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Quarantining the past : commemorating the Great Irish Famine on Grosse-Île

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Quarantining the past : commemorating the Great Irish Famine on Grosse-Île

McMahon, Colin (2001) Quarantining the past : commemorating the Great Irish Famine on Grosse-Île. Masters thesis, Concordia University.

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Abstract

Grosse-Île, Canada's main quarantine station from 1832 to 1937, was a required stopover for immigrants on their voyage up the St. Lawrence River to the Port of Quebec. Though most passed through the inspection process with little delay, during the spring and summer of 1847, the deadliest year of the Great Famine (1845-50), 100 000, predominantly Catholic, Irish made their way to the island aboard 'coffin ships'. Their already weakened state worsened by the inhumane crossing, some succumbed to typhus en route, others while in quarantine. Despite the efforts of the island's medical staff and the ministrations of members of Quebec's Catholic and Anglican clergy, over five thousand Irish were buried that summer on Grosse-Ile in mass graves. Thousands more died after leaving the island for Quebec City, Montreal, Kingston, Toronto, and Hamilton. In commemorations organized on the island at the beginning and the end of the twentieth century, Irish-Canadians have memorialized this Irish episode in Grosse-Île's history. In 1909, eight thousand commemorators made the journey to the island to witness the unveiling of a Celtic Cross and hear an assortment of historical, political, and religious orations. Almost ninety years later, amidst controversy and debate over the extent to which the island's Irishness would be emphasized, Parks Canada renamed the national historic site, Grosse-Île and the Irish Memorial , and opened an exhibition marking the Famine sesquicentennial. These acts of public remembrance were multivocal orchestrations, incorporating a variety of historical perspectives. Examining Grosse-Île's commemorative discourses reveals much about the socio-political context in which they were formulated and affords the opportunity to consider how we as a society choose to approach the past in the public sphere.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > History
Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Authors:McMahon, Colin
Pagination:v, 108 leaves ; 29 cm.
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Theses (M.A.)
Program:History
Date:2001
Thesis Supervisor(s):Rudin, Ronald
ID Code:1525
Deposited By:Concordia University Libraries
Deposited On:27 Aug 2009 13:20
Last Modified:08 Dec 2010 10:21
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