On Saturday, September 26, Newry will host the annual commemoration of the Irish famine.
This is the first time the event to remember the millions of men, women and children who died during ‘The Great Hunger’ of 1845 will be held in Northern Ireland.
To mark the commemoration, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council has organised a series of events culminating in an official ceremony at The Albert Basin, beside Newry Canal on Saturday.
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Naomi Bailie says, “Newry Mourne and Down Council is honoured to take a lead role in hosting the National Famine Commemoration. I sincerely hope our programme of events will serve as a fitting reminder of the devastation and loss experienced by millions of people in the years of the Great Irish Famine 1845-49 and beyond. No county was left unscathed when the potato crop failed and, for many of those who fled in search of a new life, their journeys began from the ports of Newry and Warrenpoint.”
Records show that in 1847 The Lady Caroline ‘a fine ship found in Bread-Stuffs, water and fuel’ sailed from Warrenpoint to Canada. The emigration office reported that neither sickness nor death occurred on board this vessel during the voyage and that the passengers were landed in cleanly condition and a healthy state’.
Others were less fortunate. Two years later, ‘The Hannah’ sailed from Newry but was shipwrecked on an iceberg in The Gulf of St Lawrence. When he realised there was no hope of saving the ship, it’s understood the captain ordered the ship’s carpenter to hammer shut the after hatch, trapping the passengers below, but another seaman wrenched it open. Forty-nine people were reported to have perished that day but many of its passengers were miraculously rescued by another famine ship, The Barque Nicaragua, under the command of Captain William Marshall.
Councillor Baillie continued, “This programme of events has been put together to explore further the social, cultural, linguistic, economic and political legacy of the famine. We are privileged to have contributions by renowned authors, historians, artists and musicians. Our local school children and students will have opportunities to engage with the human stories of the famine and respond creatively.”
A special plaque will be unveiled in Warrenpoint on Sunday, September 27, to commemorate those who suffered on the island of Ireland during the Great Famine.
The Annual Famine Commemoration will culminate in a wreath-laying ceremony and a minute’s silence in remembrance of those who were lost through death and emigration.