This archived Web page remains online for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. This page will not be altered or updated. Web pages that are archived on the Internet are not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards. As per the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, you can request alternate formats of this page on the Contact Us page.
Odd Sources for Irish Protestant Information
Ms. Marianna O'Gallagher, Irish Historian
[FLV 108,574 KB]
I am more of a story teller than a historian particularly a computerized or analytical historian. So what I am to say this afternoon might turn out to be the novel that I will never write. I have a short presentation to make, but it is something that I have wanted to bring to the attention of historians, particularly Irish historians for a long time.
In the 1970s, I searched into the history of Grosse-Île, the quarantine station near Québec City. My interest arose from the fact that my father talked about it all the time because his father had been the designer of the monument, the Celtic Cross at Grosse-Île. That station as you know is now a historic site, managed by Parks Canada. It has several large burial grounds, you've heard that story. Around the time that the station changed from a military station to Agriculture Canada, I think D'Arcy McGee was Minister of Agriculture.
In the research particularly into the archives of the diocese of Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière, the Roman Catholic diocese, I came across a packet of letters written by the priests at Grosse-Île, written by these priests to the Bishop of Quebec during the summer of 1847. These were the men who served as chaplains during that summer. Around the same time I met Rose Dompierre who was doing research on Grosse-Île but from a completely different angle. She was looking at the story of the people who manned the quarantine station, employees at that time in the early period of Agriculture Canada.
Our collaboration, Rose and mine, resulted in the book: Eyewitness Grosse-Île, which we published in both languages: Grosse-Île, les témoins parlent, 1847. And the contents within that book are the contents of the particular documents that I wanted to talk to you about. The priests in this case are the eyewitnesses. When the priest had not written a report to his bishop, the work that he did in caring for the sick and burying the dead become his witness. In compiling the book, we had access to the Anglican church register of St. John the Evangelist of Grosse-Île, as well as the Catholic Register of St. Luke of the Island. And it is the Anglican register that I want to concentrate on this afternoon.
At the beginning of the quarantine, and indeed in a later period, the Imperial Government and the Dominion Government were both very solicitous about the presence of religion in people's lives in those days (something that is not quite the same today). There were two chapels on the island: an Anglican chapel and a Catholic chapel — the Anglicans were expected to look after all the Protestant denominations.
By the end of May 1847, Dr. George Mellis Douglas, the medical superintendent of the island realized that this was no ordinary summer. His estimates of arrivals and the consequent needs from that, based on his experience of the summer of 1846 proved to be terribly short of the mark. Besides this response, besides his response, there was the response of the military in their command of the island, and the response of the dioceses of Quebec, the Catholic diocese and the Anglican diocese of Quebec.
In the summer of 1847, 47 Catholic priests and 17 Anglican priests served on the island, consoling the sick, giving the last rights to the dying both in the hospitals, and you saw pictures of the lazarettos which were the hospitals at the time, and on shipboard. At the very beginning of the summer the buildings were inadequate, and people were kept on board the ships so the ships turned into hospital ships, which were pretty terrible. They also conducted the burial services at the vast grave yard on the western end of the island. Three Anglican priests and three Catholic priests died in service on that island; and four others in other parts of the provinces of Quebec and Ontario. These men, the 64 priests, left a record of their summer's work in the registers of the two parishes on Grosse-Île. I'll refer to these as Catholic and Anglican even though, there is Roman Catholic and Anglo-Catholic, you'll forgive me if I just use the terms Catholic and Anglican.
I want to talk about the contents of the Anglican register. I will compare the two registers and over the difference and I hope that you will wonder over the difference also.
First of all, the priests: There were eight Irish-born Catholic priests, and three Canadian born of Irish parents. The rest of the 47 Catholic priests were French Canadians, the first ones called were those who had a little knowledge of English and then towards the end of the summer, many others were dragooned into the service. I should not have used the word "dragooned"; they were "called" into service and served willingly. There were two sad cases of two men who just could not take it and after two days left the island beaten. But there is the making of a novel in that story.
There were two Irish-born Anglican priests, Richard Anderson and Richard Londsdell, the other Anglican priests were English, Scottish and Canadian-born. Bernard McGauran, originally from Sligo but trained in Québec, went to Grosse-Île as the head of the first chaplains (O'Grady, McDevitt, McGuirk, and Taschereau). Taschereau later became Canada's first Cardinal. McGauran was on the island for the whole month of May with his two Anglican counterparts, Reverend Charles Forest and Reverend Armine Mountain, the son of the Anglican Bishop of Quebec.
