Emigration - My character’s imagined journey from Quebec to New York in 1846.
Updated: Jul 16, 2022
My protagonist, Annie Power, and her siblings, left Ireland in June 1846. In 'Daughters of the Famine Road,' they had planned to go directly to New York to join their aunt in Manhattan. Annie's plans were upset when she found out the ticket price had increased due to huge demand.
Thankfully, my research showed that it was cheaper for Irish immigrants to sail to Quebec. Many Irish men and women, fleeing the Famine, travelled on “coffin ships,” risking their health and their lives. On arrival in Canada, or British North America, as it was known then, they could walk across the border between Canada and into North America.
Planning the route to New York.
I found it quite a challenge to plan this gruelling route, but with the help of an imaginary sea captain, I decided that they would travel along the Saint Lawrence River from Quebec to Montreal, on to Kingston on Lake Ontario, and cross the border there. Annie and her siblings would then travel on the new canal system that joined the Great Lakes to the Hudson River and New York.
This is the small map that I imagined Captain Hennessy gave to Annie Power, to guide her on her way, after she disembarked the Ocean Queen in Quebec.
Annie passed Grosse Isle, the island near Quebec used as a quarantine station for emigrants suffering from fever and dysentery, in August 1846.
The majority of deaths on Grosse Isle, from disease and famine, took place the following year from 1847 to 1848. There were thousands of lives lost.
However, many, like Annie Power, arrived in Quebec just before the start of the Canadian winter in 1846, “and most, on arrival, did not possess the sixpence which was the steamer fare from Quebec to Montreal and had to be assisted by the government agent.” (Woodham -Smith. 1962, p215). Annie had some money but took up the offer of free passage to Montreal.
One day, perhaps next year, I want to fly into Quebec and visit the mass grave and the monument on Grosse Isle, where thousands of Irish emigrants lie buried. They had reached their promised land only to die on the shore.
After I pay my respects to those poor souls, I plan to re-trace the route that Annie Power, and many real-life emigrants, took on their journey to North America. I think it is still possible to travel along the waterways and the Hudson River, and to see some of the topography my protagonist saw on her journey to her aunt and to safety.
Thank you for your visit, while you're here, why not:
1. Read more about these fascinating characters and how I imagined their lives during the Irish Famine. Buy 'Daughters of the Famine Road,' https://rotf.lol/Famine-Road
2. Click on Buy my book at the top of the Home page to order a personalised, signed copy.
3. Look out for the next novel in the trilogy:'Daughters in Exile' coming in July 2022.
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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grosse_Isle accessed 1/4/2022
Woodham-Smith, Cecil. (1962, 1991) The Great Hunger. Ireland 1845 - 1849. London, Penguin.