The Irish Famine in Montreal Walking Tour
The Irish Famine in Montreal Walking Tour revisits one of the darkest chapters in the city’s history, also known as Black ’47. Starting in June, 1847, Montreal was overwhelmed by wave after wave of Irish refugees fleeing brutal oppression at home, including a massive famine triggered by a potato blight and colonial British landowners, many of whom forced tenants off their lands.
Over a million died on Irelands shores and a million more were scattered all over the planet. Those arriving up the Saint Lawrence River were packed into “Coffin Ships”, Canadian lumber ships that were never intended to transport human beings, but rather ballast. Crammed in filthy conditions, the Irish refugees were subjected to typhus, a deadly and contagious disease. A Quarantine Station on Grosse-Ile near Quebec City tried to contain the spread of typhus, but was unable to.
As the first ships arrived in Montreal, dying refugees began collapsing on the wharves and in overcrowded fever sheds. Over the course of 1847, 75,000 Irish refugees fleeing the Famine landed on Montreal’s wharves, a city of only 50,000 at the time. Despite the risks, Montreal’s finest citizens went to the aid of the refugees, including three orders of nuns, doctors, clergy and the Mayor himself. Many made the ultimate sacrifice when they contracted typhus and perished. The death toll was staggering.
The walking tour provides in-depth history about the Irish Famine's impact on Montreal in 1847. Guests will visit key sites associated with this tragedy, including the Old Port and Lachine Canal, the Grey Nuns Motherhouse, the two locations of Montreal’s fever sheds and mass burial grounds, and the infamous Black Rock monument.
The Irish Famine in Montreal Walking Tour is sure to please those researching family roots, history buffs, and tourists and locals interested in this dark episode in the city’s history. The tour also supports efforts by the Irish Monument Park Foundation to establish a commemorative park at the Black Rock, which sits atop the gravesite of over 6000 Irish Famine refugees.