Irish famine remains washed up on Canadian beach

Forillon National Park in Quebec, Canada where the remains washed up (Photo: National Geographic)

Human bones washed up on a Canadian beach are the remains of three Irish children who were fleeing the Great Famine, scientists have confirmed.

The bones of another 18 individuals unearthed during a beach restoration in 2016 are the remains of shipwrecked Irish famine victims who had sailed from Co Sligo in March 1847.

The victims were two seven-year-old boys and another boy aged 11.

The scientific discovery, scientists said, confirms a long-held belief locally that the bones that came ashore at Forillon national park in Quebec were the remains of passengers on board the Carricks ship when it sank during a violent storm.

The ship had left Ireland for Canada with 180 passengers, mostly former tenants of Lord Palmerston whose agents had chartered the boat. It is estimated that there were only 48 survivors.

The bones indicated severe malnutrition, scientists said, and were “old” and “fragile”, suggestive of a century of saltwater exposure.

Famine sculptures in Dublins International Financial Services Centre. (Photo: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland)

“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,” Mathieu Côté, a resource conservation manager at Forillon national park, said.

The bones were analysed by researchers in the bioarcheology laboratory at the University of Montreal, after being referred there by the Parks Canada offices in Ottawa.

The analysis showed the remains belonged to people whose diets were characteristic of a rural population dependent on agriculture — specifically potatoes — as was typical of the Irish population at the time.

It is estimated that 100,000 fleeing famine victims set out for Canada in 1847 alone and that 20,000 of them died on the voyage or at the quarantine station at Grosse Isle.

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


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