A Scattering of Seeds: The Creation of Canada
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THE FORCE OF HOPE: The Legacy of Father McGauran
Related Parks Canada Sites

  1. Grosse Ile and The Irish Memorial National Historic Site

    Canada is a nation created from a mixture of first people and immigrants. Grosse Ile and the Irish Memorial National Historic Site helps us to understand the hardships suffered by many who chose Canada as their home. Between 1832 and 1937, it served as the quarantine station for Quebec, a key port of entry for European immigrants to Canada. It played an especially important role during the late 1840s, when more than one-hundred thousand Irish immigrants flooded into Canada to escape tragic crop failure and disease in their homeland.

    Grosse Ile includes many poignant reminders of its past, including hotels for various classes of passengers, a hospital, isolation facilities, churches and, most telling, the cemetery where thousands of desperate but hopeful immigrants were laid to rest. Fifty-four hundred lie in the Irish cemetery alone. The Celtic Cross honours their memory. Another memorial recalls the sacrifice of doctors who died trying to help newcomers.

    Quarantine operations at Grosse Ile were improved after the tragedy of 1847. Most of the extent twenty structures currently on Grosse Ile slowed down as immigration waned and treatment of diseases improved. The station was close in 1937.

      Address: Grosse Ile and the Irish Memorial National Historic
      2 d'Auteuil Street,
      P.O. Box 2474, Postal Terminal, Quebec, Quebec
      G1K 7R3
      Email: parcscanada-que@pch.gc.ca
      Telephone: (418) 563-4009 or 1-800-463-6769
      Fax: (418) 835-5443 or (418) 241-5530


  2. Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site

    Note: There are records from the first half of the 18th century that document the presence of Irish servants at the Fortress Louisbourg National Historic Site. Of course this site pre-dates, by a hundred years, the period of Grosse Ile and the Irish tragedy but it does add another dimension to the story of the Irish in this country.

    From its establishment by the French in 1713 until the withdrawal of the last English troops in 1768, Louisbourg played an important role in the Anglo French struggle for hegemony in North America. For three decades after its founding Louisbourg enjoyed peace and prosperity, though the threat of war always hung over the fortified town.

    In 1745 an army of New Englanders, supported by an English naval squadron, captured Louisbourg after a 46-day siege. The town was returned to the French by treaty. Louisbourg was besieged again in 1758. The assault lasted seven weeks, putting a combined English army and naval force of 27,000 against 7,000 French defenders (soldiers and sailors). In the end the French stronghold and naval base fell again, opening the way for English conquest of the rest of New France.

    The cod fishery was the foundation on which the economy of Louisbourg and Ile Royale (Cape Breton) rested. Competition for fish stocks often led to international rivalries hence the location of Fortress Louisbourg to protect the French fishing fleet.

      Address: Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site
      Box 160
      Louisbourg, Nova Scotia
      B0A 1M0
      Email: atlantic_parksinfo@pch.gc.ca
      Telephone: (902) 733-2280
      Fax: (902) 733-2362


  3. Mallard Cottage National Historic Site

    Note: Mallard Cottage National Historic Site is in Quidi Vidi, Newfoundland. This site predates the period commemorated at Grosse Ile as it dates to the early years of the nineteenth century and therefore cannot be considered as a direct link to the story as presented, but it does focus on another aspect of Irish settlement in this country.

    Built sometime between 1820 and 1840, this cottage was the home of the Mallard family who settled in Quidi Vidi at the beginning of the 19th century. With its low-hipped roof and the two-room, central chimney plan, it is typical of houses built by the immigrants who came from southwest Ireland to Newfoundland in the first half of the 19th century. The five-bay-facade, with suggestions of classicism in its symmetry, is commonly found in Newfoundland vernacular houses of the period. The building still retains sections of its original beaded clapboard.

    This site is a privately-owned house although the owner currently runs a curio/antique shop in it.

      Address: Mallard Cottage
      2 Barrows Road,
      Quidi Vidi, St. John's Nfld. A1A 1G8


  4. Partridge Island National Historic Site

    The City of Saint John established as quarantine station on the island in 1830 in an effort to prevent smallpox spreading from a ship carrying Irish immigrants. Saint John was the principal port of arrival in New Brunswick during the Irish immigration of the 1840s. In 1844 immigration to New Brunswick was 2,605 people, but in 1847 the numbers had exploded to 16,251. The station's medical and quarantine facilities were to prove inadequate in containing contagious diseases. Consequently, epidemics often spread from the island station to the mainland populace, the most devastating being typus and cholera.

    The cholera epidemic of 1854 was the last major immigrant-carried contagion of the 19th century. This decline was largely due to the greater precautions taken at the embarkation ports in the British Isles, the replacement of the sailing vessels with steamships and the growing understanding of how contagion spread. One of the pioneers of this understanding was Dr. Frederick Montizambert who is commemorated at Grosse Isle. He also worked at Partridge Island as the Medical Superintendent.

    In the post-1854 period, the facilities at Partridge Island were much more extensive than were required. Immigration through Saint John was much smaller than through Grosse Ile. The Canadian government took over the station in 1867 and operated it until 1941, when it was finally replaced by facilities in Saint John.

      Address: City of Saint John
      P.O. Box 1971
      Saint John, N.B.
      E2L 4L1


  5. St. Patrick's Basilica National Historic Site, Montreal

    St. Patrick's Basilica is an imposing stone structure located near the southwest corner of Boulevard Rene-Levesque and rue Saint-Alexandre in downtown Montreal. It was constructed 1843-1847 to serve the growing Irish Catholic population of the city. St. Patrick's has been responsible for the establishment of numerous charitable institutions for Anglophone Catholics and is regarded as the mother church of some 35 English-speaking Roman Catholic parishes in greater Montreal.

    St. Patrick's has been a conspicuous feature of the Montreal landscape both historically and architecturally since its construction. Not only is it historically important - it should be noted that the funeral of arguably its most famous parishioner, Thomas D'Arcy McGee, the Irish-Canadian journalist, politician and Father of Confederation, took place from the Basilica - but the structure is also regarded as an early example of a Gothic Revival Canadian church. This revival style was an echo of 13th century French Gothic architecture.

    In 1990, the HSMBC recommended that the structure be designated as a National Historic Site on the grounds of its architectural significance. Also now it is recognized as a symbol of its Irish-Canadian community.

      Address: St. Patrick's Basilica
      454-460 Boulevard Rene Levesque Ouest,
      Montreal, Quebec
      H2Z 1A7


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