Thursday, March 12, 2009

Coffin ships to Canada, 1847

It was the year 1847: the darkest year during the most infamous famine in recent Irish history. It was to become the greatest humanitarian disaster of the 19th-century. The Irish people were starving in numbers that are hard for us to fathom today. One million died and one million more, seeing little hope for a future in their native land, emigrated from their home country. Many of these people made plans to leave on what came to be known as "coffin ships". Traveling to North America in the cargo holds of ships, both ill and well faced a true trial.

The story of these famine immigrants and their journey to Canada is told in the new documentary/dramatic film produced by Summer of Sorrow Productions and Tile Films entitled Death or Canada and its companion book by Mark McGowan, Death or Canada: The Irish Famine Migration to Toronto, 1847. Told using the true story of the Willis family who migrated from the West of Ireland, this film and companion book tell the heart-rending story of the Irish people as they faced the dreadful year of "black '47", and the story of the Canadian people that received and gave aid to the Irish that came to North America.

The award-winning Death or Canada (the film) will air in Canada on March 16 and be released for distribution shortly after that. Death or Canada (the book) by Mark McGowan is available now for purchase.

Thanks to Earline Hines Bradt of Ancestral Notes for bringing "Death or Canada" to my attention.

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