Scientists have determined bones found on a Canadian beach belonged to individuals who were trying to flee the Irish Famine in the 1800s.
The Great Famine, also known as the Great Hunger, was the worst to occur in Europe in the 19th century. It happened in Ireland between 1845 and 1849 as a result of the failed potato crop.
As a direct consequence of the famine, Ireland’s population of almost 8.4 million in 1844 had fallen to 6.6 million by 1851.
In 1847, 180 people boarded a ship from Sligo heading for Quebec in an attempt to flee the devastating situation, but sadly the ship sank off the coast of Cap-des-Rosiers in Gaspé after running into a heavy storm in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
In 2011, the remains of two seven-year-old boys and an 11-year-old boy were discovered on a beach in Forillon National Park, Quebec.
A dig took place in 2016 resulting in the discovery of 18 more bodies, most of whom were women and children. CBC News reports they all showed signs of malnutrition after further analysis.
The only work of art ever to bring me to tears: Boston Irish Famine Memorial.
It affected me deeply the moment I first saw it. I've made a specific point of revisiting it each time I've returned to Boston since then, and each time the same thing happens.
Robert Shure Sculptor pic.twitter.com/hiOTngeGmN
— we are all witless (@witlessX) June 8, 2019
The remains were sent to Parks Canada offices in Ottawa before being handed over to researchers at the Montreal University. It’s now been confirmed the remains belonged to Irish victims of the Carricks shipwreck.
The analysis showed the bones belonged to people whose diets were characteristic of a rural population that was dependent on agriculture, mainly potatoes. Scientists used samples of the bones to determine their chemical composition and identify their origins.
A reminder of our Irish forebears in Famine years who died on the seas, seeking refuge elsewhere
"The remains will be taken to Forillon National Park…and a funeral service will be held.They will be buried near the Irish Memorial on Cap-des-Rosiers Beach" https://t.co/dVkvFRy3M6
— N16Breda YesWeRepealedThe8th (@N16Breda) June 9, 2019
Speaking of the findings, Mathieu Côté, a resource conservation manager at Forillon National Park, said:
This is like the end of the story for people who were interested in this.
We were suspicious of where [the remains] were from, and we had a good idea, but now we have evidence that those people were from Ireland.
It’s estimated between 120 and 150 people died as a result of the shipwreck. Those who survived owed their lives to brave local fishermen who rowed out into the storm to rescue the passengers.
Around 100,000 people fled Ireland for Canada in 1847, but it’s believed around 20,000 of those either died during the voyage or during their time spent in quarantine stations.
Image of the week. Irish Famine Memorial on Dublin Quays. pic.twitter.com/GXPa6jEcdx
— Derick Hudson Author (@Derick_Hudson) September 26, 2018
In a statement, Diane Lebouthillier, MP for Gaspésie–Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine, said:
The tragic events of the Carricks shipwreck are a startling reminder of just how difficult the journey was for the travellers and that not everybody was lucky enough to reach their new home.
Today’s announcement is very significant for Irish families whose ancestors were Carricks passengers. This shipwreck reflects an important part of Canadian history.
In the coming weeks, the remains will be taken to Forillon National Park. A funeral service will be held, and the bodies will then be buried near the Irish Memorial on Cap-des-Rosiers Beach, which was designed to preserve the memory of those who died in the shipwreck.
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.