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Middle Island Irish Historical Park

 

Middle Island is located within the City of Miramichi on the South shore of Miramichi River in the former town of Chatham at 2340 Water Street.

 

Middle Island has always played an important role in the Miramichi area's history.

 

When Ireland’s great potato famine began in 1845 people were forced to flee their country for a new life in North America or die in their homeland. Thousands fled.

 

They traveled by ship, packed in like sardines, one beside the other.

 

On April 17, 1847, the ship Looshtauk set sail from Liverpool, England to Quebec, carrying 462 passengers, mainly Irish emigrants escaping the famine. 

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Typhus and scarlet fever broke out soon after leaving port and spread like fire in dry grass. People started to die.

 

Conditions were so terrible that the Captain had no choice but to change course and head for the nearest port – Miramichi.

 

The Looshtauk was quarantined and Middle Island was set up as the quarantine station. Two other ships arrived within days and were also quarantined.

 

Nobody knows how many people died and are buried on Middle Island. On the Looshtauk alone, records show that 146 people died on the voyage and 96 died while in quarantine.

 

The Looshtauk voyage was recorded as one of the most tragic in all the voyages that resulted from the mass exodus of emigrants from Ireland during the famine.

 

Today, Middle Island is an Irish Historical Park with walking trails, picnic sites, horseshoe pits, volleyball nets, a canteen and an interpretive centre.

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The Island has a walking path which begins at the Celtic Cross shaped standing wall which leads into the woods with park benches along the river bank for you to sit and enjoy the beautiful scenery, tranquillity and warm summer breeze.  The walking path ends at the other end of the Island where there is a free standing Celtic Cross with a shamrock hedge commemorating the many Irish immigrants who died on Middle Island.

 

Also, there are two picnic shelters and a number of picnic tables to enjoy the scenery while you eat your lunch or have a picnic.

 

There is a Museum/Interpretative Centre as you enter the Island with pictures, video and artefacts, which depict the history of Middle Island from the early 1800’s to present. 

Middle Island has a twin lake one mile inland. This lake is almost identical in shape and size and is named, plainly enough, "The Lake." There are many legends on how the Island and Lake came to be but the favourite of the Irish people in the area is that the island was made by leprechauns who moved the soil by hand from the inland and in doing so created ”The Lake”.

 

Caroline Daley and Anna Springer have written a book on the history of Middle Island called “Before And After The Tragedy”.  This book compiles years of research, is very well written and worthwhile reading. 

 

To learn more about the history of Middle Island and the tragedy including documents preserved by the Natural History Museum in Chatham and video clips visit the following links: http://www.theshipslist.com/1847/Miramichi.html

http://www.greatcanadianrivers.com/rivers/miramichi/history-home.html

 

For more information about events and activities on Middle Island telephone 506.623.2318 or email marvenm@nbnet.nb.ca Or visit their webpage.

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