Bishop Mountain made his calculations from the information supplied by his son. Bishop Mountain had calculated that 10 percent of the immigrants arriving in 1846 and probably 1847, at least 10 percent were Protestants. The information that is recorded in the registers is very uneven. Why is there such a difference? There is some very unscientific guesswork that comes into play here.
In the Catholic register, which is kept in French even by the Irish priests, the form is the same throughout. In the Anglican register, the priests recorded in individual style. And some of them recorded much more information than others did. The very first Catholic entry in the register of St Luke of Grosse-Île is the baptism of Owen Woods. " The fifteenth of May, eighteen hundred and forty-seven, I, the undersigned priest, missionary on the Island of St Luke called Grosse-Île, have baptized Owen, born at sea on the twenty-first of the preceding month, of the lawful marriage of Henry Woods, sawyer, absent; and of Anne Duffy of the parish of Annamullen in the county of Monaghan, in Ireland. The sponsors, Patrick Coyle and Margaret Smyth who could not sign. Bernard McGauran, Priest."
The second entry is a sad one. "On the eighteenth of May, eighteen hundred and forty-seven, I, the undersigned priest, have buried in the cemetery of the place, the body of Ellen Kane, legitimate daughter of John Kane, weaver, and Bridget McNally, of the parish of Kilmore in the county of Mayo, in Ireland, who died the evening before, aged four years. Present, the mother who could not sign and Hilaire Giroux undersigned. Bernard McGauran, Priest."
The Catholic register, as I said, continues in that style. However, in total for the month of May, there are seven names registered by Father McGauran, but in a letter to Bishop Signay, the Bishop of Quebec, he says that there have been 135 Catholic burials. And Father Taschereau says he buried 55 on May 30th, and 86 on June 3rd. The register ended on May 18th and the next entry was the 16th of June. Now if you look at the list of ships that are coming in at that moment, you realize why there is such a space and empty spaces in the register, they simply have not had the time to write down the names of people and in many cases, there were bodies carried off the ships. Once the ship reached the St Lawrence River, they didn't throw the bodies overboard for burial because they might be washed up on the shore. A French phrase: "C'est pas un cadeau".
Meanwhile the Anglican deacon Armine Mountain, and Reverend Charles Forest, out of 37 burials recorded 37 names; and this is the fashion in which the names were recorded: "Margaret Anne, daughter of Michael Faughnan, dairyman, late of the parish of Dalkey, county Dublin, Ireland and of Anne, by her maiden name of Flinn, his wife."
Now it says aged of eleven months but you have to refer back a little bit to Margaret who is being buried at that point. "Aged eleven months and twenty-seven days, died on board the ship Wandsworth of the Port of Glasgow, lying at the Quarantine Station on the twentieth and buried on the 21st day of May in the Year of Our Lord 1847. The witnesses: Michael Faughnan, the father and John Richard Hungerford." In the immediate preceding recording, John Hungerford had buried his wife, and Michael Faughnan had been his witness. In June, there were 505 Catholic burials with 8 names recorded; the Anglican priests conducted 120 burials with names of all of them, and many of the details mentioned above.
This type of recording went on all summer. The Anglican priests giving endless details about the people; the Catholic priests recording numbers and occasional names.
In July, 63 Anglican burials only 1 nameless; 907 Catholic burials no names except those of a doctor and a nurse from the staff who died and were buried there. In August, 124 Anglican burials and only 11 nameless; 908 Catholic burials with no names at all, and almost the same for September and October. For baptisms, marriages and abjurations, the Catholic priests did put down town and county names. For example, Crockinto in county Rosscommon, there were lots of people from Rosscommon but not many town names.
My understanding of this is as follows: most of the Protestant Irish, I am guessing, were English speakers, and hence could give their information to a priest who understood them. On the other hand, the Catholic priests were faced with Irish speaking Catholics. Of the 47 Catholic priests only 8 were Irish or Canadian born of Irish parents, and hence could speak English. (It is funny how the Irish in Quebec are so identified because they speak English.) Did these priests have any Irish? Of the remaining priests who came to serve as chaplains, the first few had been called because they had some English — but it proved to be pointless because evidently they were caring for people who spoke no English. Dr. Douglas had noted in his 1846 correspondence — and he put it rather inelegantly: "rather more than 3/5ths of them are from the south and west of Ireland, a great proportion of whom speak in no other language than Erse. They come out ignorant of everything beyond the use of the spade, and in point of intelligence and civilization are very little superior to our Indians, they are mostly poor and their object in emigrating is to obtain labour, which they find on the public works in the United States and in this country. They are all Roman Catholics." He goes on to speak about the children, how lively and pleasant they are.
