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Thursday 12 December 2019

Remains of Sligo's forgotten Famine ship emerge from Canada's icy waters

Hull of the Famine ship Carrick of Whitehaven wrecked at Cap de Rosier and beached at Blanc Sablon. Credit: Photo: courtesy of Brian Burke
Hull of the Famine ship Carrick of Whitehaven wrecked at Cap de Rosier and beached at Blanc Sablon. Credit: Photo: courtesy of Brian Burke
Gaspe Harbour in the 19th century.

On a freezing April night in 1847, a ship carrying Famine emigrants from Sligo to Canada ran aground off the coast of Quebec, killing 119 of the 187 passengers onboard, most of them emigrants from Lord Palmerston's estate.

Now comes the amazing discovery that timbers from the ship, the "Carrick Of Whitehaven," may still exist in their final resting place, prompting North Sligo historian and author Joe McGowan to issue a heartfelt appeal this week for at least some of those timbers to be repatriated to Sligo.

It's believed that on the night of the wreck, a storm had descended on Gaspe, in Quebec, causing the ship's rigging to freeze, resulting in the crew having no control of the ship's steerage.

With the tide low, the ship was driven onto the rocks at Cap de Rosier, in Gaspe. However, when high tide came in, it lifted the "Carrick" off the rocks and the ship was carried by the wind and tide down to Blanc Sablon, about 350 miles away from Gaspe on the other side of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Mr. McGowan explained that it now seemed the ship's timbers were buried in sand that shifted a few years ago, exposing the wreck, or what was left of it.

Mr. McGowan is to now contact another local historian, in Quebec, to check that the timbers are, in fact, those of the "Carrick". He has already been in touch with local man Brian Burke who informed him that the wreck was covered in ice during this winter.

"Off the coast of Quebec, massive sheets of 'bay ice' cover the sea up to the end of April," Mr. McGowan explained.

Another correspondent, Donald Delisle, sent him photos of an icebreaker off the shores of Gaspe on the 30th of April.

"Consider then the plight of the poorly clothed and starving emigrants from Sligo arriving on those shores in normal conditions, let alone being thrown into the freezing waters," said Mr. McGowan.

He added: "Now that we know

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