Dr. John Vondy and the Looshtauk
The Miramichi, is a wonderful part of New Brunswick. The city sits on the Miramichi River which empties into Miramichi Bay which, in turn, forms part of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. In the past the Miramichi area has been used, extensively as a stopping off point for immigrants coming to Canada by ship. Unfortunately these particular immigrants were not a happy lot.The June 8, 1947, the Miramichi Gleaner newspaper carried the following story:
The usual quiet of our little town was considerably disturbed on Thursday afternoon last, by the appearance of a ship’s boat, off Henderson’s wharf, and one of the parties hailing some of the persons thereon, stating he wished to be put in communication with the public authorities. A number of individuals speedily congregated, among them two or three Magistrates. The person in the boat then said his name was Thane, that he commanded the ship Looshtauk, belonging to Dublin, of upwards of 600 tons, from Liverpool, bound to Quebec, out seven weeks: that he had when he left port, 467 passengers, 117 of whom died on the passage; that there were now 100 unable to help themselves, and that the crew, from exhaustion, were not able to work the ship. He craved medical attendance, fresh provisions, bread, etc. Two of the Poor Commissioners being present, immediately set about collecting necessaries, and to the credit of the inhabitants of the town, the appeal to their humanity was spontaneously responded to. In a short time a large quantity of beef, bread, and other supplies were collected, and put on board the boat. The Hon. Joseph Cunard furnished the Captain with written instructions to the Commander of his Steamer, which was hourly expected from below, to tow the vessel up to the Quarantine ground. On Friday evening she was brought up by the steamer to the station, near Middle Island, and yesterday the passengers were landed on that island, where temporary sheds had been erected for their reception on Sunday. The number of deaths, as far as we have been able to ascertain since she put into this port, up to yesterday evening, was forty-a shocking mortality-and several bodies were interred on Saturday, Sunday, and yesterday evening on the Island-Eleven births occurred on the passage-one on Sunday. The disease is Typhus fever.
The Loosthauk had arrived on June 3, 1847 but it was followed in rapid succession by three more Irish immigrant ships: the brig Richard White on June 4 and on June 11, the barque Bolivar.
Over 100 bodies were buried on the island, mostly in unmarked and shallow mass graves.
John Vondy was born in the Miramichi region but did his medical training in London. He returned to Miramichi to set up his practice. I am not aware of the birth date of Dr. Vondy, but we do know that he died on July 2, 1847. When the Loosthauk, filled with dead and dying refugees of the Irish Famine, landed and was quarantined at Middle Island in the Miramichi, Dr. Vondy was sent to treat them. Vondy was described as kind and caring. He, unlike two additional physicians, chose to live on the island so that he might offer care immediately as it was needed. This decision was more than likely the major contribution to his death at the age of twenty-eight years. He was entombed in a double casket and smuggled, in the depth of the night, off the island to be buried at the St Paul’s Anglican Church. There is a memorial at the church dedicated to Dr. John Vondy which reads:
Immigrant Doctor Monument . This memorial was erected as a public testimonial of respect to the memory of J. Vondy, Esq., Surgeon, who in the faithful discharge of his professional duty, fell a victim to malignant fever which prevailed on Middle Island among the passengers of the ship Looshtauk. His remains were interred in this burial ground July 2, 1847.
Dr. John Vondy – certainly an example of Canada’s best.
In 1986 the Miramichi Irish Festival erected a Celtic Cross surrounded by the world’s largest growing shamrock in memory of these immigrants and each year, during the festival, many come to pay their respects.