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Programme 2

Tuesday 02 December 2008, 10.15pm.

Episode two explores what happens to the Willis family as they arrive in Toronto, a city which was overwhelmed and threatened by the volume of disease ridden, impoverished and grief stricken refugees from the famine in Ireland. Punctuated by expert commentary from historians Professor Mark McGowan and Dr Peter Grey, and Chairman of the Ireland Park in Canada Robert Kearns, and reflections on the famine from John Waters, this compelling documentary looks at the experience of the famine from both an Irish and Canadian perspective.

The worst year of the famine, 1847, was not Ireland's tragedy alone. The fledgling colony of British North America couldn't deal with an influx of such epic proportions. Its eastern ports and cities were overwhelmed as they struggled to cope with the starving, Typhus-infested refugees. Their arrival threatened to decimate the fledgling British colony as in every city they arrived from Montreal to Toronto outbreaks of Typhus broke out. Many Canadians ran scared but some faced the challenge head on and their courage and sacrifice in helping the refugees helped the Irish overcome the worst calamity they had ever endured and allowed many to travel on into the United States. Toronto alone took in 40,000 people, bringing chaos, fever and death to the city's streets. Hundreds of the dead were buried in unmarked graves.

This is the story of two countries at the moment their destinies became intertwined. It is the story of how some of Toronto's most eminent citizens sacrificed their lives to help the Irish. And it is the story of how a brave woman, Mary Willis, watched helplessly as her home, her family were torn from her forever.

Programme 2
Programme 2
Programme 2