Description: On September 7th, 1849, a "famine ship" (a ship full of Irish immigrants) left Galway, Ireland. One month later it was smashed up against a rocky ledge (known as Grampus Rock) off the coast of Cohasset in a raging October gale. 100 people lost their lives. Author Henry David Thoreau, heading to Cape Cod for the first time, witnessed the horror firsthand as he traveled along the Massachusetts coast. Thoreau's thorough recollections of the wreck were later published under the title The Shipwreck in an 1855 issue of Putnam's Magazine. Three years after Thoreau's death in 1862, the piece would be reprinted as one of his more captivating works in his book Cape Cod. Join New England folklorist John Horrigan as he provides an overview of the Irish famine, details the tragic voyage of the Saint John and tracks the course of the Great October Gale of 1849. He'll also discuss other shipwrecks off of the South Shore coast of Massachusetts and Cape Cod Bay.
The famine in Ireland during the 1840's prompted many Irish peasants to emigrate to North America.
The mass exodus was prompted by a famine when the staple food crop (potato) failed due to a rare fungus.
Nearly 1.5 million people died of starvation in Ireland and Scotland.
The Grampuses were a set of hidden jagged rocks off the coast of Cohasset, Massachusetts that wrecked many ships.
This is the only known sketch (published in Harper's Weekly in October of 1849) of the Saint John in peril.
Popular author Henry David Thoreau happened upon the scene and wrote a morbid account of the shipwreck.
A Celtic Cross, commissioned by the Ancient Order of the Hibernians in 1914, now stands in commemoration of the Saint John victims in a Cohasset Cemetery.