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Thomas Quinn Address to the First Congress of the French Language in Canada (1912)


It was in 1847. A famine more terrible than that which had preceded it threatened the Irish people with a complete extermination. The most astonishing spectacle was not to see people die, but to see them live, so great was the distress.

In the course of three years, more than four million of these happy ills, miraculously escaped death, took the path of exile. Walking ghosts, they went away, crying, asking for hospitality from wealthier countries.

Providence wanted us to be thrown, after a navigation of two months, on the coasts of Grosse-Ile.

A disease that science has not found anywhere else, famine fever, added its terrible addictions to so many other pains

Canada, however, had seen these unfortunates coming, and recognized them as brothers. Touched with compassion, Canadian French priests, braving the epidemic, competed for the glory of going to help them.

French Canadian clergy, be eternally blessed with your heroism! Above all, you who have fallen victims of your devotion, glorious martyrs of charity, enjoy in the glory of the justly deserved reward!

Thanks to your tireless charity, my unfortunate parents were able to fall asleep from their last sleep, in peace with God, forgiving to their enemies and taking away the ineffable consolation of leaving their children in the care of the French Canadian priest.

I still remember one of these admirable ecclesiastics leading us to the bedside of my dying father. On seeing us, the latter, in a faltering voice, told us again the old Irish adage: Remember your soul and your liberty. Remember your soul and your freedom.

Sixty-six years have passed since then, but my soul has kept grateful to the French Canadian people, and my spirit has remained jealous of their rights and freedoms.