunger or, more commonly, from hunger-related diseases. In the decade following 1846, when the floodgates of emigration opened, more than 1.8 million people emigrated, with more than half fleeing during the famine years.
The main annal in the archive is that of the Grey Nuns of Montreal which has been published in French in La Revue Canadienne under the title “Le Typhus de 1847” in 1898; the UL virtual archive is making this material accessible as it is completely unknown in the English speaking world.
The virtual archive can be accessed here: http://faminearchive.nuigalway.ie/
The event was also attended by representatives of the Québec Government Office, London and the Embassy of Canada in Ireland. The project has been funded by the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty Teaching and Research Boards, University of Limerick.