My daughter sent me a pic of a vintage sign hanging in a NY bar. ~
As one million Irish died of starvation during the Great Potato Famine of the 1800's, another one million chose emigration to the Americas. They were weak from malnutrition and brought an epidemic of Cholera and Typhus with them. The African Slave Trade had ended and the holds of those same ships were now overcrowded with desperate Irish immigrants. There was no potable water, little food and no sanitation facilities. Thousands did not survive the voyage.
The Canadian quarantine station was build on a small island, just 1 Kilometre by 3 Kilometres, in the St. Lawrence River, near Quebec City. In 1847 the flood of immigrants had reached a peak that overwhelmed the rudimentary facilities of the island and it's staff. Overcrowded death ships piled up in the river as the fever sheds on shore were jammed with the sick and dying. Those who survived the passage of as many as 60 days at sea, were trapped on board with more contagious sick.
By the end of that terrible year, over 6,000 Irish souls were laid to rest on Grosse Ile. These mounds are mass graves. ~
Today, the Island is a National Park with a monument to those who never saw their dream of freedom and prosperity come to be. Their names are also engraved on a glass plaque. For those 1,500 who died nameless, an engraving of a sailing ship commemorates each one. ~
Families were fractured as the healthy were released to find their way in the new land and, for many years, the Montreal newspapers carried notices of people trying to find their loved ones or discover if they had perished on the island.
Today, I will hope that St. Patrick keeps them all safely together and heaven rings with Irish laughter and song.
Very interesting and thank you for sharing. I didn't know. I really don't believe in school we ever studied this. Wonder why not? Great post.ReplyDelete
I wondered the same thing. I suppose it wasn't a period of Canadian history we were very proud of.Delete
Wow, what an amazing story, Maureen. I had no idea. Thanks for sharing and educating. :)ReplyDelete
I know it isn't the cheeriest story but I felt I had to get that one off my chest.Delete
Wow what a great post, and well written I must say. I have never heard about the hardship, it must have been awful. Happy St. Pattys day and thanks for sharing, your stories are so interesting.ReplyDelete
I know- it is sad, isn't it, what tragedy struck so many of the Irish? I knew about it because I grew up in an Irish community. Happy St. Paddy's Day to you and blessings to all those whose families perished seeking a better life. xo DianaReplyDelete
Happy St. Paddy's Day to you. It's a good time to remember how lucky we are!Delete
Your stories are so well written and informative. I learn so much reading your blog! xo wendyReplyDelete
Fascinating history, Maureen, and so interestingly told.ReplyDelete
Thanks. Happy St. Paddy's Day!Delete
Maureen, this is a really interesting and informative post. Last night, my son, who is a History major in college, told me the history of St. Patrick. St. Patrick is commonly celebrated for “driving the snakes out of Ireland.” What he really did was aggressively evangelize the native Irish. He turned them away from their ancestral traditions and their indigenous religions. He harassed and eventually drove away the Druids—the infamous “snakes.” I never knew the real history and did not know the "snakes" were people who would not convert to Christianity!ReplyDelete
The potato famine was a terrible time. Some of my own ancestors came over to England to escape from starvation.ReplyDelete
I suppose your Irish ancestors weren't much more wanted there than they were here.Delete
Thank you for sharing this story, it was a such a tragedy!ReplyDelete
Thank you for sharing the story.ReplyDelete
Yes this is heart breaking. The fear of disease and death persists today. Think of ships of refugees turned away even in our time.ReplyDelete
It's so hard to overcome the fear and see things from the immigrants side. Good point, Olive.Delete
I am American Irish. My uncle who was born in 1899 here in NY was refused admission to the public high school. He and several others who graduated from the Catholic Elementary were told they were not welcome as they were Irish Catholics! This was 1913, and they were born here! Amazing isn't it? They had to get the police to come and make the Principal admit them!ReplyDelete
It was pitiful the way the English treated the Irish during the famine.
That is the first I have heard of them not being allowed in the public schools. I guess we should all remember the high price they paid for us to live the way we do.ReplyDelete
I am an Irish-American, but had never heard some of the history provided here. Thanks for a reminder of how lucky I am.ReplyDelete
I'm delighted to have you with me Ellis!Delete