Human remains found washed up on beach in Canada confirmed as passengers from Famine shipwreck

The Irish Famine Memorial in Dublin. Picture by Niall Carson/PA

HUMAN remains which were washed up on a beach in Canada belonged to shipwreck victims who were fleeing the Famine, the Canadian government has confirmed.

Government agency Parks Canada said the bones of three children, aged between seven and 12, had come ashore at a beach at Cap-des-Rosiers in Quebec in 2011 following a storm.

Five years later, the remains of a further 18 people, mostly women and children, were discovered during an archaeological dig at the same site.

Scientists said that the location of the discovery, and laboratory analysis, confirmed the theory that the deceased had been passengers on the Carricks shipwreck, which left County Sligo in 1847.

There were 180 emigrants on board the boat when it sank en route to the Port of Quebec, with just 48 survivors.

According to historical accounts, 87 bodies recovered from the shipwreck were buried on the beach at Cap-des-Rosiers.

A memorial to the passengers was later built in memory of those who perished, and includes the ship's bell which was found in 1968.

The human remains discovered in recent years will be buried near the Irish Memorial on Cap-des-Rosiers beach at a ceremony this summer.

Isabelle Ribot, associate professor of bioarchaeology at Montreal University, who was involved in the analysis of the remains, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that the bones had shown chronic health problems which had most likely been caused by the Famine.

"We did our best because the remains were very fragmentary," she said.

"They were extremely fragile. As soon as you touched, them they would start to crumble.

"Our skeletons reflect what we eat. Knowing the context and knowing there are descendants of the people who survived, it is very emotional and very sensitive.

"We are very blessed to have been able to analyze them and extract as much information as we can," added Ms Ribot.

Canada's National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier said the discovery was "very significant for Irish families whose ancestors were Carricks passengers".

"During the Great Famine of Ireland in 1847, Canada became the home of many Irish immigrants," she said.

"The tragic events of the Carricks shipwreck are a startling reminder of just how difficult the journey was for the travellers and that not everybody was lucky enough to reach their new home.

"This shipwreck reflects an important part of Canadian history."

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