While we were wandering the harbour this weekend, we came across this very interesting park. It commemorates the 38,000 Irish immigrants who arrived in Toronto in 1847, fleeing the Potato famine. Toronto had a population of only 20,000 at the time so the number of immigrants was really staggering.
This excerpt is from the official site:
For Torontonians, the influx of 38,560 refugees from the Famine to their city, in 1847, not only challenged public officials, and strained local resources in what would amount to the greatest civic crisis in the young city’s history, the spring and summer of “Black ’47” would leave an indelible set of images regarding the nature and character of “the Irish”
In the summer of 1847 the Toronto Waterfront witnessed one of the greatest human tragedies in the history of the city. Between May and October of that year, over 38,000 Irish Famine emigrants arrived from Ireland at a time when the city’s population was just 20,000 people.
On July 9th 1847, the Toronto Mirror newspaper reported: “The state of the emigrants daily becomes worse and worse. On Wednesday, the Steamer Sovereign brought up 1,000 souls. This is a horrible traffic in human blood…what the ultimate results are to be, we shudder to contemplate: but if, in December such an extent of utter want of food prevails, whence is sustenance to come, in May, June and July, and should the potato no longer be looked forward to, as a means of relief? This is a question that should come home to the heart of every man who has a heart.”
The sympathetic views of the Toronto Mirror towards the suffering of the Irish Famine emigrants were widely shared by the inhabitants of the city. Bishop Michael Power, Toronto’s first Catholic Bishop, had sent a pastoral letter to Toronto from London, in advance of his return to the city from a tour of Rome, London and Dublin. His letter, read out on May 15th from the pulpits of all of the Catholic Churches in and around Toronto, urged congregations to be prepared for the influx of Irish Famine victims. Power had witnessed at first hand the plight of the emigrants on the Quayside in Dublin, during his visit to the city in January 1847.
The memorial is quite simple but haunting. The stones were brought from Ireland and the names of the immigrants who died on the way are engraved in between the walls. Statues of the starving newcomers are quite graphic…
Very sad… Nice memorial… It’s buy the lake, near the Island airport building.