Saturday, May 30, 2009

Seeking Hope, They Found Death

Many in the Irish community will march down Bridge St. in Point St. Charles tomorrow to honour those who died. Photograph by: Allen McInnis, The Gazette

From The Montreal Gazette:

Tomorrow marks the 150th anniversary of the planting of the Black Rock, which honours the remains of 6,000 Irish immigrants who died of ship fever.

The Irish came by the tens of thousands in 1847, packed like cordwood below deck in fetid ship holds meant for timber. They were fleeing famine and seeking salvation in the New World. Instead they found death, dying by the thousands at sea, in quarantine near Quebec City and finally in Montreal, victims of disease and neglect.

There were so many corpses, trenches were dug to dispose of the dead in what is now Point St. Charles. Twelve years later, labourers building the Victoria Bridge would uncover the bones of their brethren and insist the remains be protected. To make sure of it, they planted a massive 30-tonne, 10-foot high boulder dredged from the St. Lawrence River over the burial site, and inscribed it, in part: "To preserve from desecration the remains of 6,000 immigrants who died of ship fever."

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