Professor Mark McGowan describes the suffering of Famine orphan children such as Margaret Conlon at the Celtic Cross Famine Memorial on Grosse Île, Quebec.
Exterior shot. Man is standing wearing glasses and a dark blue jacket, viewed from the knees up, in front of a large Celtic Cross. The scene is backlit by bright sun which leaves them partially silhouetted. Behind him can be seen some trees, rocks, and fencing, against a backdrop of a large river and mountains on the horizon. He speaks to camera.
Mark McGowan, from the Department of History at the University of Toronto, and I’m here at the quarantine station on Grosse Île about forty kilometres northeast of Quebec.
It would have been at this point that Irish and other passengers would have to disembark in 1847 and 1848 so that they could be cleared of any infectious disease and then move on into the interior.
Unfortunately, many died on this island, suffering mostly from typhus, which left another casualty of the Famine migration, and that was orphaned children.
Camera pans in closer to focus on Mark McGowan and the Celtic Cross.
It was recorded that there was approximately seven hundred and two orphaned children that landed in these sailing seasons of 1847-1848 in Quebec. These children would be moved to be placed with families in the Quebec area, in Lotbinière, in Rimouski, and then downriver again to Montreal.
One of those orphaned children actually was a young Church of Ireland girl by the name of Margaret Conlon. Her family died entirely en route.
She was the only one left, and was taken in by the Lord Bishop of Montreal. She was then picked up by an uncle and delivered to his farm in Upper Canada, just north of Toronto. From there, Margaret Conlon married, had a family, and died just outside of Hamilton some time later.
But she has left descendants today, including on in northern British Columbia, who now has a complete picture of her family, and that family’s story in Canada began here, at Grosse Île.
Final image of blurred lights in background, with onscreen Ireland Park Foundation logo. Celtic style music playing.