Browsing through a library book on Grosse Isle recently, I unearthed a number of disturbing facts. The reader will by now know that this was the port of entry for immigrants from
Lord Palmerston served in that century under five Prime Ministers as Foreign Secretary (Secretary at War, mainly!) and later as Prime Minister himself. Like most of the English Lords, he ‘owned’ large estates in
‘we are going to be inundated with an enormous crowd of poor and destitute emigrants’.
The medical superintendent at Gross Isle, Dr Douglas, requested great and immediate funds to build a new hospital there but what he received was inadequate to the task.
The first ship of the ’47 season, the
Soon there were 40 ships at anchor, awaiting processing at the quarantine station. Even the well aboard soon succumbed to disease. Those who landed healthy often contracted disease on land.
Those who could walk and were allowed to leave were ferried to
Dr Douglas reported that at the beginning of the season there was room on the island for two hundred persons. By early November when the station closed for winter he was receiving over two thousand. He had inspected 442 vessels and taken 8,691 emigrants into the hospital alone, or sheds or tents. He reported a total of deaths there for that season of 3,238.
The majority of survivors headed for