15 March 2009

Death or Canada

On Monday, at 1pm and 8pm, and Tuesday at midnight, all EDT, there will be opportunities to view the docudrama Death or Canada on History Television Canada. It follows the story of John and Mary Willis and family who set out on a rotten coffin ship in 1847 fleeing the Irish Famine for new lives in Toronto. They lost four of their five children.

Read more about Death or Canada from History Television Canada here, rather more extensively from RTÉ One when the film was first shown on Irish TV last November here, and most comprehensively from the film's producers here.

While this film illustrates the story for Toronto, where 1,000 new immigrants died, the impact in Canada was more widespread. In Montreal 3,000 - 6,000 died; this memorial stone stands near the entrance to the Victoria Bridge. In Ottawa typhus-stricken victims began to arrive on June 11th, 1847. Five hundred and seventy-eight patients were treated by the Sisters of Charity between June 1847 and May 1848 when the Immigrant Hospital was closed.

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