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09th Jun 2019

Bones found on Canadian beach confirmed to be from passengers fleeing the Great Famine

Paul Moore


The ship left Sligo carrying 180 passengers. The bones of 21 people were discovered over a five-year period.

Remains that were found on a beach in Quebec in 2011 and 2016 are those of Irish Famine victims, Canadian scientists have determined.

Scientists have confirmed that the human remains of 21 individuals, unearthed over a five-year period, are from the 1847 Carricks shipwreck.

The ship left Sligo carrying 180 passengers that were fleeing the Famine. Sadly, the ship sank off the coast of Cap-des-Rosiers in Gaspé, Canada.

The bones of three children washed up on the shore in 2011 after a storm, and the remains of another 18 individuals were unearthed in 2016 before a beach restoration.

The remains were then sent to Parks Canada offices in Ottawa, and then to researchers at the Montreal University for analysis.

Mathieu Côté, a resource conservation manager at Forillon National Park, has said: “This is the end of the story for people who were interested in this. We were suspicious of where [the remains] were from, and we had a good idea where they were from, but now we have evidence that those people were from Ireland.”

The analysis showed that the bones belonged to people whose diets were characteristic of a rural population that was dependent on agriculture, mainly potatoes.

Scientists used samples of the bones to determine their chemical composition and identify their origins.

The remains found at Cap-des-Rosiers showed that the shipwrecked people had a diet that was low in protein, and that they were under nutritional stress, likely caused by the Famine.

In a statement, Diane Lebouthillier, MP for Gaspésie–Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine, has 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.

“Today’s announcement is very significant for Irish families whose ancestors were Carricks passengers. This shipwreck reflects an important part of Canadian history.”

The remains will be taken to Forillon National Park in the coming weeks and a funeral service will be held.

They bodies will then be buried near the Irish Memorial on Cap-des-Rosiers Beach, which was established in 1990 to preserve the memory of those who died after the ship sank.

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