Remains of more Carricks shipwreck victims discovered in Gaspé

shipwreck photoaug172016.jpg
Photo: Jim Caputo from Gaspesian Heritage Web Magazine

The text on the memorial at Cap-des-Rosiers reads, “Sacred to the memory of 187 Irish Immigrants from Sligo wrecked here on April 28th 1847. Ship Carricks of Whitehaven. 87 are buried here. Pray for their souls  Erected by Parishioners of St Patrick’s Parish,  Montreal - Rev. J. Quinlivan P.P.”  

In the mid-19th century, the Great Irish Famine brought shiploads of impoverished families to North America. On April 29, 1847, the Carricks, loaded with emigrants from the estates of Lord Palmerston in Sligo, Ireland, ran into a severe storm in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and was wrecked about four miles east of Cap-des-Rosiers on the Gaspé coast. A two-masted brig built in Workington, England, in 1812, the Carricks crossed the Atlantic many times bringing Irish immigrants to Canada. 

Of the 187 passengers on board, 87 perished at sea and 100 survivors were taken in by families in the village. The remains of the dead, or at least those whose bodies were found washed ashore near the Cap, were buried, anonymously, in a common grave nearby.

As a result of this shipwreck, the Canadian government built a lighthouse in 1858 on the spit of land where the Carricks had run aground. Measuring 34 metres, it is the tallest lighthouse in Canada. 

In August 1900, a monument in memory of those who died in the  wreck of the Carricks was erected by the Parish of St. Patrick’s in Montreal. In 1966, the ship’s bell was found far away in Blanc Sablon. It was enshrined in a small monument next to the original one. A plaque, put in place in 1977 by the Canadian Parks Service, recalls this tragedy. It is located in the north sector of Forillon National Park.

In May 2011, due to shoreline erosion, more bones were found on a beach near Cap-des-Rosiers where the tragedy occurred. A coroner concluded they were the remains of three young Europeans who suffered from malnutrition, potentially linked to the Carricks tragedy. 

Most recently, in late July of this year, Parks Canada archaeologists found the remains of at least eight more individuals near Cap-des-Rosiers. Although these remains must be analyzed before drawing conclusions, evidence suggests they were victims of the Carricks of Whitehaven shipwreck that took place nearby almost 170 years ago.