history

 History of the Black Rock & Irish in Montreal

Read more about the incredible history of the Black Rock Monument

The Largest Gravesite of Irish People Outside of Ireland

First erected in 1859 by Irish laborers building the Victoria Bridge, the Black Rock is the only surviving external sign of the 6000+ immigrants buried by the shores of the St-Lawrence River in Point-Saint-Charles. The monument is a reminder of a pivotal moment in our city’s cultural development and the largest humanitarian effort in Canadian history until that point. For over a hundred years the Rock has carried the heavy weight of commemorating these victims of famine and typhus as well as the Montreal residents who died coming to their aide. Read more about the stone’s storied history and the tragedy of the Irish Famine.

1847 was  the middle year of a five year famine in Ireland. Originally referred to as “The Potato Famine”, the event is currently called “The Great Hunger”.

Detailed records are scarce, but it is estimated that one million or more men, women and children died in Ireland during this period and approximately one million more left Ireland in search of a better life.

Of the one million that left Ireland, it is believed that about 100,000 headed for what was then the colonies of British North America (now Canada).

These immigrants were poor, malnourished and  carried with them the dreaded “ship’s fever” known today as typhus: a very contagious and deadly disease.

As they travelled to Canada, many died on the voyage and were buried at sea in the cold Atlantic. It is difficult to determine how many died during the trip with estimates varying widely from 5000 to more than 15,000.

History of the Black Rock

History of the Black Rock

History Overview of the “Black Rock” 1847 was  the middle year of a five year famine in Ireland. Originally referred to as “The Potato Famine”, the event is currently called “The Great Hunger”. Detailed records are scarce, but it is estimated that one million or...

 Notable Irish canadians

Irish immigrants have played major role in Quebec and Canadian history, helping shape our culture, music, government and identity. Many of these historical figures were descendants of the surviving immigrants who fled to Canada during the Great Famine of 1847.

Mary Rose-Anne Bolduc, born Travers, (1894 – 1941), better known as La Bolduc, who was a star singer-songwriter in the early days of recording and a professional successful musician at a time when this vocation was not readily available to women.

Thomas D’Arcy McGee (1825 – 1868) who was an Irish-Canadian politician, Catholic spokesman, journalist, poet, and a Father of Canadian Confederation.  He moved to the Province of Canada in 1857 and worked hard to convince the Irish Catholics to cooperate with the Protestant British (members of the church) in forming a Confederation that would make for a self-governing Canada within the British Empire. 

Photo Gallery

Explore more images from the project and the site's incredible history

Archaeology at the site

Archaeologists from REM and Hydro-Quebec unearth remains with state of the art technology

Facts Irish in Quebec

Concordia School of Irish Studies

Montreal Comes to the aid of Irish famine refugees with typhus

As tens of thousands of Irish famine immigrants infected with “ship fever” (typhus) flooded Montreal’s shores, the city’s residents came to their aide, often at the expense of their own lives. Le Typhus by Hamel, the only contemporary painting of the event, pictures the three religious feminine congregations who played the largest role in the rescue effort: “First came the Grey Nuns who gave themselves heart and soul to the fearful labors of the vast lazar-house…. Then the Sisters of Providence… took their places beside the coffin-like wooden beds of the fever patients in the sheds…, When these two large communities were found to be inadequate to take care of the ever- increasing multitude of the sick, a thing came to pass which struck the whole city with admiration. The cloistered Hospitallers of St. Joseph [or Hôtel Dieu nuns], whom the citizens of Montreal had never seen except behind the gratings of their chapel or parlor, or in their own hospital wards, petitioned the Bishop to dispense them their vows of long seclusion, that they might go to the aid of their dear sister communities in the pestilential atmosphere of the fever sheds”. Montreal Mayor John Mills also lost his life helping in the fever sheds of Point-Saint-Charles. 

Old Saint-Patrick's Day Postcards

1847-48 Event and Black Rock Historical Sources

1847-48 Event and Black Rock Historical Sources

Historical writings concerning the event of 1847-48 and the Black Rock Black Rock Manifesto – November 13, 1981 http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1946&dat=19811113&id=4FsxAAAAIBAJ&sjid=DaUFAAAAIBAJ&pg=1627,1095003 The Ship Fever Monument – The...