Medicine:Irish Commemorative Stone

From HandWiki
The Black Rock, commemorating thousands of Irish "ship fever" victims

The Irish Commemorative Stone (also known as the Black Rock) is a monument in Pointe-Saint-Charles, island of Montreal, Quebec commemorating the deaths from "ship fever" (typhoid) of 6,000 mostly Irish immigrants to Canada during the immigration following the Great Irish Famine in the years 1847-1848.

It was decided to place the boulder to preserve the location of the cemetery that contains mostly Irish emigrants.[1] James Hodges[2] who was in charge of building the Victoria Bridge wrote of the day the stone was placed in his book.[3]

The weight is approximately 30-tonnes, and size of approximately 3 meters or 10-foot high.[4][5]

Officially named the Irish Commemorative Stone, it is more commonly known as the Black Rock and also has been referred to as the Ship Fever Monument[6] or the Boulder Stone.[7]

As of October 2023 the Montreal Irish Monument Park Foundation became the owner of the monument. Plans are to make a park in the area and it is to be completed by the year 2030.[8][9]


During the mid-19th century, workers constructing the Victoria Bridge across the St. Lawrence River discovered a mass grave in Windmill Point where victims of the typhus epidemic of 1847 had been quarantined in fever sheds. The workers, many of whom were of Irish descent, were unsettled by the discovery and wanted to create a memorial to ensure the grave, which held the coffins of 6,000 Irish immigrants, would not be forgotten.[6][10] Erected on December 1, 1859, the stone was the first Canadian monument to represent the famine. The inscription on the stone 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, Brassey and Betts Employed in the Construction of the Victoria Bridge A.D.


Historic hand drawn maps have different placement of the twenty one sheds (arranged three by seven rows) and cemetery, named "emigrant sheds" and "emigrant burial ground" on the map. Some have the location on the east side of the bridge and train line,[11][12][13] some have it on the west side of the bridge and train line.[14]

Located in the median of Bridge St., at approximately 45°29'12.3"N 73°32'46.6"W. Google maps have blurred out the inscription at a close distance but it still can be seen at a distance.[15] On ACME Mapper the location is written N 45.48683 W 73.54638.[16]

The McCord museum has a photo taken by William Notman of the day when the stone was laid on December 1 , 1859.[17]

From a decision made by some on February 1900 [18], and despite disagreement on consensus published in March 1900,[19] on December 1900 the monument was moved by Grand Trunk Railway. [20][21] On December 18, 1901 the Grand Trunk Railway was requested by the delegates of the Irish societies to remove their tracks from the cemetery where the stone previously rested.[22] The Irish immigrant monument was moved on April 24, 1902 to a granite pedestal in St. Patrick's Park.[23] The Montreal Gazette Newspaper, twenty five years later, printed a remembrance.[24]

In 1911 a judgment made by Mr. Justice Mabee declared Canada was large enough for public utility corporations to carry on their business without desecrating graves, and told the Grand Trunk Railway to install an iron fence and the have the stone returned.[25] On June 24 , 1912 the stone was put back and June 30, 1912 agreement papers were signed. The re-unveiling took place August 17, 1913. [26]

Photos in newspaper articles afterwards show the metal fence.[27] The fence with shamrock icon has rusted away over the years and the remainder was removed for being a safety hazard some time after 2009[28], but not replaced. The stone is not in the exact location of the first placement, but reportedly fifteen feet away.

Ship Fever Cemetary Monument aerial photo 1947-49. See Goose Village for wider photo

In June 1966 the stone marking the cemetery was again requested to be moved, but the road was moved instead.[29] The Autostade was built in 1966 and the Irish Memorial Stone can be seen on the south side of the stadium in photographs.

About 75,000 Irish people are believed to have emigrated to Canada during the famine. The official figures (from "the Report of a committee of the Honourable the Executive Council on matters of State"), gave the figures of 5,293 deaths at sea, and "Dr. Douglas, the medical Superintendent of Grosse Isle, estimated that 8,000 died at sea in 1847."[7] However, the Montreal Gazette reported in 1934 that 18,000 Irish men, women and children died on the trip to Canada.[30][31][32]

Social significance

The Black Rock continues to be a significant icon, particularly within the Montreal Irish community led by the Ancient Order of Hibernians Canada. Each year at the end of May, on the Sunday, the Canadian Irish community hosts a walk from St. Gabriel's church in Pointe St. Charles to the stone to commemorate those lives that were lost.[33][34] [10][35]


Proof of the mass burials of 1874 was documented when during excavations near the Victoria Bridge, workers found bodies in coffins.[36] [37][38]

Additional proof was found during construction of the REM in 2019.[39]It revealed a group of twelve to fifteen bodies in a 2.3 metre diameter hole that was dug.[40][41][42]

Human bones found in the area when found digging are interred near the monument.[43]

