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Ireland to Montreal – 1859

Freeman’s Journal 30th December, 1859 p.3

360px-Victoriatown_Big_Black_Rock

Photo: douaireg Wikimedia Commons

It will be in the recollection of many of our readers that during the famine years of 1847 and 1848 there was an unusual emigration from Ireland to Canada and the United States. Numbers of those who thus left their native land expired from ship fever, caused by utter exhaustion, before they reached the American continent; others only arrived there to die of that fatal disease. The Canadian government made very extensive efforts to save the lives of the poor emigrants. A large proportion were spared, but at Montreal, where the government erected temporary hospitals on a gigantic scale, upwards of 6,000 of these poor emigrant people expired. Their remains were interred close to the hospitals, at a spot that is now mainly covered with railway buildings, and in close proximity to the point whence the Victoria bridge projects into the St. Lawrence. All traces of the sad events of that disastrous period would have been obliterated but for the warm and reverential impulse of Mr. James Hodges, the engineer and representative of Messrs. Peto, Brassey and Betts, in Canada. Through his instrumentality and by his encouragement the workmen at the bridge came to the determination, infinitely to their honour, of erecting a monument on the spot where the poor Irish emigrants were interned. An enormous granite boulder, or a rough conical shape, weighing 30 tons, was dug up in the vicinity, and on the 1st instant it was placed on a base of cut stone masonry twelve feet square by six feet high. The stone bears the following inscription:

To preserve from desecration the remains of 6,000 emigrants who died from ship fever in 1847 and 1848, this monument is erected by workmen in the employment of Messrs Peto, Brassey, and Betts, engaged in the construction of the Victoria Bridge, 1859.

Several addresses were delivered on the occasion, and in the course of that made by the Bishop of Montreal he alluded in feeling terms to the many good deeds for which the name of his friend, Mr. James Hodges, will be gratefully remembered in Canada, the last of which was the event they were then commemorating. Thanks to him, the plot of ground on which the memorial is raised is set apart forever; so that the remains of the poor emigrants lying interred there will henceforward be preserved from all or any irreverent usage.

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