Irish Famine remains found on Canadian beach

image copyrightGeograph/ Gareth James
image captionDublin statues commemorating the Great Famine in which around one million people died and a million more emigrated from Ireland

Remains washed up on a Canadian beach belonged to shipwreck victims lost at sea while fleeing the Irish Famine, the Canadian government has confirmed.

The bones of three children washed up on a beach at Cap-des-Rosiers following a storm in 2011.

The remains of 18 others, mostly women and children, were uncovered by archaeologists on the beach in 2016.

Experts have now said the remains were from the 1847 Carricks ship from County Sligo.

Scientists said that that the location of the remains, combined with laboratory analysis, confirmed the theory that they were from the Carricks shipwreck.

The famine killed more than a million Irish people and forced about a million more to emigrate after blight devastated the potato crop.

The Carricks ship was carrying 180 emigrants when it sank off the coast of Cap-des-Rosiers en route to the Port of Quebec.

Only 48 people survived the accident and, according to historical accounts, 87 bodies recovered from the shipwreck were buried on the beach.

Parks Canada said analysis carried out by the bioarcheology laboratory at Montreal University indicated the 21 individuals found had followed a rural diet mostly based on potatoes, and suffered from diseases associated with malnutrition.

image copyrightGoogle
image captionCap-des-Rosiers beach in Quebec where the remains from the Carricks ship were discovered

The human remains will be buried near the Irish Memorial on Cap-des-Rosiers beach at a ceremony this summer.

The memorial was built in 1900 in memory of the lost passengers of the Carricks shipwreck, and features the ship's bell which was found in 1968 on a beach on Quebec's north shore.

Canada's National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier said the discovery was "very significant for Irish families whose ancestors were Carricks passengers".

'Emotional and sensitive'

"During the Great Famine of Ireland in 1847, Canada became the home of many Irish immigrants," she said.

"The tragic events of the Carricks shipwreck are a startling reminder of just how difficult the journey was for the travellers and that not everybody was lucky enough to reach their new home.

"This shipwreck reflects an important part of Canadian history."

Speaking to the CBC, Isabelle Ribot, associate professor of bioarchaeology at Montreal University, said the discovery was in keeping with local oral history, which suggested there was a mass grave of shipwreck victims on the beach.

"Our skeletons reflect what we eat," she said, adding that the bones found belonged to people who had suffered chronic health problems likely caused by the famine in Ireland.

"Knowing the context and knowing there are descendants of the people who survived, it is very emotional and very sensitive," she said.

"We are very blessed to have been able to analyze them and extract as much information as we can."