Landing of the Looshtauk
Le débarquement du Looshtauk
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
Middle Island is a small island about 350 m long and 100 m wide on the south bank of the Miramichi River. It is connected to the mainland just east of the former town of Chatham by a 100 m causeway.
Middle Island was designated as a Provincial Historic Site in 1999. This tiny island embodies the hopes and dreams of Irish immigrants, and the tragedies that befell so many of them in the mid-19th century.
The heritage value of this small island, located just off of the south bank of the Miramichi River, lies in its importance as a quarantine station for Irish immigrants. Successive failures of Ireland’s potato crops drove poor Irish farmers to ports like Liverpool, where, in April of 1847, 462 of them crowded aboard the Looshtauk, bound for Quebec. Typhus fever spread rapidly, decimating the crew and passengers. Unable to reach Quebec, the captain sailed into Miramichi Harbour in early June. Local authorities rented Middle Island from shipping magnate Joseph Cunard, hastily modifying the existing sheds. Of the 316 survivors of the Looshtauk’s voyage that disembarked on June 7, another 96 would die. At least four more vessels would add sick passengers to the quarantine station on Middle Island that summer. A stone monument marks the existence of the graves of those immigrants buried on the island. Following confederation, the Dominion Government bought Middle Island and re-established a quarantine station there. Fortunately, few cases arrived.
Middle Island was also designated for its association with many Miramichi residents who helped the sick and destitute Irish immigrants. None made a greater sacrifice than Dr. John Vondy, a 28-year-old local physician who cared for them under squalid conditions in the sheds on Middle Island. He contracted typhus and died a month after the Looshtauk arrived.
In 1950, Middle Island was sold to the Province of New Brunswick. A provincial park with interpretative signs was established in 1967. In 1984, the Irish Festival Incorporated erected a granite Celtic cross memorial to those who died in that tragic summer of 1847. Accessed via the causeway, the island serves as a cultural focal point for the many descendants of Irish immigrants in the province.
Source: Department of Wellness, Culture and Sport, Heritage Branch, Historic Places Site File 12820, 58.
The character-defining elements of Middle Island relating to location and context of the site include:
- off-shore island location;
- burial grounds;
- stone monument located near the burial grounds;
- public use as an interpretative park;
- interpretive signs;
- Celtic cross.
Province of New Brunswick
Historic Sites Protection Act, s. 2(1)
Historic Sites Protection Act – Historic
1999/01/01 to 1999/01/01
1950/01/01 to 1950/01/01
1847/01/01 to 1847/01/01
1967/01/01 to 1967/01/01
1984/01/01 to 1984/01/01
Theme - Category and Type
- Peopling the Land
- Migration and Immigration
Function - Category and Type
- Historic or Interpretive Site
- Health and Research
- Hospital or Other Health Care Institution
- Landing Point
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Department of Wellness, culture and sport - Heritage Branch - File 12820, 58.
Cross-Reference to Collection