Saving the Famine Irish: The Grey Nuns and the Great Hunger


reland’s Great Hunger Institute opened the exhibition “Saving the Famine Irish: The Grey Nuns and the Great Hunger,” which tells the story of the religious orders in Montreal whose members gave selflessly to Irish immigrants during their time of greatest need.

Christine Kinealy, PhD, founding director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute, presented this exhibition in collaboration with Jason King, PhD, Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow at Moore Institute at Galway University, and the Arnold Bernhard Library.

Many fled from Ireland during the Great Hunger and immigrated to Canada. Famine immigrants to Montreal were not only among the poorest of the poor, but also many of them arrived sick with typhus fever. Despite this, a number of people in the English and French Canadian communities provided the ailing and the dying with shelter and support. In the forefront of this compassionate movement were the Sisters of Charity, also known as the Grey Nuns. 

The exhibition was housed in the Lender Special Collection Room in Quinnipiac University’s Arnold Bernhard Library, and traveled to Montreal for a temporary exhibition. To read more about the exhibition's Montreal coverage, please click on the links below:

To access eyewitness accounts of the Irish migration to Canada in 1847 and 1848, visit the Digital Irish Famine Archive.


Image of the painting Le Typhus, courtesy of the Marguerite Bourgeoys Museum

Le Typhus

Theophile Hamel Collection of Priests of Saint-Sulpice of Montreal, Marguerite Bourgeoys Museum - Photographer: Normand Rajotte