Google street view shows the circular pillar foundations for the REM drilled into the land today where the mass grave was presumable found[44], contrasted with the before image that has no construction on it.[45]

See also

External links


  1. "Vicissitudes of Boulder Stone Whose Unveiling To-Morrow Recalls Sad Tragedy" The Daily Telegraph. August 16, 1913. Page 29.
  2. Dictionary of Canadian Biography
  3. Construction of the great Victoria Bridge in Canada by James Hodges, engineer, to Messrs. Peto, Brassey, and Betts, contractors. London 1860. Page 76.
  4. "Seeking hope, they found death...Sunday marks the 150th anniversary..." . Newspaper Montreal Gazette. Author RENE BRUEMMER. May 31, 2009.
  5. "Plan for memorial park at Montreal's Black Rock in jeopardy" CBC news. Authors Laura Marchand, Loreen Pindera. May 28, 2017.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 McMahon, Colin (2007). "Montreal's Ship Fever Monument: An Irish Famine Memorial in the Making". The Canadian Journal of Irish Studies 33 (1): 48–60. doi:10.2307/25515660. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Gallagher
  8. "Montreal makes progress on a park to mark Irish mass grave site" Montreal Gazette. October 21, 2023. Author Pierre Saint-Arnaud.
  9. CBC news. October 21, 2023. Author Pierre Saint-Arnaud
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Montreal Irish walk in remembrance of coffin ship victims". Irish Central. July 23, 2009. 
  11. "Atlas of the island and city of Montreal and Ile Bizard a compilation of the most recent cadastral plans from the book of reference" by A.R. Pinsoneault, 1907. BAnQ
  12. Map of the city of Montreal : showing the Victoria Bridge, the Mountain & proposed boulevard and the different dock projects / compiled and drawn by F.N. Boxer, Published John Lovell, 1859. has B. (burial) grounds written.
  13. Images & Buildings of Montréal year 1894 map
  14. REM website with hand drawn map
  15. google maps street view
  16. Black Rock on
  17. photo by William Notman, owned by the McCord Museum
  18. "Is to be removed" Montreal Gazette. February 10, 1900 page 3.
  19. newspaper The True Witness and Catholic Chronicle. "The Ship Fever Monument" March 17, 1900. Page 5.
  20. Ship Fever Monument" Montreal Gazette. December 22, 1900.
  21. "From the archives: Moving the Black Stone was monumental stupidity" Montreal Gazette. December 24, 2006.
  22. "Irish Societies Urge" Montreal Gazette. December 18, 1901
  23. "Big Stone is Moved" Montreal Gazette April 25, 1902
  24. Montreal Gazette "The Passing Years From the Gazette on this day 25 years ago" April 26, 1927
  25. "Immigrants' cemetery safe for all time" Montreal Tribune. October 26, 1911.
  26. "Vicissitudes of Boulder Stone Whose Unveiling To-Morrow Recalls Sad Tragedy" The Daily Telegraph. August 16, 1913. Page 29.
  27. Montreal Gazette. October 31, 1942.
  28. Google street view in May 2009
  29. Montreal Gazette. June 22,1966
  30. "Grosse Ile Cross Raised In Memory of Fever Victims....Some 18,000 Irish Immigrants died at sea..." May 25, 1934. Montreal Gazette newspaper.
  31. "one out of five"
  32. [Woodham-Smith, Cecil (1991) [1962], The Great Hunger: Ireland 1845–1849, Penguin, Page 238. ISBN:978-0-14-014515-1]
  33. Montreal Gazette. "Eightieth Anniversary of Typhus Visitation" May 26, 1927. page 10.
  34. Montreal Gazette. "Immigrant fever victims honored". May 28, 1927. page 6.
  35. Scott, Marian (27 May 2018). "Montreal's walk to the Black Rock honours Irish famine victims". Montreal Gazette. 
  36. "5 coffins recall former epidemic" Saskatoon Star-Phoenix. August 5, 1942
  37. "Victims of 1847 Typhus Horror To Be Buried Anew Here Sunday" Montreal Gazette. October 31, 1942. Page 22
  38. "Black Rock - the world's oldest Irish Famine memorial in Montreal"
  39. "Bones Found in Montreal Linked to Famine Victims" . Author Emily Moriarty. year 2022.
  40. "Black Rock - the world's oldest Irish Famine memorial in Montreal"
  41. "Evidence of mass Irish grave site unearthed during REM light-rail dig"
  42. Montreal Irish famine victims’ remains found during REM excavation
  43. "Of many things... the Irish stone" Montreal Gazette. Author Edgar Andrew Collard. July 25, 1970.
  44. Google maps June 2022 of Fever monument
  45. Google maps August 2019 of Fever monument

Gallagher, The Reverend John A. (1936) "The Irish Emigration of 1847 and Its Canadian Consequences"

[ ⚑ ] 45°29′13″N 73°32′47″W / 45.4869°N 73.5464°W / 45.4869; -73.5464