The priests: Besides caring for people whose language they did not understand, the Catholic priests were overwhelmed by the numbers they cared for. Those French priests who had a little English, were listening to an Irish accent and that resulted in interesting interpretations. For example, somebody said he is from "Leitrim", so the priest writes down "Laytrim". A child answers the question "where are you from" with "Deroar," "Deroar," "Durore"; turns out to be "The Rower", in Kilkenny. Tyrone gets written down in the French register in several places both for the orphans and in these registers here, "Derone" for "Tyrone." Picture the poor French Canadian priest who is faced with someone who says that his name is Michael McGarrety and his wife is McMullin from Drumrily in county Tyrone.
Unfortunately, not all the Anglicans included parish or townland names, but I am very grateful and I am sure you will be too, to those who did make an effort to collect as much information as possible. I will name a few of these if I can pronounce them. The interesting thing is to see the number of Protestants who come from the Republic. You would expect to find them in Antrim and Armagh and so on. [indiscernible], Bali, Rode Island, [indiscernible], Ralu, Belfast, Derry, Molibril, in Armal. The other thing is how many of these towns or townlands still exist today. Molebrack, Tartenagen, Siege, Toughgilly, Dromana, Kilmon, Obdouee. Think of Canadian priests trying to hear the many accents of the country. Maharawanamony from Fermanagh, Ennis Macbent, Derryvallen , Drumkeena, Maheracross, Geloon, Temple, Rathmurray. And then in the Republic, there are names from from Carlow, Clare, Donegal, Dublin, Galway. But you will find in Hasfield, Killisowen, Drum, Bashabora, Kilosandra, Ballintemple. And there are several places that come up with the word Temple in them. Derrison Cork, Aglish in Kerry, Castlecomer in Kilkeny, Agavo in county Laois which is of course written down as Queen's county. Killfling and Gallingarry in Limerick, Longesh in Longford, Collin in Louth, Rafi in Mare and then Balabay, Vermatrass, Balabar, Karen, Donna and Tidonolin, county Monahen. Drumleaf in Sligo, Borrisokane and Cloughjordan in Tipperary, Donamore and Killagen in Wexford and Wicklow.
Now at the same time as the priests were recording these names, they were also recording names of people from England and Scotland and Germany and Denmark. As the previous speaker said, it's only after 1845 that ships of other than British registry came in to the St. Lawrence and a few German and Norwegian ships did go by in 1847. These ships normally were not stopped.
So one of the things I wanted to make sure that you would see the value in this is the number of Protestants that are coming from the Republic. And it's kind of surprising sometimes people say, how come the Protestants were leaving also. Well if the potato goes rotten in the Catholic field, I am pretty sure it is going rotten in the Protestant field too.
Now I will finish off with what could turn easily into a novel. Besides this quasi-statistical information that I have given you, there is a possibility of building up a family profile. For example the story of Robert Tweedy. And this of course is in the Anglican registers. The ship Broom, Captain W. White, from Liverpool, was 46 days at sea, arrived at Grosse-Île on the 28th of July, spent 8 days in quarantine. There were 513 passengers on board; there had been 15 deaths at sea, there were 9 in the quarantine (meaning on board the ship at anchor), 39 in the hospital. On that same ship, there were families from Gloucestershire (notably the Hea (Hay) family from Salfraton in Gloucestershire), as well as from Ireland.
Now here is Robert's story. Alicia Nancy Tweedy died on August 5th, was buried on the 6th by Bishop Mountain. Robert Tweedy, 18 months old, was buried August 18th. Robert Tweedy, the father Tweedy, 34 years of age, from Anaghlone, county Down, died on September 1st. So during that whole period, the family is in this desperate place. In October 1847, the Quebec Mercury published a list of emigrants' possessions or money left in the hands of Alexander Carlisle Buchanan, the Emigration Agent: £83 pounds from Robert Tweedy. So I would end with a salute to those archivists who keep real human history alive.
National Archives of Ireland [www.nationalarchives.ie]