Triumph and Tragedy: Montreal's Emigrant Stone

Type of resource
Triumph and Tragedy: Montreal's Emigrant Stone
The story of Montreal's Black Rock, the world's oldest memorial to the 1840s Irish Famine victims. The Famine, known in Ireland as The Great Hunger, ran between 1845 and 1851. Two million people left Ireland for North America during this period, many crammed into "coffin" ships where they contracted typhus. The authors point out that 20,000 died either onboard these ships from the disease on their way the Canada or succumbing at the quarantine station on Grosse-Île, below Quebec City, or in the temporary fever sheds built on the shores of Montreal where an estimated 6,000 died and were hastily buried in pits nearby. Between 1854 and 1860, the engineering firm of Peto, Brassey and Betts were contracted to build the Victoria Tubular Bridge, the first span connecting the island of Montreal to the mainland. The entrance to the bridge on the Montreal-side is located where the Famine victims were buried. The engineers decided to move those buried near that entrance site, and a huge black rock hauled from the St. Lawrence River was placed on the spot of the new burial site in 1859 as a memorial to the dead. The workers building the bridge, sixty percent of whom were Irish, pooled their money and paid an artist to inscribe the Black Rock. It reads: “To Preserve From Desecration The Remains of 6000 Immigrants Who Died Of Ship-Fever, A.D. 1847-48. This Stone Is Erected By The Workmen Of Messrs. Peto Bassey & Betts Employed In The Construction Of The Victoria Bridge A.D. 1859."
Quebec Heritage News
Vol. 18
no. 1
Winter 2024
Allison, Sam, and Jon Bradley. “Triumph and Tragedy: Montreal’s Emigrant Stone.” Quebec Heritage News, Winter 2024.
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