During the Great Famine of the 1840s, thousands of impoverished Irish immigrants, escaping from the potato crop failure, fled to Canada on what came to be known as “fever ships.” As the desperate arrivals landed at Quebec City or nearby Grosse Isle, families were often torn apart. Parents died of typhus and children were put up for adoption, while lucky survivors travelled on to other destinations. Many people made their way up the St. Lawrence to Montreal, where 6,000 more died in appalling conditions.
Despite these terrible beginnings, a thriving Irish settlement called Griffintown was born and endured in Montreal for over a century. The Irish became known for their skill as navvies, building our canals and bridges, working long hours in factories, raising large, close-knit families. This riveting story captures their strong faith, their dislike of authority, their love of drink, song and a good fight, and their loyalty.
Filled with personal recollections drawn from extensive author interviews, An Irish Heart recreates a community and a culture that has a place of distinction in our history. From D’Arcy McGee and Nellie McClung to the Montreal Shamrocks, Brian Mulroney and beyond, Irish Canadians have made their mark.
“Sharon Doyle Driedger’s book, long on research and richly detailed, is part of the current wave of Canadian-Irish assertiveness. It is an astonishingly detailed, elegiac history of the mainly Irish enclave called Griffintown in Montreal, an enclave that more or less evaporated in the late 1960s. Thanks to this book, few neighbourhoods in Canada can have been so closely studied and chronicled.”
–The Globe and Mail
HarperCollins Canada, February 2010