The Great Irish Famine remains one of the most lethal famines in modern world history and a watershed moment in the development of modern Ireland – socially, politically, demographically and culturally. In the space of only four years, Ireland lost twenty-five per cent of its population as a consequence of starvation, disease and large-scale emigration. Certain aspects of the Famine remain contested and controversial, for example the issue of the British government’s culpability, proselytism, and the reception of emigrants. However, recent historiographical focus on this famine has overshadowed the impact of other periods of subsistence crisis, both before 1845 and after 1852.
This volume breaks new ground in bringing together foundational narratives of one of Europe and North America’s first refugee crises — making visible their impact in shaping perceptions, public opinion, and patterns of memorialization of Irish forced migration. It documents eyewitness impressions of suffering Irish emigrants, and raises questions about what literary conventions, mnemonic motifs, and popular images can be found in eyewitness accounts, press coverage, and foundational narratives of Famine Irish forced migration. These primary sources provide a model for understanding how representations of forced migration shape public opinion and policy.
Part 1. Irish Famine Migration Narratives 1. Stephen De Vere to T.F. Eliot, 30 November, 1847, Minutes of Evidence before Select Committee on Colonisation from Ireland, British Parliamentary Papers, Emigration, v 5, pp. 45-48. 2. Stephen De Vere, unpublished ‘America Journals’ 1847-1848 (Trinity College Dublin Manuscripts Department, MSS 5061-5062). 3. John Burke, ‘Reminiscences’, or ‘Migration of Seven Brothers’ (MS John Burke, ‘Reminiscences’, New York Historical Society Library, New York, 1891). 4. John Young, ‘Diary of John Young’ (Nancy Mallett Archive and Museum of St. James’ Cathedral, Toronto). 5. Robert Whyte, The Ocean Plague: A Voyage to Quebec in an Irish Emigrant Vessel, Embracing A Quarantine at Grosse Isle in 1847. With Notes Illustrative of the Ship-Pestilence of that Fatal Year. By a Cabin Passenger (Boston: Coolidge and Wiley, 1848). 6. Herman Melville, Redburn: His First Voyage (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1849). 7. William Smith, An Emigrant’s Narrative, Or, A Voice from the Steerage: Being a Brief Account of the Sufferings of the Emigrants in the Ship ‘India,’ on Her Voyage from Liverpool to New-York, in the Winter of 1847-8, Together with a Statement of the Cruelties Practiced Upon the Emigrants in the Staten Island Hospital (New York: Published by the Author, 1850). 8. Henry Johnson to Jane Johnson, 18 September 1848, in L. Wyatt (ed.), ‘The Johnson Letters’, Ontario History (1948), pp. 7-52, on pp. 34-38. 9. Jane White to Eleanor, 29 June, 1849. Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. D.1195/3/5, 8B, 9-15. 10. Sir Robert Gore-Booth Letters (1846-1849), Appendix x, Minutes of Evidence before Select Committee on Colonisation from Ireland, Submitted by Sir Robert Gore Booth, British Parliamentary Papers, Emigration, v 5, pp. 122-132. 11. Henry David Thoreau, TheShipwreck, Putnam’s Monthly5.30 (1855), pp. 632–637. Part 2. Eyewitness Testimonies: Famine Irish Caregivers 12. Grey Nuns, or Sisters of Charity, Famine Annal, Ancien Journal, vol. I. Translated by Jean-François Bernard. 13. Grey Nuns, or Sisters of Charity, Famine Annal, Ancien Journal, vol. II. TheTyphus of 1847. Translated by Philip O’Gorman. 14. Grey Nuns, or Sisters of Charity, Famine Annals, Foundation of St. Patrick’s Orphan Asylum (1849). Translated by Philip O’Gorman. 15. Anon. The Emigrant Ship. Written for the Protestant Orphan Bazaar. The Literary Garland, and the British North American Magazine (Montreal: Lowell and Gibson, 1850). 16. Fr. Bernard O’Reilly to Quebec Mercury (27 July, 1847). 17. Fr. Bernard O’Reilly, testimony for Report of the Special Committee appointed to inquire into the management of the Quarantine Station at Grosse Isle,…on behalf of the Board of Health of the City of Montreal (23 July 1847). Canada. Legislature. Legislative Assembly. Special Committee Appointed to Inquire into the Management of the Quarantine Station at Grosse Isle. 18. Fr. Bernard O’Reilly, ‘Settlement of the Eastern Townships’, Quebec Mercury (30 March. 1848). 19. Fr. Bernard O’Reilly, ‘The Irish Emigration of 1847’, True Witness and Catholic Chronicle (17 December 1852). 20. Fr. Bernard O’Reilly The Mirror of True Womanhood; A Book of Instruction for Women in the World (1877), pp. 96-99. 21. John Francis Maguire, The Irish in America(New York: D & J Sadlier and Co, 1868), pp. 134-153. 22. Robert Walsh to Bishop of Kilkenny, (1857). (Archives du Séminaire de Nicolet, F091/B1/5/2 & F091/B1/5/3). Translated by Jason King. 23. Thomas Quinn, ‘Une Voix d’Irlande’, in Premier Congrès de La Langue Français au Canada. Québec 24-30 Juin 1912(Québec, 1913), pp. 227-232. Translated by Jason King.