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A Commemoration of Irish Famine Migrants on Toronto's Waterfront
Ireland Park commemorates the Irish Famine migrants who arrived on Toronto’s shores between 1846 and 1849. During 1847 alone, at the peak of Ireland’s Great Famine (An Gorta Mór), some 38,500 Irish men, women and children landed at Dr. Reese’s Wharf in Toronto, then a city of just 20,000 inhabitants.
Weak from hunger and stricken with illness aboard overcrowded sailing ships, approximately 20% of those who embarked upon the long voyage perished at sea or shortly after their arrival at sites along the St. Lawrence River, including the quarantine station at Grosse Île, Quebec. Within months of the migrants reaching Toronto, the city recorded 1,186 fatalities due to contagious disease, including the deaths of compassionate local clergymen, government officials and medical workers who came to the migrants’ aid. Their names are inscribed upon the park’s sculptural memorial columns, which are composed of limestone from Kilkenny, Ireland.
Officially opened in July 2007, the origins of Ireland Park date back to 1995, when Robert G. Kearns first viewed Rowan Gillespie’s “Departure” series of famine sculptures in Dublin. These sculptures were donated by Norma Smurfit of the Smurfit Foundation in 1997 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the famine. These seven sculptures on Customs House Quay on the north side of the River Liffey depict Irish Famine migrants embarking upon their journey to a new land. Deeply moved by the sculptures in Dublin, Robert Kearns invited Rowan Gillespie to create a new group of sculptures for the Toronto waterfront, depicting the migrants’ arrival in Canada. A historic and artistic link was thereby created between the waterfront of Toronto and the waterfront of Dublin.
In July 2000, Toronto City Council ratified a proposal to make the southeast corner of Bathurst Quay available for a memorial park to honour the Irish Famine migrants of 1847. The site is only a short distance west of the site where, in 1847, Famine migrants landed at Reese’s Wharf. The park was designed by Jonathan M. Kearns and built with Irish and Canadian minds, hands and materials.
The seven sculptures that stand on the dockside in Dublin are reduced to five on the Toronto waterfront. This speaks to the tragic loss of life on the North Atlantic, as well as upon arrival at the quarantine station at Grosse Île and at ports such as Montreal, Kingston and Toronto.
In 1847, some 38,560 Irish men, women and children landed on the shores of Toronto, then a city of only 20,000 inhabitants.
Located on the southern edge of Eireann Quay at the foot on Bathurst Street, adjacent to the historic Canada Malting Company silos and only a short distance from Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.
The creation of Ireland Park would not have been possible without the generous contributions of many community members. To honour the solemnity of the commemorative space, our donors graciously agreed that their contributions would not be recognized within the park itself. We therefore wish to highlight on this page our gratitude for the generous support of the lead donors listed below, whose contributions were essential to the park’s development.
Founding Partner: Ireland Fund of Canada
Lead Donors ($500,000 and above)
Government of Canada
Government of Ireland
Ireland Fund Canada
Province of Ontario
City of Toronto
Diamond Donors ($100,000 and above)
Robert G. Kearns
Ireland Canada Chamber of Commerce
Kenaidan Contracting Ltd.
St. Patrick's Benevolent Society
Kearns Mancini Architects Inc.
Mark & Emma Purdy
Irish Cultural Society of Toronto / Pot of Gold Lottery
Emerald Donors ($25,000–$99,999)
Arrow Capital Management Inc,
The Catherine & Maxwell Meighen Foundation
Brandes Investment Partners
James and Sylvia McGovern
Colum and Elizabeth Bastable
Edward & Liz Carroll & Family
William J. Neill
Frank O ’Brien & Norman Hill
Cushman & Wakefield
Fredrik S. Eaton
President’s Choice Financial
Pylon Design Inc.
Patrick & Barbara Keenan & Family
Anita Sands & Douglas Batson
James P. Magee
Sue Storey & Michael Breen
Universal Workers Union
L.I.U.N.A Local 183
Ruby Donors ($10,000–$24,999)
The Bitove Family
PPI Financial Group
AGF Funds Inc.
Royal Bank of Canada
Bank of Montreal
Sionna Investment Managers
State Street Canada
John Maxwell & Dora Keogh
Trinity Custom Masonry Ltd.
Canada Ireland Foundation acknowledges that Ireland Park sits upon land that is the traditional territory of many nations, including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples, and that it is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. We also acknowledge that Toronto is covered by Treaty 13 with the Mississaugas of the Credit.