ST. ANDREWS CELTIC CROSS
Standing tall, overlooking Passamaquoddy Bay, is a tribute to the many unfortunate souls buried on Hospital Island. This quarantine station housed hundreds of sick and destitute Irish immigrants between its inception in 1832 and its abandonment approximately 30 years later. The ten-foot Celtic Cross points to this tiny island from Indian Point in the town of St. Andrews.
The cross features a ship representing the disease-ridden, overcrowded vessels that brought ten thousand Irish immigrants through this port of entry to New Brunswick and beyond. It features a fiddle reflecting the Irish musical spirit that survived adversity, and a shamrock, the symbol of faith, love of homeland and hope for a better life in the new world.
The inscription on the cross reads: “In memory of those men, women and children who died of hunger and disease while fleeing the potato famine in Ireland, and lie buried on Hospital Island. Lovingly remembered by their descendants who persevered and helped build this great nation.”
The cross was erected through the efforts of the Charlotte County Chapter of the Irish Canadian Cultural Association of New Brunswick under the leadership of long-time president, Joan Mahoney Jones. Built by Smet Monuments of St. Stephen, the official unveiling took place May 28th, 1995.
This was a significant date in the history of Hospital Island, the anniversary of the arrival of the infamous ship, Star, carrying 383 destitute men, women and children from the Wicklow estates of Earl Fitzwilliam. This 1847 “clearance” added scores to the existing burials on the island, many of them children.
Among those attending the ecumenical dedication ceremony was Katherine Baldwin of St. George, a direct descendant of a Hospital Island survivor. Mrs. Baldwin’s grandmother, Bridget Wellesley Weir, was born in Ireland in 1846, and as an infant came to St. Andrews. Her parents and siblings contracted the fever, and all died either at sea or on Hospital Island. The Catholic priest in St. Andrews took responsibility for the upbringing of this orphaned child. Bridget married Joseph Murray, and one of their sons, Lawrence, born in 1872, was Mrs. Baldwin’s father. Katherine Baldwin’s presence made the unveiling ceremony particularly poignant for the large crowd gathered around the green, white and orange draped monument.
Along with Joan Mahoney Jones, others taking part in the ceremony were Sheila Caughey Washburn, Ann McKinley Breault and Faye McMullon. In attendance were Mayor Nancy Aiken of St. Andrews, Mayor Allan Gillmor of St. Stephen, the Rev. Robert Murray of Greenock Presbyterian Church, Rev. John Matheson of All Saints Anglican Church, and Father Peter Bagley, St. Andrew’s Catholic Church.