• Bridget Walsh

Travel blog - My character’s imagined journey from Quebec to New York in 1846.

My protagonist, Annie Power, and her siblings, left Ireland in June 1846. They had planned to go directly to New York to join their aunt in Manhattan. (Daughters of the Famine Road, see below). Her 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, they would walk across the border between Canada and into North America.

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,finally, 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.

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 took up this offer of free passage to Montreal.


One day, I hope 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.

To purchase my novel:



https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grosse_Isle accessed 1/4/2022

Woodham-Smith, Cecil. (1962, 1991) The Great Hunger. Ireland 1845 - 1849. London, Penguin.

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Just reading an excellent article about Antony Gormley. ‘I’m inviting people to explore the conditions of their own living.’ (Guardian Editions. Saturday, 23rd April 2022. Claire Armitstead in Art).