Montreal

Montreal's Black Rock site to get proper memorial

Irish Montrealer Victor Boyle is looking forward to having a “little piece of Ireland here in Canada” after Hydro-Québec announced what it will do for a commemorative space at the Black Rock site.

Hydro-Québec leaving space for memorial at site of mass grave of Irish refugees

Victor Boyle is a director with the Montreal Irish Memorial Park Foundation. (Matt D'Amours/CBC)

Irish Montrealer Victor Boyle is looking forward to having a "little piece of Ireland here in Canada" after Hydro-Québec announced what it will do for a commemorative space at the Black Rock site.

Boyle is a director with the Montreal Irish Memorial Park Foundation, a group that for years has worked to create a commemorative park at the site.

In 2017, Hydro-Québec accepted an offer to purchase the industrial land that includes the site, and it plans to build a switching station there — made necessary by increased demands for electricity in the area and to power the light rail transit network.

When the land purchase was made, Boyle felt like his group "had lost our battle" and would never have the opportunity to create a memorial at the site.

Three plans presented by Hydro-Québec to provide space for the future memorial. (Matt D'Amours/CBC)

The Black Rock holds immense meaning for the city's Irish community. It was erected by bridge workers in 1859 to honour the 6,000 Irish famine refugees who died of typhus in 1847. They are buried at the site in a mass grave. 

The public utility studied three options for a station just north of Bridge Street and chose the one that leaves the most space for a memorial.

"We really want to do a great project with the poste des Irlandais," said Hydro-Québec spokesperson Johanne Savard.

"There's no substation without the commemoration site."

Hydro-Québec will now conduct a feasibility study on the project and its results are expected by the end of the year.

With files from CBC's Matt D'Amours

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