Irish Famine bones Montreal gives insight into their health

The grim discoveries of the Irish famine dead provide insight into the lives of these 14 people from the mid-1800s.

Analysis of the bones of Famine-era Irish immigrants discovered during the 2019 archaeological digs in Pointe-Saint-Charles, Montreal, revealed the level of illness and malnutrition they suffered from before their deaths.

The remains of 14 people, including seven adults, three teenagers and four children, suffered from fractures, bacterial infections, chronic illnesses and signs of malnutrition, according to reports by bio-archaeologist Marine Puech of the Ethnoscop laboratory in Boucherville, in Quebec.

Puech told CBC that these Irish immigrants came from the southwest of Ireland and died between August and September 1847. This year, known as “Black ’47”, was the peak of the Irish famine which , in total, saw one million Irish and another million emigrate. .

According to the Ethnoscop laboratory, the results of the analysis showed unspecified stress and dietary deficiencies such as iron as well as noticeable lead levels. Traces of malnutrition were found, which made them vulnerable to other diseases.

Irish people fleeing the Great Hunger in 1847 are said to have traveled by coffin boat after living in dire conditions at home. These coffin ships often saw more than 200 migrants living in wet and close conditions. Plagued by the spread of typhus, which would not show up on bone analysis. Many emigrants died at sea or shortly after arrival.

A monument to the Irish famine in County Sligo.

Victor Boyle, president of the Montreal Irish Monument Park Foundation, told CBC “It’s amazing. First they found coffin remains, then artifacts, then bones. But even as bones, this doesn’t were just bones,” Boyle said.

“But to be shown in the lab, these bones being assembled into a complete skeleton, hearing what their diet was, what part of Ireland they were probably from, now there’s a person lying on this table.”

“I’ve never worked like this, so close to the community,” added Puech, saying she was happy to “give people a voice.”

Irish famine died to be remembered

These 14 victims were among the 6,000 Irish buried in a mass grave in Pointe-Saint-Charles. The ‘Black Rock’, one of the oldest famine memorials, was erected by Irish building workers who discovered the remains while building the nearby Victoria Bridge. Most of those buried died of typhus.

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The Black Rock, Montreal.

The text on the stone reads: “To preserve from desecration the remains of 6000 immigrants who died of ship fever AD 1847 – 48. This stone is erected by the workmen of Messrs. Peto, Brassey and Betts employed in the construction of the Victoria Bridge AD 1859.”

In March 2021, after years of campaigning by the Quebec Irish community, plans were set in motion to build a memorial honoring the Quebec Irish community, CTV reported. The construction of a commemorative park will begin in 2025 to honor the impact of the Irish on Quebec. This $15 million park will also provide easy access to the Black Rock.

Watch the March 2021 report here:

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