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THE FORCE OF HOPE: The Legacy of Father McGauran

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Tugadh Samhradh an Bhróin air. In 1847, theith inimireigh Éireannacha ina mílte ón nGorta Mór agus shroich siad, marbh is ag fáil báis, stáisiún coraintín Oileán na nGael i g Ceibeac. Is mór an clú do Cheanada é gur ligeadh asteach iad agus thug imimirceach Éireannach, an tAthair Bearnárd Mag Shambráin, sólás is ábhar dóchais dóibh. Tugann an déantóir-seannán Lindalee Ni Threasaigh, léi sinn tri uafás an mhatalaing dhaonna is measa i gCeanada agus feicimid iarrachtaf cróga an ghaiscigh gan aithne seo ag cruinniú buíne tarrthála ilchultúrtha is ilteangaí.

It was called the Summer of Sorrow. In 1847, thousands of Irish immigrants fled the Potato Famine and arrived dead and dying at the Québec quarantine station of Grosse Isle. To its lasting credit, Canada let them in and an Irish immigrant, Father Bernard McGauran, brought them comfort and a reason to hope. Filmmaker Lindalee Tracey takes us through the horror of Canada's worst human disaster and the extraordinary efforts of an unsung hero to rally a multicultural and multilingual rescue force.

Bernard McGauran immigrated from Ireland to Canada in the 1830s and took his vows in 1846. A year later he was assigned to Grosse Isle to comfort the famine victims dying of typhus and cholera. The Summer of Sorrow was a catastrophe of unprecedented proportions. At its close was the grim tally of dead - almost 6,000 officially, close to 15,000 unofficially.

Father McGauran's rescue effort would have been impossible in Ireland. Heading up a contingent of 42 priests and 17 pastors on Grosse Isle, Father McGauran united Catholic and Protestant, English and French, rich and poor. He worked tirelessly and fell under the deadly pall of typhus himself. Father McGauran was so moved by the immigrants' plight that, in 1856 he opened St. Brigid's Home, a refuge for the Irish elderly, orphans and the destitute, that stands today.

Although their disease and poverty would slow their welcome into the Canadian mainstream, in much of Québec the Irish were received with kindness - perhaps because French Canadians understood poverty and exile. Father McGauran's legacy of tolerance and generosity helped forged those links between the Irish and Québeçois community that survives today.

Lindalee Tracey, an award-winning filmmaker and author is a French- and Irish-Canadian. She takes us on a haunting, emotional journey into the heroism and decency of her own two cultures and discovers for us, an unsung hero.


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