We are guided through the Reception Hall,
lose the sound of the St. Lawrence River.
Gape at the baggage cages,
the immigrants’ luggage and clothing
packed on these
in the steam and sulphur
Our guide explains why the shower stalls
have wire mesh roofs.
To keep the people from climbing out.
I look inside the galvanized grey casing
and stare at the shower tube and the three
wrap-around shower pipes
and I step back.
Later we walk down the trail
to the Irish cemetery
the famine year,
the big death year.
There is still one building from then.
One old cover shed still there.
Later I read how the government debated
the costs of sheds to cover the immigrants,
to get them out of the tents and the open air.
Not enough money for milk and bread.
For medical supplies.
The doctors and nurses, the nuns and priests
falling sick, dying.
How the St. Lawrence was full of ships
anchored, waiting with their sick, and dying
with their dead lying in the bunks of the crowded
stinking lower decks.
Where family members were too frightened.
To touch their own dead, for burial.
I read the list of those who died.
Unknown Dutch man
Unknown Irish child
There was one William Gibson,
Captain of a ship out of Liverpool,
his ship with sick and dead
from the Parks Canada page:
Grosse Île and the Irish Memorial National Historic Site of Canada commemorates the importance of immigration to Canada, particularly via the entry port of Québec, from the early 19th century to the First World War.
Grosse Île also commemorates the tragic events experienced by the Irish immigrants at this site, primarily during the typhoid epidemic of 1847.
The commemoration on this site is also based on the role the island played from 1832-1937 as a quarantine station for the Port of Québec, long the main port of arrival for immigrants to Canada.