Two paintings - emigrants travelling
The Irish Famine by Peter Gray, New Horizons, 0-50030-057-7, pp 104-5, 107
Charles Joseph Staniland, c.1880, Bradford City Art Galllery
Boarding the overcrowded emigration ships in the Famine period was a chaotic experience, passengers often being treated merely as ‘human freight’.
One philanthropist, Vere Foster, accompanied Irish emigrants travelling from Liverpool to New York in December 1850, with the intention of exposing the evils of the passenger trade.
He described the conditions he met on boarding the Black Star Line ship Washington:
'There was no regularity or decency with regard to taking the passengers on board the ship; men and women were pulled in any side or end foremost. I was getting myself in as quickly and dextrously as I could, when I was laid hold of by the legs and pulled in falling down upon the deck, and the next man was pulled down on top of me.’
Grosse Isle, the Quebec quarantine hospital, with only 150 beds, was not prepared for the hundreds of typhus victims from Ireland.
In four days in May 1847 it had to deal with over 500 typhus sufferers. 5,300 died there that year.
Another 15,000 died soon after landing in British North America.