Professor Mark McGowan at Kingston’s Celtic Cross Famine Memorial in An Gorta Mor Park.
Exterior shot. Bearded man with greying hair and glasses, a dark blue windbreaker, standing beside a Celtic Cross with ornate patterning to his right. In the background can be seen a lake, and it is pouring rain. Rain water blurs part of the scene, but his face remains visible throughout.
I am Mark McGowan from the Department of History at the University of Toronto, on a rather blustery day here on the waterfront in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.
I am standing beside a monument erected not that long ago to commemorate the dead from the Irish Famine who migrated to British North America, and over twelve hundred died here in Kingston.
We are not far from where the fever sheds were. Once the passengers were landed in Kingston at Brewery Wharf, the sick ones were taken not far from here at the corner of Emily and King Street today – very close to a residential neighbourhood in the then small town of Kingston.
It was there that close to a thousand Irish migrants, both Catholic and Protestant, perished in the summer and fall of 1847.
Those who were able to move on went further inland to places like Toronto and Hamilton.
Others [stayed], particularly orphans – at least seventy one of which were taken care of here at the Hôtel Dieu by the Hospitaller Sisters of St. Joseph. Others were sent with their mothers to the House of Industry that was erected in the town by the end of the year. And others went to the fledgling General Hospital where they were treated in a very small facility.
Kingston is often forgotten because it lies between Montreal and Toronto: two centres that get a great deal of attention with regard to their contributions to the Famine migration and the relief of those refugees.
But here in Kingston in the summer of 1847 – when the population practically doubled because of the influx of refugees – Catholics, Protestants, civic officials, church persons, all rallied to the cause to relieve the suffering of these Irish migrants.
Final image of water with onscreen Ireland Park Foundation logo. Celtic style music playing.