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Professor Mark McGowan on Emigration Officer Edward McElderry

Interior shot of man with brown and grey hair, beard, and moustache wearing a dark blue sweater and chequered shirt underneath sitting in front of large window speaking to Camera.. Behind the window can be seen a large building with “Arena” sign and elevated highway and fast moving traffic beneath it. On screen text: Professor Mark McGowan. Department of History, University of Toronto.

Edward McElderry, we really don’t know how to pronounce his name. It could be Mc-El-Durry, it could be Mackelderry. But what we do know is that he was active in the civil service in Toronto, and was one of the few Roman Catholics to be so. He would have been a member of Michael Power’s congregation.

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Power would have known him. Power trusted him, and Power recommended him for the top job

Interior shot of Mark McGowan speaking to camera.

of being the Emigration Agent in Toronto.

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McElderry’s role is extremely important. He’s the one who has to triage migrants as they arrive at the docks in Toronto, specifically Reeses’s Wharf. And understand the severity of this job, and the importance because in a town of almost 20,000 people in the sailing season of June to October 1847 over 38,000 migrants arrive, almost twice the city’s population. Most of them are Irish, many are suspected, or are discovered to have some sort of communicable disease. And it is McEderry’s job essentially to triage the healthy ones out of the city, and triage the sick ones to the fever sheds

Interior shot of yellowing black and white illustration of profile two storey building with windows on both floors and sloped roof in background, picket fence surrounding it and wooden walkway in foreground. Written on illustration: “Pencil Sketch of Old Hospital on N.W. Corner of King & John Sts. Built in 1819. (Vol 1.P. 539). A Correct and Good Drawing. Camera pans diagonally from left to centre image.

that are eventually expanded at King and John at the Emigration Hospital. So McElderry is enormously important: he has Power’s endorsement,

Interior shot of Mark McGowan speaking to camera.

and what happens to McElderry is rather tragic because in late October he himself dies of fever, leaving his wife, who is now pregnant, and seven children practically destitute. And even though there are attempts made by Hawke for example, and by others within the city to appeal to the Governor General, to give Roseanne McElderry a pension, she’s refused. And refused on the basis that many died in the service of the migrants during that year, and it would be a dangerous precedent to set. Even though she had seven children, and another on the way. And unfortunately Power was already dead a month before McElderry, and so he couldn’t advocate for the person he had brought to the position.

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