1847 Irish famine migrants' tragic history dug up in film

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Under Toronto's theater district lie the ruins of a hospital where hundreds of refugees from the Irish famine of 1847 died after arriving in Canada on crowded and unsanitary ships.

Little is known of many of the famine victims but a new documentary is hoping to put names and faces to some of those who died and highlight the plight of more than 38,000 migrants who poured into what was then a town of just 20,000 people.

A recent archeological dig has helped shed more light on their fate, uncovering remains of the hospital and artifacts from the period when an estimated 1,100 Irish migrants died.

"When they left Ireland, their journey had only just begun and some of the worst terror was yet to come," said historian Mark McGowan, principal of St. Michael's College in the University of Toronto.

McGowan is historical consultant to the Ireland Park Foundation, which is building a memorial to the famine victims on the waterfront where they arrived. It is due to be opened by Irish President Mary McAleese in June.

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