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"Happiness always looks small when you hold it in your hands, but let it go, and at once you learn how big and precious it is."
Maxim Gorky

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A tribute...

There's a sombre place at the bottom of Bathurst Street, down by the docks.
It sits in the shadow of an old malting plant flanked by new construction of high priced real estate.
This is a small park, a large memorial really, dedicated to Irish immigrants who came in droves to Toronto during the Great Famine.
Unless you already know the history, this is the only sign you come across that really doesn't explain much.
During the summer of 1847, roughly 38,000 Irish landed on the waterfront in the harbour.
At the time the city only had a population of 20,000 so you can imagine the impact.
More than 1,100 of these immigrants died of typhus in "fever sheds" built on the wharves where the ships docked. These names are but a few of some of those who perished.
The names are carved between the large slabs of layered rock.
Just beyond the flat, rock are four life size bronze figures depicting the misery of those times.
It was quite a sobering place to be, especially on this day when no one else was about. 
I thought about my ancestors who had come from County Cork during this time and the hardships they would have faced.
 Poverty, persecution, racisim.
Somehow though, many of them made it, moving into neighborhoods aptly called Corktown and Cabbagetown (for the large food gardens planted there).
There was a settlement known as The Ward where the conditions were ghetto like.
This was where the most impoverished were forced to live and remained an area of poverty from the 1850's to the 1950's.
During 1909 eight acres of The Ward was demolished to make way for the new hospital and slowly shrank over the next 40 years. Its now virtually erased from the memory of many residents.
This park was erected in 2007 to remember those who made the long voyage and who didn't survive and to those who did survive and helped build the city.


Cobalt Violet said...

What a moving tribute ... the sculptures are heart wrenching. Beautiful post!

Sherry O'Keefe said...

hi kerry,

oh, those statues and the names!

in a remote mountain valley in montana, many of my ancestors are buried. i do have some photos and will track them down for you. the graveyard makes you think you are back in the 1800s, wild west. most of the tombstones are irish, in that they are marked with the county of birth in ireland, as well as the date of death in this montana valley.

moving tribute,