'An tOcras Mór' The Great Hunger.



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Forum Home > Memorials Throughout The World Of "The Great Hunger" > Grosse-Île

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Our story on the famine finishes for now with a Canadian link which I find of interest - that of Grosse-Île. (More on that page in the links below) This little spot is an island about 3 miles long and a mile wide and lies 30 miles to the east and downriver of Quebec. It was first used as a quarantine centre in 1832 when a cholera epidemic struck European immigrants. It was re-opened for the expected influx of Irish immigrants in 1847 and initially it housed 50 beds and enough straw to sleep a further 150.


Prior to the expected arrival of the ships during the famine years there was a medical staff of 3 headed by Dr. George Douglas. In 1847 alone 4 doctors sacrificed their lives as a result of caring for the fever-ridden immigrants, one of whom came from Dublin - a Dr. Benson.


The first ship to arrive, ten days after preparations were completed, was The Syria, discharging 231 passengers of which 84 needed admission with typhus fever. The first victim to die at Grosse-Ile in 1847 was four year old Ellen Keane.


Week by terrible week more arrived needing the help of Grosse-Île and a report by Dr. Douglas, only two weeks after opening, stated that he had 850 patients in his hospital and a further 500 on board ships awaiting admission. Over 100,000 immigrants arrived between Quebec and Grosse-Île in 1847 alone. 398 ships were inspected at Grosse-Île and 26 of these came from Sligo, each ship having an average of 300-400 passengers.


The Irish Cemetery at Grosse-Ile

It is estimated there were over 3226 Irish emigrants who died at Grosse-Île and a further 2198 who died on board ship.

Statistics show a total of 5424 Irish people are buried in this place and it is known that over 5,000 died at sea.


The Irish cemetery accounts for over 80% of the total buried on Grosse-Île and there is evidence of the mass graves required in 1847.



A stone celtic cross stands as a memorial to those who died and it is a stark reminder to us all of what famine is about. Famine continues today in this world of plenty - will we ever see it end?

The Celtic Cross, standing at a height of almost 50 feet, was erected by the Ancient Order of Hibernians to honour the memory of all those Irish buried at Grosse-Île.


In 1997 a new irish Memorial was errected for the 150th. anniversary of the famine and you can read more about it on the Grosse-Île page.


We as a nation have much to be grateful for, particularly to the people of Canada, America and indeed Australia who opened their arms to our starving poor and who continue to welcome those who leave these shores.


Celtic Cross at



In September 1998 I got to visit Canada again and on this trip went to Grosse-Île. You can learn more there about this tiny island, how it weaves through this period in our history and how our transatlantic links were forged. As for me - well if my father's people hadn't stayed behind and survived I wouldn't be here and you wouldn't be reading this page.

And so, this part of our journey concludes, links to the rest of the journey are just below our newsletter subscription.




This petition seeks your support for a campaign to:

* Persuade relevant authors, editors and website content providers to stop using the word ‘Famine’ for what took place in Ireland between 1845 and 1850, and start using terms such as, "The Great Hunger" or 'An tOcras Mór

PETITION LINK- TO CHANGE THE WORD FAMINE http://www.petitions24.com/when_famine_became_genocide_ireland_1845_-_1850

April 10, 2010 at 1:57 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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