Montreal’s Black Rock of Victoriatown – The Irish Rock

Coastal Elite/Flickr

Just after rue Mill on rue Bridge heading towards the Victoria Bridge is what is known as Montreal’s Black Rock of Victoriatown, which is a crucial landmark. 

The Great Irish famine in 1847, led to a massive Irish emigration to Canada. Unfortunately, many immigrants got sick and died of ship fever (typhus). Those that had gotten sick stayed at camps built at Windmill Point, the quarantine area, which is now Victoriatown.

There were 6000 immigrants that died of ship fever in 1847 and 1848. They were buried right by the Saint Lawrence river.

Building the Victoria Bridge and the Black Rock

Ten years later the South Shore and Montreal Island were to be connected by the new Victoria Bridge. During the excavations, the remains of the Irish immigrants were discovered by the workmen.

To honor those who lost their lives emigrating from Ireland to Canada, a huge stone that was taken from the Saint Lawrence river was erected as a monument. Originally, this massive boulder that weighs 30 tonnes and stands 3 m tall, was to be one of the piles of the new bridge.

The construction company responsible for the construction of the Victoria Bridge in 1859 engraved the stone with the following words:

to preserve from desecration the remains of 6000 immigrants who died of ship fever in 1847 and 1848.

It was called the Irish Rock or the Irish Commemorative Stone originally. But as it blackened overtime and with pollution, it became known as the the Black Rock.

In order to prepare for Expo 67 in the 1960s, they had to applied and the street where the stone is located. The Irish Rock was untouched, and instead, the plans were changed to redesign the street and include a central reservation.

Today, many Irish Montrealers, descendants of those who lost their lives crossing the Atlantic Ocean still make their way to the Black Rock to pay their respects.

Soon, after the Irish establish themselves in Montreal, they moved out of Victoriatown. Newer immigrants from Italy then populated this working class neighborhood that consisted of six streets by the Lachine Canal.

In 1964, buildings and housing were demolished in the area. The only things spared were the Black Rock, and the train and fire stations.