QAHN was pleased to present the 2020 Richard Evans Award to the Montreal Irish Monument Park Foundation. On Friday, June 11, a small, socially-distanced presentation was held at the monument known as the “Black Rock,” near the Montreal side of Victoria Bridge.
For twelve years, the Montreal Irish Monument Park Foundation has worked to establish a suitable memorial green space around the Black Rock, which is still Montreal’s only commemorative gesture to the 6,000 typhus victims of the Great Famine of 1847 and their courageous caregivers, many of whom also perished during this catastrophe. As the Black Rock is isolated on a traffic island on Bridge Street, it is largely inaccessible other than on special occasions such as the annual “Walk to the Stone” put on by Montreal's Irish community.
The area surrounding the Black Rock, close to the harbour and Victoria Bridge, is where the mass graves of the typhus victims are situated. In November 2019, at one location close to the CN railway tracks, a number of human remains were discovered by archeologists. This excavation was held as a preliminary to the construction of Montreal’s Réseau express métropolitain (REM) rapid light rail network. The present parking lot across the street belongs to Hydro-Quebec, which has proven to be a helpful ally in the planning for an eventual Irish Monument Park. The committee set up to further this project, headed by Victor Boyle and Fergus Keyes, with support from Montreal's Irish community and the heritage community at large, has worked tirelessly to further the cause of creating a park.
The proposed Irish Monument Park would feature an appropriate built memorial to the typhus victims with the names of the victims, if possible, including those who died trying to help them, among them John Easton Mills, the mayor of Montreal at the time, many Grey Nuns and clergy from other denominations, and ordinary Montrealers. This memorial would be set in a landscaped green space. As this is a part of Montreal that needs more green spaces and points of interest for the public, this proposed historic installation will be an excellent addition to Montreal and a thoughtful memorial to those who perished.
On hand for the ceremony were several directors of the Montreal Irish Monument Park Foundation. Fergus Keyes, a spokesperson for the group, said that “we are very pleased to be receiving this award. For more than a decade we have worked to remember the 6000+ Irish that died and were buried at the Black Rock, as well as, to honour the many Montrealers of every language, religion, and heritage that went to provide these dying Irish with support and comfort in 1847-1848. We really appreciate this recognition of our efforts by QAHN.”
QAHN president Grant Myers praised the determination of the Irish community of Montreal in preserving their history. “We salute the superb work done by the volunteers of the Montreal Irish Monument Park Foundation,” he said, “and we have no doubt that this important memorial park will be achieved. Congratulation on winning this much-deserved award!”