Irish emigrants to Kingston 1847

On this St. Patrick’s Day, we’re featuring a set of letters describing the situation of the Irish emigrants coming to Canada in 1847.

The letters, dated April 1892, were written by John Wilson who was a steamboat owner on the St. Lawrence at the time of the Irish emigration. In them, he describes his memories of the sufferings of the Irish as they arrived in Quebec after a disease-ridden voyage during the epidemic of 1847. Mr. Wilson wrote these letters to James M. O’Leary, who was in the middle of writing a series of articles for the “Catholic Record” about the Irish emigration.  O’Leary quoted Wilson in his later articles, and O’Leary’s articles were eventually widely used for study by numerous scholars.

This excerpt (seen below), from the April 20 1892 letter, refers to the Irish emigrants coming to Kingston:
“…and as soon as the bulk of the emigrants were disposed of employed some small boats to carry the people direct to Kingston without stopping at Montreal and the result was as I told Mr. Buchanan a heavy loss of life by confining the people for days in passing through the Canals whereas the changing of the people into a clean Boat at short intervals was their very life, …”

The estimated number of Irish people who were admitted into the hospitals at Kingston was 4,326.

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