Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Wednesday's Website/The Grosse Isle Tragedy


    Today's link is to a short book entitled The Grosse Isle Tragedy and the Monument to the Irish Fever Victims 1847.  The island of course, was a quarantine station in the St. Lawrence where immigrants fleeing the famine in Ireland first set foot on Canadian soil after disembarking their ships.

     The book was printed to commemorate the 1909 unveiling of the monument on Grosse Isle which was erected by the Ancient Order of Hibernians in memory of the thousands of Irish fever victims who perished there in 1847.  While it's unlikely you'll find any ancestors in the book, there are loads of interesting photos of dignitaries and clergymen and of locations on the island as well as some from the Emerald Isle. 

     In chapter 10 is found a partial list of the ships that docked at the quarantine station in 1847 along with the number of deaths at sea on each ship; it gives some idea of how many unfortunate people died on the coffin ships though it doesn't take into account how many more died on the island or later in places like Quebec and Toronto after being released from quarantine.  To get a look at the old lazaretto, an isolation hospital from 1847, try this link to Google Maps street view.  You can actually enter the hospital and look around. Though it's mostly empty now, imagine it full of terminally ill patients on cots and even floors with overwhelmed nurses and doctors, many of whom also lost their lives, moving about trying to comfort them.

     I live about 500 miles from Grosse Ile and hope one day to visit this tragic island where so many of our ancestors met their ends. Escaping one horror in Ireland, only to find another here, they remain on the island in mass graves still.

Far from their own beloved land
Those Irish exiles sleep
Where dreams nor faith crown'd shamrock,
Nor ivies o're them creep;
But fragrant breath of maple
Sweeps on with freedom's tide
And consecrates this lonely isle
Where Irish exiles died


  1. This is so heartbreaking. To think of them fleeing in hopes of finding a better life, only to die on ships in the isolation in such a hospital is so sad.

    It was really amazing to see that hospital still standing and to "go inside." I've never done that with Google Maps before so thanks for sharing it. Like you said, I could almost imagine it filled with cots of sick and dying people and the sadness that must have been there. So many sad things in the history of man.

  2. Just tragic, they must have felt so powerless... Reminds me of the Yeats poem "for the world's more full of weeping..."